College football kicks off tonight but we can’t take our eyes off the looming changes ahead, starting in 2009-10, that will send tremors across the landscape of college athletics.
Now that we know there won’t be an SEC television network and that the teams of the Southeastern Conference will soon have enough of ESPN’s dollars to buy everyone else off the face of the planet, it’s time to sort out the winners and losers of all this TV wheeling and dealing.
Winner: The SEC, of course.
The dollars are staggering. If the reported numbers are correct — $55 million annually for 15 years from CBS, $150 million annually from ESPN for 15 years, plus the freedom to negotiate school-specific local deals — this is a seismic shift. Every SEC team reportedly would be guaranteed at least $15 million annually from TV. Which means Vanderbilt, which hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1982, now would pocket more from TV than Notre Dame, which has its own deal with NBC at a reported $9 million a year for football. Add in the local contracts and a team like Florida (10 years, $100 million from Sun Sports) could pocket an average of as much as $25 million per year for the life of the deals. Translation: Florida could earn more yearly in TV revenue alone — before it sells the first ticket, collects the first booster dollar or sells the first t-shirt or wins the first game — than the vast majority of non-BCS teams have to work with, even being heavily subsidised.