Big Ten Has $7 Billion Reasons To Be Happy, But Kevin Warren Left Them A Scheduling Mess To Cleanup With NBC, FOX

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Remember that scene in “Charlie And The Chocolate Factory” when Mr. Wonka has everyone read the fine print of the contract before signing? Those words at the bottom that Charlie’s grandpa told him not to worry about. Well, it seems a number of Big Ten presidents and AD’s forgot to read the fine print.

Before leaving office and taking another job. Kevin Warren negotiated one of the largest college athletics television rights deals in history. In the process, he might’ve left a few things to be resolved in the seven-year, $7 billion monster deal. While leaving them unresolved, a number of coaches and AD’s are having a hard time grasping some of the deals he made, within the deal.

The conference has around $70 million in ‘flux’ according to Pete Thamel. This might not sound like a lot in the full spectrum of a massive contract that they agreed to, but there’s more. The conference owes FOX somewhere around $25 million from the Covid-19 season, because of lost revenue in the conference only season.

In all of the money tied up from Covid, it doesn’t compare to television rights for the championship game.

But one of the bigger takeaways from parts of the deal still left unresolved is the $40 million that the Big Ten owes FOX, after Kevin Warren gave NBC the conference championship game as a sweetener, which he wasn’t authorized to do. Yes, the Big Ten Commissioner decided he did not need the approval of AD’s or presidents to hand over the title game to NBC as part of the new deal.

Some of this might sound a bit wild, but the Big Ten Network actually owns the media rights to the Big Ten, and FOX owns a majority stake in the BTN. So, this is why FOX had so much leverage with the conference. This is why the conference is having to pay FOX the $40 million, because it owned the title game, thanks to former commissioner Jim Delaney.

Seems like a pretty big thing that newly hired commissioner Tony Petitti is now having to handle. It’s almost as if Kevin Warren left a note on his office desk wishing him luck in figuring out the rest of this deal with NBC, FOX and CBS.

“There’s certainly, on the campus level between high profile coaches and numerous athletic directors, some discontent in the loose ends that Kevin Warren did not tie up before he left,” Pete Thamel told Paul Finebaum. “There are some large bills that have surprised some of these schools and some details with the NBC deal that were not ironed out.”

B1G commissioner Kevin Warren expected to join the Bears. (Credit: Getty Images)
Kevin Warren left the Big Ten for an NFL return. (Credit: Getty Images)

Big Ten Still Needs To Figure Out Television Schedule For NBC

The Big Ten is trying to navigate its scheduling model in November with NBC. A longstanding scheduling policy in the conference gave teams the opportunity to not play night games after the first week of November. Weather is a main contributing factor in this policy, which is why you don’t see many conference games at night during the month.

We are three months away from the start of the season and just two months away from the deal starting. The fact that the conference is trying to negotiate with NBC on which high-profile matchups the network will get in primetime is a bit awkward. Most of these television networks have a good idea on which games they’d want in primetime, just basing it off history and marque names.

Ohio State Has Stepped Up For The Big Ten During These Television Negotiations

Schools like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State have stepped to the plate for the conference. It was just announced that the Spartans and Nittany Lions will play at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on Black Friday this year. This game will air on NBC, which was part of the schools stepping up to play primetime games to appease the network.

Also, the Buckeyes will play Michigan State on Nov. 11, with officials saying this will be the latest kickoff time for a Buckeyes game that month.

Coaches love to have this sort of thing worked out before Spring practice begins, especially if you’re playing on a short-week, like Penn State after Thanksgiving. According to the reporting from Pete Thamel, a number of teams are going out of their way to help the process, after being caught off-guard.

“But there’s ‘horse trading’ was the term a bunch of sources used,” Thamel noted. “The ‘horse trading involves schools playing games that they might not normally want to play. Schools playing games that they weren’t informed that they had to play that were scheduled in short weeks and different things like that.”

In the end, there’s enough blame to go around. School’s should’ve had lawyers go over the deal and find anything concerning that stood out. Looking back, Kevin Warren certainly dropped the ball, or thought he had more power than he actually did, but he could still end up getting a nice bonus for his work.

Either way, commissioner Tony Petitti is certainly earning his paycheck over the next few weeks as he sorts through the contract that wasn’t nearly finished. Just another day in college athletics.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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  1. Kevin warren was already on shaky ground with the B1G due to his confused handling of the Covid season and yes Warren gets some of the blame for the strings left untied in the new TV contract, but there should have been no way the B1G let Warren negotiate anything without strict oversight from the AD’s and Presidents.

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