Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

College Sports Earthquake

My apologies to our non-US visitors who are almost certainly more interested in the World Cup but the US college sports world is in the process of turning itself inside out. At the top level of competition there are (were) 6 conferences of teams: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Big East, the South Eastern Conference (SEC), the Big Ten, the Big XII and the Pac 10. These conferences contain within them the most influential college sports programs in the money sports: football and men's basketball. And it is money that is driving the shake up. This is all about TV revenue; how it is generated and how it is shared. When it comes to TV cash, the Big Ten is the top dog with direct access to TV markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The Big Ten also has the most equitable revenue sharing deal for its members. We're talking about tens of millions of dollars a year for each university's athletic program.

When rumors began circulating that the University of Nebraska was going to leave the Big XII to join the Big Ten, it was "game on." The first step was that the University of Colorado left the Big XII to join the Pac 10. Then Nebraska officially announced their move to the Big Ten. Now there are rumors that the U. of Texas, U. of Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Texas Tech will all jump to the Pac 10. The Big Ten is reportedly going to try to get a chunk of the Big East next. There are rumors that the Big Ten may try to woo U. of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers (alternatively Maryland from the ACC). Rutgers is near to New York City, the holy grail of TV markets for the Big Ten. The Big Ten may go after the Big XII's U. of Missouri too. Of course, all this is part of the Big Ten's grand scheme to convince Notre Dame to join their conference - Notre Dame is currently in the Big East for all sports but football where it is independent. There are also rumors that the SEC is in a kind of bidding war with the PAC 10 for the Big XII's last remaining premier program, Texas A&M.

The most immediate impact of all of this is that the Big XII is about to disappear. The Big XII was the least urban of the 6 major conferences which means it had the fewest big TV markets. So it is not surprising that it is getting gobbled up by the other sharks.

The implosion of the Big XII leaves a number of its minor schools/teams out in the cold. One of them is Iowa State University. This is where it gets political. Iowa State's arch rival is the U. of Iowa which is in the Big Ten. With the economy struggling, Iowa State's athletic department has been given notice to become self sufficient or face the cuts. Iowa State can't hope to do that if it's not part of a major conference. Both the Democratic governor, Chet Culver, and the Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley, both of whom are up for reelection this year, have made public statements urging the Big Ten to take Iowa State. But Iowa State has little to offer the Big Ten in the way of additional TV revenue or profile. What's more, the early indications in the press/rumor mill are that the U. of Iowa is less than enthusiastic about ISU joining their conference and might even oppose ISU's entry into the Big Ten.

This little intra-Iowa spat provoked Grassley to threaten to look into the non-profit status of these conferences and the anti-trust ramifications of the emergence of these mega-conferences (the Pac 10 is on pace to go to 16 teams and the Big Ten may well reach that number too). It will be interesting to see how this will play out both nationally and in Iowa. ISU is known for engineering and agriculture. UI is known for its arts and sciences, law school and med school. With rural voters playing such a big part of the Republican electoral calculations, I'd expect Grassley to be especially vocal about trying to save ISU's sports programs.


Anonymous said...

I am on a mission to not leave traces of myself around on the internet- only a few things left. I left a comment on your site in 2005, on this post:

I am the thirteen year old girl from Australia- well, I was. Is it possible for you to delete this comment, as I stupidly gave my full name?

Thank you.

Raised By Republicans said...

No problem. Could you tell us which month in 2005 we're talking about? There were over 350 posts that year and they sorted by month.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Looks like TX schools aren't bolting for the privilege of playing against Oregon State. So it will be the Pac-11 only, with Colorado only added.

Raised By Republicans said...

Yep, it looks like the Pac 11 will now go after a Mountain West school or two.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's official, the Pac-12(?) now has Utah University also. Welcome Utes!

I see this as connected in a way with the political and social changes in the Mountain West and Southwest that have dealigned them from the Plains and Texas and aligned those areas more with the Far West. As large #s of Californians have begun to move to these areas, esp. Colorado, this has really begun to change the orientation of the region. This has also brought business and other changes, such that we increasingly see Chinese goods reaching AZ, CO, and UT from the Pacific ports, then being trucked east. Joining the Pac10 will cause more intercourse by younger people across the divide. It will create exposure as fans and officials travel and as the public watches on TV.

At the same time, fans will stop coming to CO and UT from the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Idaho, Kansas, and Texas. It's not that college athletics is so monstrously huge, but it does occupy tens of thousands of people directly, which is no small thing.