The sky is not falling on college football.
It’s just getting bluer. Greener, too, as in money falling from the sky with the new Big Ten television contract with FOX currently being negotiated that could be worth more than $1 billion a year for the league beginning in 2024.
That was the major reason USC and UCLA announced two weeks ago that they were bolting to the Big Ten for the 2024 season. And those fluid TV contract negotiations should now be oozing past $1 billion with those two schools jumping in from the nation’s No. 2 media market. Add Notre Dame possibly, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California in the coming weeks or months, and the Big Ten will be the Big 21.
It could all happen by Labor Day of 2023, if not sooner.
The Southeastern Conference’s TV contract is not fluid. It is done, and it is not nearly as fruitful as what the Big Ten has cooking. The SEC finalized a $300 million deal per year with ESPN and ABC in 2020 that begins in 2024 and runs for 10 years. So, it needs to enhance that deal and start working toward 2034. Look for the SEC to add Clemson, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina in the coming weeks for the 2024 or ’25 season to go with the Oklahoma and Texas additions announced a year ago.
“We’ll be talking about the current state of affairs in college sports,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told OutKick.com on May 28 just before the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida. “How we lead, how we continue to lead.”
Actually, the SEC is not leading realignment. It is following the Big Ten, and specifically, Notre Dame into this American, capitalistic world of manifest destiny.
Everything hinges on what Notre Dame football decides to do first – stay an independent or join the Big Ten, the SEC or the Atlantic Coast Conference. Other Notre Dame sports are already in the ACC, and the football program competed in the ACC out of necessity during the COVID season in 2020. But the ACC would be a step down for Notre Dame. It just doesn’t print money the way the Big Ten and the SEC do.
Joining the SEC would be a bold move for Notre Dame, and it would drastically improve its football talent as the Irish could recruit to the SEC.
Look for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten for the money and the location as it is already in Big Ten country in South Bend, Indiana, and already regularly plays many Big Ten and Pac-12 teams soon to be in the Big Ten. Those games will be getting significantly more valuable.
If Notre Dame stays as an independent, watch the Big Ten go for Clemson if it isn’t already.
And do not be surprised if the SEC adds Duke as a partner member with North Carolina.
Could you imagine Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina as SEC basketball teams? It would be like the NCAA Tournament on a weekly basis.
Give me conference realignment discussion and stories over Name, Image & Likeness deals and the latest NCAA Transfer Portals every day, please. NIL prostitution and the Quitter Portal – if not changed drastically soon – will ruin or damage college football much more than any conference realignment issue. We’ve had conference realignment a few times since the mid-1990s, and the college football world only got better and richer.
The latest round of conference realignment coming will do that again and make things more interesting.
Yes, there will be victims. Perhaps the Pac-12 will fold as the probation-plagued, TV-weak Southwest Conference died in 1996 as Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor previously announced departures to the Big Eight, which became the Big 12. But the schools that were in the old SWC are still playing football. Most are still making big money. They’re just in other conferences.
And the Big 12 has been a great conference – much better than the last several years of the SWC and more fun than the old Big Eight.
Yes, some rivalries died. Oklahoma-Nebraska was one of the greatest rivalries and its annual meetings ended in the Big 12, then Nebraska left for the Big Ten for the 2011 season. The Big Ten and the SEC will be smarter regarding Michigan vs. Ohio State and Alabama vs. Auburn and Georgia-Auburn, for example. Many other so-called SEC rivalries, though, need a refresh, and what is coming will help that immensely.
Some of the remaining Pac-12 teams will be left in the dust yes, but Oregon State, Arizona State, Arizona and the like were not competing for national championships anyway. They’ll survive in a lesser Pac-12 or in other leagues.
The power teams are the power teams regardless of what league they may be in. And the weaker teams are the weaker teams regardless of how strong a conference they used to be in.
And look at the games on the horizon. The Big Ten could be a Rose Bowl every week with USC, Stanford and Washington routinely playing Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, respectively.
Meanwhile, maybe Alabama will stop playing Tennessee annually and start playing Oklahoma and/or Texas frequently. The SEC badly needs some new road trips. How about LSU at Miami, Auburn at Florida State and South Carolina at North Carolina?
Conference expansion could also mean fewer ridiculous non-conference games such as Alabama and New Mexico State last season or Georgia and Charleston Southern.
And don’t forget basketball. How about Duke at Arkansas on a Tuesday, and Kentucky at North Carolina on a Saturday?
Wow, that was fun. Almost a whole column with no mention of NIL or the portal.