Maryland is In; Rutgers to Follow
ESPN is reporting that Maryland brass has voted to join the Big Ten conference for the 2014-2015 Big Ten academic year. The BTN Communications Director Elizabeth Comslink tweeted this on Monday morning:
BTN & BTN2Go will have live coverage at 2:30 PM ET of the Maryland press conference announcing it’s joining the Big Ten.
— Elizabeth Conlisk (@BTNElizabeth) November 19, 2012
So, that’s done. Expect Rutgers to follow and tip the cap to Jim Delany who can operate behind the scenes and out of the public eye better than anyone. My guess is he used that secret and secluded cabin in the woods for these meetings, like he did with Nebraska’s brass two years ago:
Regardless of how it went down, it went down. Maryland will be in the Big Ten and Rutgers will be following. As far back as 2001, I thought Rutgers would be in the Big Ten one day. The research aspects of their University made sense as well as their geography in opening up the New York Television market. At that time, Rutgers was still a bad joke in football, which is no longer the case.
Maryland is also a very good school and is located 20 or so miles northeast of Washington, D.C. Does this put the Big Ten’s academic side in better position for grants and research dollars? We’ll see, but the decision to bring Maryland into the Big Ten was not based on football prowess and had everything to do with academics and television sets.
Consider this a bone thrown to Big Ten academia for having to take Nebraska.
Rutgers will follow and their football reputation isn’t horrible and they also bring the New York TV market. No, New York is not Rutgers crazy, but there are college football fans in that city and the Big Ten has the chance to make some huge inroads.
Once again, television is the driver of expansion. Here are a few comments from Maryland President Wallace Loh:
“[The Big Ten] is going national because of a phenomenon,” he said. “Attendance among college-aged students is dropping. The reason is because this generation is completely wired, and they are getting their education and entertainment on tablets and mobile devices. Everyone thinks you make your money in seats. You make it on eyeballs on a screen.“
There are some Iowa fans talking about Kirk Ferentz’s hefty buyout right now and they are running numbers, as in how many empty seats in Kinnick does it take for Iowa to think about a change. While I am not one of those people, it’s being discussed.
The reality is a 5,000 to 7,000 fans per game drop in attendance is a few million dollars per year. Right now, each Big Ten team sans Nebraska earns around $24 million per year from the BTN. Tier 1 rights go back up for bid in a few years and with these two new additions, you can expect that number to approach $30 million or more.
Don’t believe me? How about giving Pete Thamel a read:
While getting all 15 million homes is unlikely, this could potentially be a $100 million annual television windfall for the Big Ten. (That figure doesn’t include the additional money that will come from the added markets and games when the Big Ten negotiates its next television contract in 2017.) It’s estimated that the Big Ten’s annual payout could increase to between $30-35 million per year, nearly double the ACC’s $17 million payout.
Back to ticket sales revenues. Iowa generates just north of $19 million per year in ticket sales revenues per the most recent figures available. Michigan is at $40 mil, Ohio State at $38 mil. Iowa is 7th in the Big Ten in ticket sales revenues, behind Minnesota.
Per this USA Today item which looked at Athletic Departments from 2006-2011, Iowa’s athletic department revenues were at $92.3 million, which is 12th in all of FBS. If the TV rights go up to $30 mil per yar, Iowa is just under $98 million per year with the BTN accounting for over 30% of that revenue. For Indiana, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota, these TV dollars push 40% of their athletic department revenues.
It’s all about the TV revenue in this day and age. It’s not about traditions, it’s not about playing one another more. It’s about TV revenue vis-à-vis eyeballs.
The Big Ten will now be the only league in the country with seven of the top 20 TV markets and it will have three of the Top Four within its footprint. I also wonder if Under Armor will try to work out a deal with the Big Ten in some way, given that a former Maryland football player is the owner of the company. Keep that in mind as you evaluate Maryland’s football fortunes in recent years and where they could be headed (see Nike and Phil Knight in relation to Oregon).
The financial future of Iowa’s athletic department took a step forward today, even amidst a very disappointing football season.
Here is how Maryland and Rutgers rank in winning percentage since 2000 with some Big Ten teams included:
Maryland: 46th (55.4)
Rutgers: 67th (48.6)
Iowa: 24th (62.9)
Illinois: t87 (40.9)
Purdue: 56th (52.3)
Indiana: 109th (31.9)
Michigan: 19th (66.0)
Northwestern: 62nd (50.0)
Minnesota: 73rd (45.9)
Lastly, how about the league drops the silly Legends and Leaders right about now? It’s the perfect cover for not having to admit a mistake.