ATHENS — The rise of Super Conferences is the latest in a series of milestones signaling that the new era of college football is upon us.
It was inevitable, really, that some survival of the fittest would unfold after the recent evolutionary stages of NIL and one-time transfers.
College football has become big business with elite head coaches earning $10 million a year and top assistant coaches earning $2 million.
Private football buildings cost over $80 million and are considered a “must” for championship-level programs.
Power programs can only soak their elders and boosters so much. This is especially true with the swoon stock market causing even the wealthiest retirees to think twice about the relationship between their fixed income and giving.
The answer and the culprit are the same: more money.
There are bigger TV deals waiting for schools in major conferences, and so the gold rush is on with Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 for the SEC last year, and the USC and UCLA ditching the Pac-12 for the Big Ten last week.
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As in any transaction, there are winners and losers.
Some traditionalists might argue, but there is no alternative but to generate additional revenue to fund the cost of doing business.
It’s better for advertisers to foot the bill – the value of advertising is greater when more markets are reached and the product is better – than big increases in ticket prices or more games on pay-TV.
SEC and Big Ten
The conferences separated by adding traditional powerful programs that broadcast two of the five main television markets in the country.
The Power 5 is now the Power 2, and you could say they just have to regulate themselves in football without any further involvement from the NCAA.
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Expansion of the CFP
A majority of fans demanded that college football have a playoff system more in line with other sports, rather than a bowl system that casts a wide net and rewards many.
So here we are about to see the college football playoffs expand to satisfy the majority and make even more money and generate even higher odds.
It is inevitable that the CFP field will double, or even triple, by four teams once the current contract ends in 2025.
The Irish have had their own television rights with NBC for over 30 years, but the current contract expires in 2025 and Notre Dame will likely be forced to join a conference.
The Big Ten has reportedly reached out to the school in South Bend, Ind., as it fits the core of its geographic footprint and would secure traditional rivalries with Michigan State, USC and Michigan.
It would be quite a move if the SEC could somehow lure the Irish, as Notre Dame represents one of college football’s richest gems.
ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Group of five
The shift to Super Conferences has stratified college football into even more layers, with the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 sinking into the ranks of the middle class, while Group of Five schools must reconsider their existence and their purposes at the FBS level.
The ACC cannot offer Notre Dame football enough money to join their league, even though the Irish have other sports in this conference. The ACC TV contract is worth $240 million while the Big Ten negotiate a $1 billion deal with Fox.
The Big 12 is gutted with Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC in 2025. In 2024, USC and UCLA bring the nation’s No. 2 television market to a Big Ten that already has schools in the shadow of No. 1 (New York City) and the No. 3 (Chicago) television markets.
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The Rose Bowl is the biggest loser of them all, but all bowl games as we know them are life support.
The stadiums and logos will remain the same, but the conference ties that once gave them a unique flavor will largely dissipate.
The playoffs, by their very nature, have already stripped away the layers of fun that bowl games once offered players with unique outings and mutual team events.
The most recent 12-team playoff model included a first round of games to be played on team campuses, further compounding what were once considered college football’s most attractive features.
Most non-paying sports
Super Conference schools will be in a great position to look after their non-profit sports with valuable expanding television contracts and providing opportunities for more exposure and ZERO value.
Already, SEC college baseball and softball fans are salivating at the thought of adding the WCWS Oklahoma juggernaut, along with the CWS Texas and Oklahoma teams, to the South League.
But the majority of non-revenue-generating college sports programs are outside of Super Conferences, and with their football programs experiencing a significant drop in revenue, it will be difficult to keep them funded.
Part of surviving the fittest is weeding out the weakest, and in these cold and tough economic times, the health of a sport is determined by its wealth.