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What Could A New Big East TV Contract Do For USF?

In his expansion roundup yesterday, Ken mentioned the article from yesterday's Sports Business Journal about the Big East's rumored talks with ESPN about renewing their TV contract for football and basketball. The numbers being thrown around are between $110 million and $130 million per year, so I wanted to go back and review how much that would be for a school like USF that participates in both sports.

First of all, USF's current Big East TV contract share is a little over $3 million per year. The SBJ article said $36 million per year from ESPN, but when I was doing something similar last year the number I found was $41 million per year, which I think includes some money from CBS for the handful of Big East basketball games they show every year. The data link is gone, but I remember the total was $32 million per year for basketball and $9 million per year for football.

I put the current share and a variety of new contract shares on a chart, which you'll see in a minute. Before I get to that, though, here are the assumptions I made so that calculations would be easier:

  • The new TV contract would have a total value of $120 million per year, the midpoint of the rumored amounts.
  • The football and basketball portions of the contract would continue to be negotiated separately and split equally among the schools who play in the Big East for each sport.
  • The number of teams playing each sport will not change during the life of the contract. For example, if Villanova joins for football or someone else joins for all sports, they would get a share for every year of the TV contract.
  • The basketball portion of the contract would still be worth equal to or more than the football portion of the contract. My calculations go all the way up to a 50/50 split between the two.
  • The new contract would not be affected by any additional football teams joining the league this year or whenever. This is probably a bad assumption, but most likely it would only make the numbers bigger.

Now then, here's the chart. Click on it to embiggen.


What it all means, and how USF might use the extra money if this came to fruition, after the jump.

Obviously as a football and basketball member, USF makes more money as the contract balances out in value between football and basketball. They would get a share of each, and since the football portion of the contract will be split fewer ways, their total haul increases as the football portion increases.

Just as obviously, USF makes more money if there is not an 18th member. But even in the "worst-case" scenario, where there are 18 basketball members and 10 football members, and the basketball/football portions of the contract are split $100 million to $20 million, USF would make well over $7 million per year from this contract. That's more than double what they make now. And if the split between football and basketball is even ($60 million apiece), USF makes over $9 million per year, triple their current share.

What would USF do with that extra money? Maybe accelerate some Athletics Village debt service. Maybe increase their marketing footprint. Hopefully start spreading some of it around the Athletics staff so they can get and retain quality people, instead of watching them leave for smaller programs because the money is still better.

But the one thing USF could really do was hit right on the nose by Mark from The Collision Course:


Let's say Skip Holtz wins 20+ games the next two years and finally gets USF into the BCS. If that happens, you know someone's coming after him with cartoon sacks of money in their hands. If USF has an extra $5-6 million per year coming in from a new TV contract, plus a lot more ancillary money from things like tickets and merchandise sales, they would do well to use some of it to give Holtz an extension. It would be good for USF, and good for the Big East. The ability for Big East football schools to keep good coaches and become nationally prominent creates an upward cycle that would continue paying off in future TV contracts.

It helps with basketball too, and that's whether Stan Heath can get the program on track or not. If he does succeed, he'll be in demand for succeeding in an impossible situation. Even if USF couldn't afford to keep him then, they would have the money to bring in a quality replacement and continue growing the program, instead of having to bring in a retread or hoping for another Heath to fall into their lap. And if it ever gets to the point where Heath is let go, they have the ability to overpay a little bit to get an qualified up-and-comer who is ambitious enough to take this difficult job.


P.S. I haven't seen this expanded on from the SBJ article, but it might explain the desperation of a few teams to move up to the Big East from Conference USA. Did you see in the article how much Fox Sports recently agreed to pay out for C-USA TV rights? $42 million for five years. Not per year. $42 million total. With 12 all-sports members, that works out to exactly $700,000 per year, per school. They also have a little bit of money from CBS College Sports, but that is a pittance compared to what the Big East schools make right now, even before a new contract kicks in.