Sports Commentary 3/6/13: Sizzle For Sale
The Financial Breakdown for the Big East and Conference X
SIZZLE FOR SALE
It’s not just about conference alignments and realignments anymore. No longer is it just about which school ends up where, which league keeps which name and which venues, which institutions are the big winners, collecting shares of the biggest BCS pies and which schools are the holdovers, living on leftovers. The breakup of the Big East not only signifies the crumbling structure of college athletics as it had existed for decades, with myriad conferences giving way to super leagues that control the majority of the wealth. With the T-V revenue splits announced yesterday by the old Big East and the new television deal announced by the new Big East, the war over college revenues stepped into a new dimension, one that could still lead to a big payday for the remnants of the Big East, for lack of a better name, currently known as Conference X. What precipitated the rapid demise of the Big East, a year ahead of schedule, seemingly leaving the final three holdovers who were unable to find a soft landing spot in the ACC or Big Ten holding an empty bag, may be the same circumstance that eventually generates enough dollars to keep everybody, even the holdovers, financially healthy. Initially there is little sizzle, compared to the old Big East, to a league that combines the weak sisters of the Big East with East Carolina, Central Florida, Tulane, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Temple and, eventually, Navy and, possibly, Tulsa, but, if the price is right, sometimes sizzle can be bought. The seven Catholic schools expidited their exit from the Big East when FOX went on the prowl for product for it’s new cable outlet, FS1, FOX Sports 1. By landing the new Big East, with Georgetown, Villanova and the St. John’s metro new york presence, it didn’t take a programming genius to know they were throwing down the gauntlet in front of ESPN, further expanding the exodus of high profile, big dollar sports from broadcast T-V to cable. With Disney as the umbrella, ABC had ESPN as it’s cable partner, making up a powerful conglomerate for attracting major events and power conferences. FOX now has it’s own cable partner, FS1, and it already has a potential marquee basketball league in it’s stable, while serving further notice to ESPN that they’re ready to compete on all levels, bringing in talk show giant Regis Philbin to go into head to head late afternoon panel competition with ESPN. In 2014 FOX will add a 26 week Major League Baseball schedule to it’s programming, further challenging ESPN’s status as “The Worldwide Sports Leader”. The stakes are about to increase considerably and suddenly, with the Big Ten and ACC, in particular, just getting locked into long term, high finance T-V packages, don’t be surprised if FOX’s never ending search for product leads it to Conference X. In a sports world where exposure is the most important weapon, give a low profile league with low profile programs enough of it and suddenly they join the ranks of the big boys and become major players again. Don’t count out the Big East remnants just yet, not with more conference realignment to come and a lot more television money about to hit the open market. There should be enough soft landing spots for everyone. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.