• First off, the Cornhuskers finally become a fully vested members of the Big Ten starting in 2017. Up to now, the Huskers have been receiving shares of broadcast revenue at a lower rate than longstanding league peers; the Omaha World-Herald reported that while the standard payout for Big Ten schools in 2014-15 was $32 million, the Cornhuskers received just $18.7 million. As part of procedural maneuvering, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers were each placed on six-year provisional terms before transitioning to a full Big Ten share.
• Second, that full share is expected to be massive. The Sports Business Journal and CBS Sports reported that vested Big Ten schools — and this would include the Huskers — could expect to rake in as much as $31.7 million in broadcast revenue for the 2017-18 academic year based solely on rights fees from outside networks such as ESPN, Fox and CBS. And that doesn’t include any kitty from the Big Ten Network (of which Fox is a 51 percent stakeholder), bowl revenue or the payouts from the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 reported a $30.4 million revenue payout per school in June, and reiterated that it had no plans to pursue a conference-wide network. (Texas reportedly pocketed $15 million from ESPN-affiliated The Longhorn Network, while Oklahoma has a separate, $5 million third-tier rights arrangement with Fox.)
• Third, and this isn’t so much math as unassailable logic, the Big 12 is crazier than a henhouse full of foxes right now. Oklahoma President David Boren has taken just about every position on the prospect of league expansion. He was against it. Then for it. Now Sports Illustrated and the Dallas Morning News are reporting he’s put the kibosh on it again, largely because — no shock — the pool of most likely candidates (Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, BYU, South Florida) don’t move the television needle enough to warrant diluting the pie.
Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman recently summed up the plight rather neatly:
The Big 12 at 10 schools is inferior to its peer conferences in market size, academic standing and football passion. The conference footprint doesn’t have enough cable homes to make ESPN or FOX interested in a Big 12 networking during these turbulent times. Forty percent of the Big 12 has stadiums that seat less than 51,000. The league’s on-field performance seems to get worse by the year in head-to-head competition with opponents that count.
Some of those problems could be fixed by Oklahoma beating Ohio State or Texas beating Cal or Baylor playing someone that can fight back.
But some of those problems can’t be fixed. The expansion dilemma is simple. Texas A&M and Nebraska can’t be replaced.
They can’t, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Big 12 looks more and more like a dog chasing its tail, circling to nowhere.
And you want a piece of that action again? Really?
Proud & privileged to be member of the Big Ten-the oldest & best power 5 athletic conference. Excellence = academics, athletics & life. GBR!
— Shawn Eichorst (@BigRedAD) Oct. 6, 2016
And we’ll grant you, some traditions take longer than others to manifest. Big Red fans over 35 miss Oklahoma, still. They miss putting up 60 on Kansas and 50 on Iowa State just for the hell of it, although those days were becoming fewer and farther between after 2001. They miss the culture wars with Colorado, the Berkeley of the old Big Eight.
They even miss Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. A little. Although not nearly as much as he seems to be missing them.