Business is booming in college athletics thanks to football and men’s basketball.
According to federal tax records obtained by USA Today, the biggest Power Five conferences in college athletics (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) brought in more than $3.3 billion in combined revenue for the 2022 fiscal year, the highest total ever.
Power Five conference revenue for 2022 fiscal year
|APPROXIMATE PAYOUT PER SCHOOL
|$58.8 million - x
|$37.9 to $41.3 million
|$42 to $44.9 million
x – Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers received less due to Big Ten Network earnings that predated the schools’ entrance to the league.
– Source: USA Today
What immediately catches one’s eyes above and had already caught the attention of college administrators and trustees are the payouts per school especially for those in the Big Ten and SEC. The Big Ten and SEC were already earning significantly more than their conference counterparts, a trend expected to continue.
Also in the mix are the following recent major developments and changes:
• Both the Big Ten and SEC have massive new media rights deals beginning next year. While the SEC struck an exclusive 10-year deal with ESPN, the Big Ten’s $7 billion deal spans multiple networks (Fox, CBS and NBC) and is slated to last seven years.
• The ACC is handcuffed to a media rights deal with ESPN that goes through 2036, a source of consternation for many in the league. As a result of that deal, the ACC’s revenues will lag behind the other Power Five leagues and reports surfaced earlier this week that a group of seven ACC schools was searching for alternatives.
• Two summers ago, Oklahoma and Texas jumped ship from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Big 12 quickly reacted by adding 4 new members - BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF (Univ. of Central Florida) - that officially joined the Big 12 on July 1, 2023. Also, in October 2022, the Big 12 re-upped with ESPN and Fox on a new six-year agreement worth a total of $2.28 billion (the Big 12’s current deal had two years remaining, so the six-year extension will run through 2030-31). Back then, the Big 12 expected its revenue shares to grow in excess of $50 million per school. More Big 12 expansion news to come in this post.
• Meanwhile, lagging behind is the Pac-12 that had been trying to finalize a media rights deal of its own with Apple for nearly a year only to see the value of its impending deal slashed last summer 2022 when USC (Southern California) and UCLA bolted for the Big Ten. More “when it rains, it pours” bad news for the Pac-12:
• On 7/27/23, Colorado trustees voted unanimously to leave the Pac-12 and return to the Big 12, officially on 7/1/2024.
• On 8/4/2023, the Big Ten announced:
The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) voted unanimously today to admit the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference effective August 2, 2024, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2024-25 academic year. With the schools’ admission, Oregon and Washington will also join the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), a consortium of world-class research institutions dedicated to advancing their academic missions.
[UNCONFIRMED: Both schools are expected to agree to a cut rate — perhaps as low as 50 percent — of the Big Ten’s media revenue that could reach $65 million/year per institution. That is still more than the Pac-12’s proposed media deal with Apple, which is estimated to be in the $20-25 million range.]
• On 8/4/23, this tweet from the Big 12 Commissioner Brett Earmark:
THE BIG 12 BOARD OF DIRECTORS HAS VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO ADMIT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, AND UNIVERSITY OF UTAH TO THE BIG 12 CONFERENCE. WE ARE THRILLED TO WELCOME ARIZONA, ARIZONA STATE AND UTAH TO THE BIG 12. THE CONFERENCE IS GAINING THREE PREMIER INSTITUTIONS BOTH ACADEMICALLY AND ATHLETICALLY, AND THE ENTIRE BIG 12 LOOKS FORWARD TO WORKING ALONGSIDE THEIR PRESIDENTS, ATHLETIC DIRECTORS, STUDENT-ATHLETES AND ADMINISTRATORS.
• The Pac-12 is now reduced to the Pac-4 - Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State, and who knows what lies ahead for these colleges.
Amid all these recent developments and changes is one voice of reason when it comes to college athletics hypocrisy. University of Colorado football coach Deion Sanders recently made it clear that players shouldn’t be chastised for trying to make as much money as they can through name, image and likeness deals while college administrators are let off the hook for also chasing bigger payouts. Sanders commented, “I don’t care what conference, who we’re playing against; we’re trying to win. All this is about money. You know that. It’s about a bag. Everybody’s chasing the bag. Then you get mad at the players when they chase it. How’s that? How do the grownups get mad at the players when they chase it when the colleges are chasing it?”
Nine years ago, South Park lampooned the NCAA’s “Slave Trade.”
CHALLENGING THE LONGSTANDING NFL PLAYER ELIGIBILITY RULE
To be eligible for the draft, players must have been out of high school for at least three years and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season. Underclassmen and players who have graduated before using all their college eligibility may request the league’s approval to enter the draft early.
Players are draft-eligible only in the year after the end of their college eligibility.
It doesn’t matter if you play, star, redshirt or sit. You just need to be three years out of high school.
Back in 2004, Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett tried to get around that three-year wait, but he wasn’t exactly a sympathetic hero. Southern California’s Mike Williams also tried to play early, but failed. According to a 4/28/2004 ESPN article:
Williams and Clarett hope that the appeals court upholds the ruling handed down in February by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who struck down the NFL’s restriction that prohibits players from entering the draft until three years after they graduate from high school.
Scheindlin basically decided that the NFL’s eligibility rules were a classic restraint of trade, a violation of U.S. antitrust laws – just like the U.S. Supreme Court found in 1971, when it struck down the NBA’s draft eligibility rules in the case of Spencer Haywood. That case opened the door for high school players to enter the NBA.
On April 19 – five days before the draft – the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a strongly worded stay of the lower court’s [Judge Scheindlin’s] ruling. In essence, the appeals court said the NFL was right to regulate its draft, and Clarett and Williams were swiftly and unexpectedly removed from eligibility.
Clarett’s attorney, Alan Milstein, filed two emergency applications to lift the stay through the U.S. Supreme Court. Last Thursday, two Supreme Court justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens – rejected Clarett’s pleas, closing the door on Clarett and Williams. For now.
More recently, a 1/31/2023 Bleacher Report article by Adam Kramer: It’s Time for the NFL Draft Rules to Change made the following pro and con points:
• Selfishly, college football fans and enthusiasts [I’ll add revenue-hungry presidents of college members in the 5 major conferences] welcome these NFL draft rules. Seeing Harrison [Ohio State wideout], Williams [Southern California QB/2022 Heisman winner] and Bowers [Georgia TE] stay on campus for one more season only increases the interest in the sport. The fact that college football fans can enjoy these players for three full seasons is an extraordinary luxury for the sport and those fanbases. Their greatness will be celebrated locally and beyond.
• The 2020 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA [NFL Players Association] chose to keep the draft eligibility rules exactly as they are.
• The NFL would like to keep it this way for as long as possible. It essentially has a minor league scouting system and development hub that it doesn’t have to pay for. While the arrangement is unique, it’s perfect as is for the NFL’s purposes.[my emphasis in bold]
• Things are much better than they used to be for star college football players, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But they are still trapped in a system that restricts their ability to pursue their professional dreams when so desired.
• The excuse that players need time to physically develop at the college level has long grown tired. Does anyone believe that Harrison couldn’t physically compete with NFL cornerbacks right now? Of course not.
While there are other major issues and concerns for further discussion, I’ll end my post here.