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What does the Big 10’s expansion mean for college football?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2022 | Current Events |

The Big 10 is one of the country’s oldest football college conferences, featuring such D-1 powerhouses as Ohio State and Michigan. The SEC is still the newish upstart super-conference with many national champions in recent years, and it takes up the most space in the nation’s college football consciousness. This will change (it has already begun with news of the deal) when UCLA and USC leave the Pac Ten to join the Big 10 in 2024. The realignment brings the total number of schools to 16 – the conference already added the University of Maryland (2014), Rutgers (2014), University of Nebraska (2011), and Penn State (1990). Once based in the Midwest, the Big 10 will soon be coast to coast. This moves a conference founded in 1896 into the position of the new college football super-league.

A $1.2 billion contract

ESPN recently walked away from the negotiation table after a 40-year relationship with the Big 10. The sticking point was money – the Big 10 asked $380 million annually for a seven-year media deal, doubling the last contract ending in 2023. This switch opened the door for NBC and CBS to enter the fray.

The Big 10 now announces a new seven-year media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC that runs July 1, 2023, through the 2029-30 season. Believed to be the largest media deal in history, the deal’s value is estimated to be $1.2 billion annually, with an average of $75 million going to each of the Big Ten schools. Schools will individually receive additional money for the College Football Playoff bowl games and NCAA Tournaments.

Fox will air the “Big Noon” football games on Saturdays at noon eastern time, while CBS will hold down the 3:30 p.m. slot. Later that day, NBC will air “Big Ten Saturday Night” at 8 p.m. eastern. As CBS concludes its SEC deal in 2023, it will air SEC games and seven Big Ten football games, expanding to 14-15 Big Ten games annually from 2024 to 2029. CBS will also air as many as two games on the popular post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and host the Big Ten Championship games in 2024 and 2028. Fox and FS1 will broadcast 24 to 27 games in 2023 and 30 to 32 from 2024 to 2029. It will also air the Big Ten Championship games in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029. NBC will air 16 games in 2023 and 14 to 15 from 2024 to 2029. It will air the 2026 Big Ten Championship game.

Big Ten broadcasts will appear on the three networks as well as FS1, Peacock, Paramount + and the Big 10 Network. ESPN (remember them?) will not air college basketball games for the first time in 40 years, but it will air games in the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC conferences. Speaking of the SEC, that conference will likely see its billion-dollar payday when renewing its media contracts with ESPN in 2024.

It is all about the money

It is understood that the student-athlete is not a reality in D-1 football and basketball. It is right and just that the athletes can capitalize on their brands and names to earn income. Going from the micro to the macro, college conferences are also searching for ways to squeeze more money from sports. The Big 10 could have coasted on tradition but instead opted to remain relevant and perhaps eliminate the temptation of powerhouses like Ohio State from leaving the conference.

Shifts will continue

These realignments happen. When things shift, another often goes into the previously occupied spot. Do not count out the SEC or even the Pac 10 or ACC from making new moves. That said, two college conference superpowers will be firmly ensconced at the top of the media pyramid for some time, leaving little room for others.