A year ago, I mused about the glut of college football that was heading our way on the Week 1 Saturday, when the lines between FBS, FCS and lower level schools are blurred enough so as to produce gimme games for top schools and rare big gate paydays for smaller ones. Last year, I was appalled to tally up the number of possible destinations for your remote to land on a live game at 55.
Today? Well, like Big Gulps, Swanson’s fried chicken and McDonald’s fries, that number has metastasized further. 86 games, spanning 20 networks and streaming platforms, will air beginning at noon ET today. Part of a 128-game borgaschmourd of content that started on Thursday night (though, if you happen to be a subscriber to Charter or Spectrum, that total has been unexpectedly reduced, though not necessarily to even 2022’s levels.
But, of course, a year ago, we hadn’t quite begun the dizzying movement of schools to power conferences that have now swelled to even greater size, capped off by yesterday’s announcement that we will have a second 18-team conference by next September. As ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported:
The news out of the ACC on Friday morning that the league is bringing in Stanford, California and SMU marks another paradigm shift for the Atlantic Coast Conference and for the rapidly changing landscape of college sports. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said the news came to him at 2 a.m. in his hotel room in Hawai’i, where the Cardinal are playing Friday night. Cal chancellor Carol Christ said she got a “loud knocking” on her hotel room door in San Diego, where she’s visiting donors, at 5 a.m.
“It’s important to put [this] in the context of what’s happening in college athletics generally,” Christ said Friday morning. “This is an incredibly turbulent landscape right now. Conference realignment is just one of the signs of real change in how interested fans and the public are in consuming athletics.”
Christ may sound like a nuanced, grounded leader of a leading academic institution, even if her Bears’ on-field success hasn’t been all that great as of late. But the truth is she and Muir were willing to accept virtual pennies on the dollar, and yet cut a far better deal than their brethren in Texas were. as CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported yesterday morning:
Stanford and Cal enter the ACC from the Pac-12 taking reduced media rights revenue shares of around 30%, according to Yahoo Sports. Both will contribute portions of its revenue back to the conference with the amount dwindling over time until the 10th year. SMU, meanwhile, will forgo ACC media rights revenue for its first nine years as a member moving from the American, sources confirmed to CBS Sports. The Mustangs will still receive College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament and bowl game monies distributed to the league.
“The university will receive a full share of all revenues, including media revenue, while contributing back a portion of its media revenue to support and strengthen the conference and its current member institutions,” Cal said in a statement. “UC Berkeley’s membership contribution will taper off until the 10th year, at which point it will begin retaining 100% of its media revenue share. The fact that annual revenue will increase over time was an important factor in the agreement.”
And as FRONT OFFICE SPORTS’ Ben Portnoy added:
(F)or SMU, it’s no secret the higher-ups in Dallas/Fort Worth have been poking around. Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff visited the school in February, though the league declined to comment on the matter at the time. SMU also recently broke ground on a $100 million expansion to Ford Stadium. Those are the kinds of moves that portend a jump up in conference affiliation – or at least the desire to do so. For Cal and Stanford, the move makes sense. It keeps both schools in power conferences and allows those sweet, multimedia rights checks to flow when they kick in fully down the line. Beyond football, it also allows for a pair of schools with some of the more prolific Olympic sport programs in college athletics to find a competitive home. There are certainly travel issues that will need to be sorted through (What will it look like when Stanford plays a noon women’s basketball game in the middle of the week at N.C. State?). But the trend of conferences expanding into transcontinental leagues, such as the Big 12 and Big Ten, seems to have clearly suspended past concerns about student-athlete welfare.
And apparently, the welfare of fans of those student-athletes as well, as this tweet yesterday reminded. Apparently, the interest in having the Dallas-Fort Worth market in the ACC was influenced by more than just having the #5 DMA added:
So the competitive home that those future Olympians may find themselves competing in could more than likely be a neutral site. one conveniently located smack dab between ETZ and PTZ, where the likelihood of friends and families of those participants being in attendance is minimal, and the chance for these sports to take root to the extent that, say, volleyball did in Nebraska the other night, where 92,000 people (more than the size of the actual city of Lincoln) filled the Cornhuskers’ stadium to see their ladies do battle with Omaha, is minimized.
But, heck, those watch parties for ACCN’s live coverage of it will probably be a blast nonetheless. Because, as we know, nothing’s more of a priority for college sports these days than finding ways for you to watch it on TV.
And today will be a testimony to that gluttony. GREED may have been a short-lived (albeit fondly remembered) prime time game show, but in the world of college sports, it’s a long-term attitude that is only growing larger as time goes on.
For any of you who may be watching one of those 86 games today, keep that in mind. And try not to choke on your fries.