The Big 12 will survive as a 10-team league because of an influx of television money from Fox that ensured its financial future and lured back Texas, Oklahoma and— the Big 12’s bedrock teams — who had been in discussions with other conferences.
Although it appeared that Texas was leading a charge of four teams from the Big 12 South to the Pac-10, an official with direct knowledge of the talks said late Monday night that Texas’s 11th-hour demands to the Pac-10 broke down the talks. Texas wanted to keep its lucrative local television rights and also asked for "extra sweetener" in revenue sharing, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the talks.
"It was unacceptable," the official said. "The talks broke down."
Texas wants to keep its local television rights because it wants to start its own network. That would not have been possible in the Pac-10, which needs those rights in order to move forward with its own network plan. That factor, along with B12 commish Dan Beebe's assurances that he could significantly improve on the league's existing TV deal, ultimately proved enough to keep the Longhorns where they are and preserve the league.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who helped present the assurances of a bonanza TV deal to his 10 remaining schools over the weekend and got them to all sign off at the 11th hour, is having a teleconference at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
According to sources, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M will be guaranteed $20 million per year, while the seven remaining schools will collect between $14 million and $17 million in TV revenue in combined deals with ABC/ESPN and Fox.
Both networks stepped forward and averted what could have been complete chaos in college realignment by putting forth a combined package that will push the Big 12 from a $78 million take in annual TV revenue to just less than $200 million, sources say.
In all likelihood, the only way the Pac-10 could approach that $20 million figure is if its TV network proves as successful as the Big Ten's. But that payoff would be several years down the road, at best. Further, the $20 million promised to Texas doesn't include potential revenue from a Longhorns network, which is estimated to earn the Longhorns $3-$5 million per year once it's up and running.
So the networks stepped up, as did a number of "influential people" who were apparently looking to halt what they felt was an alarming development in college sports. I love how mysterious that sounds. Who are we talking about here? The Bilderbergers? The Stonecutters? (Actually, no, ESPN says they were "business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a 'fair number of them without a dog in the hunt.'")
Amusingly enough, this is a great result for Big 12 basketball, which has only strengthened by way of parting with the chaff that is Colorado and Nebraska basketball. It simplifies and creates a more balanced schedule even if the league decides not to add a pair of conference games and go to a full round-robin format.
Anyway, it appears as though a megaconference doomsday has been averted. The Pac-10 will probably add Utah before too long, but in the near term, that may be the end of it. The Big Ten may not be finished, but it can get back to a more leisurely schedule. All of which is good news for the ACC and John Swofford, whose expansion plan apparently involved popping some corn and watchin' some Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on the tube.
Update: More details about the Big 12's "miracle money:"
Obviously, it wasn't geography or pride or the connection of people on the slopes of the Rockies that staved off Big 12 extinction Monday afternoon: It was money. It was crazy money. Beebe was somehow able to promise $17 million per year per team – on par with the SEC's record payout last year – thanks to an astounding commitment from Fox to increase its annual bid for Big 12 games from $19.5 million to as much as $140 million, according to the Sports Business Journal. That's more than a 600-percent increase for a league that just lost one of its biggest national television draws (Nebraska) and plans to scuttle the conference championship game with only ten teams going forward. And Fox is reportedly willing to sign on for the next 18 years. Combined with a commitment by ESPN/ABC to stand by its $60 million-per-year deal through 2015-16, the conference's entire pie stands to increase from $78 million annually to $200 million.
It's hard to exaggerate what miraculous numbers those are, especially to emerge as the death knell is ringing. If they were being tossed around by less reputable outlets, they would probably be regarded as utter fabrications.
Elsewhere, CNBC's Darren Rovell does some back-of-the-envelope calculations to illustrate how Texas's take could reach $20 million.
The Big 12 will move to a nine-game conference schedule in football and a full round-robin schedule in hoops, according to the NYT's Pete Thamel. Thamel says it's for those reasons that ESPN agreed to maintain its current payout to the conference.