Football’s profits drive expansion

After the PAC-12 rejected immediate expansion, the Big 12 and Big East are on the move to expand.

Andrew Krammer

Football generates revenue at a higher clip than any other college sport in the country.

That money, and the sport primarily culpable for producing it, is driving college conferencesâÄô manifest destiny to the illustrious 16-team super conference.

In the most recent version of the NCAA Revenue and Expenses Report, the median net generated revenue by all Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools ended up in the green for only two sports: football and menâÄôs basketball.

Football earned more than $3 million in median net revenue per school, towering over menâÄôs basketball, which produced just barely more than $750,000 per program in fiscal year 2010.

Although it only amounted to 24 percent of its sports expenses, the Gophers football team made up 44 percent of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs revenue, according to the U.S. Department of EducationâÄôs Office of Postsecondary Education.

For a school with 25 participating sports, those numbers should be staggering.

But numbers like these are normal for a college athletic department.

Now the two most unstable conferences in college sports will be clouded in speculation as they try to decide how realignment should be done in the coming weeks. Further complicating the matter, the Big East has one of the deepest, most talented basketball conferences, but only seven football teams remain.

Big 12

The nine members of the Big 12 agreed last Thursday to a new revenue sharing program that would tie the remaining schools together financially.

The nine members agreed to bind their television contracts and profits to the conference over the next six years; this plan still needs to be approved by the schoolsâÄô governing bodies. 

This type of revenue sharing would be much more effective in keeping the Big 12 stable than the typical slap-on-the-wrist exit fees that most conferences use. Under the agreement, schools would forfeit TV revenue they generate, even if itâÄôs in another conference, providing incentive to stay put.

With the PAC-12 deciding against immediate expansion last week, it put to rest any talk of the Big 12 and Big East combining their remaining members. 

The Big 12 had previously feared four of its top programs âÄî Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State âÄî would latch on with the PAC-12, possibly forcing the remaining Big 12 schools to merge with the Big East.

After Oklahoma and Texas were rejected by the west coast conference, they turned to their own league for reform.

The Big 12 office announced last Thursday that it came to a mutual agreement for Commissioner Dan Beebe to step down after five years. Former Big Eight commissioner Chuck Neinas will serve as interim commissioner until a new one is hired.

Beebe recently came under fire for poor leadership after losing Colorado to the PAC-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Texas A&M to the SEC.

The Big 12 will now look to keep its own programs like Missouri from vacating to the SEC.

The magic number is 12 for conferences hoping to make a presence in college football, as 12 teams are needed to establish two proper six-team divisions and a conference championship game. This is similar to the one the Big Ten will implement this season.

The idea was first born when the SEC added Arkansas and South Carolina in 1991 to create college footballâÄôs first 12-team conference and established the first conference championship game.

Big East

The once-storied Big East conference found itself on a tight rope with no net after its flagship schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse left for the Atlantic Coast Conference last week.

Big East officials plan to enforce the 27-month bylaw that wonâÄôt allow Syracuse and Pittsburgh to leave the conference until the 2014-15 academic year.

Five of its remaining seven football members âÄî West Virginia, Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville and TCU âÄî are exploring their limited options for playing football outside of the Big East.

There is also growing sentiment that the leagueâÄôs eight non-football playing Catholic schools would split off and establish their own elite basketball league. Late Big East founder Dave GavittâÄôs legacy, who formed the Big East in 1979 as a basketball-dominant league, not football. 

Moving forward, the Big East has targeted the three service schools: Navy, Army and Air Force to fill in as football-only members.

While the Navy and Air Force academies have been open to discussion, Army has not shown any interest in joining the conference. This could change if the other two academies decide to move.

East Carolina has also applied to become a member of the Big East, giving the conference more options to make it to that 12-team mark. That is assuming they do not lose any more members to the growing ACC and SEC.