So, really, why did the SEC -- a conference with a five-year national championship streak, the nation's biggest and most intense fanbase, and a record-smashing television contract that still hadn't lost its "new car smell" -- decide to fix what wasn't broken and expand by two teams in 2011?
This one tweet from CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy explains almost everything:
SEC distributed $20.125 million per team in 2011-12; Big Ten distributed $24.6 million
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyCBS) June 1, 2012
Those figures come directly from the SEC's spring meetings Friday and financial figures shared by Illinois in mid-May, and are both for the 2011-2012 academic year.
What McMurphy's tweet doesn't explain is that the gap between the two conferences has only grown wider over the past two years. For 2010-2011, the SEC distributed $19.5 million per school--a record high, but still short of the Big Ten's $22.8 million.
Lined up side-by-side, the SEC has increased its per-team payouts by a little more than $600,000 from last year to this year, while the Big Ten has done so by $1.8 million. Percentage-wise, that's a 3 percent increase vs. a 7.9 percent increase--and in raw figures, a bump for the Big Ten three times that of the SEC. (For what it's worth, the Big 12 announced Friday that it's distributing some $19 million to its member schools.)
Those numbers might overstate the Big Ten's case a little, since after the Big Ten Network's revenues skyrocketed in 2010-2011, they came back to earth somewhat in 2011-2012; according to the Illinois figures obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, per-team revenues from the BTN actually declined from $7.9 million to $7.2 million. The Big Ten has also not yet begun paying Nebraska its full share of the league revenues.
Even so, the BTN is still well above is profit levels from two to three years ago and is projected to continue growing, and their regular television contracts with ESPN, ABC, and CBS appear to have offered a substantially larger bump than the SEC's (this year, at least). Mike Slive's league is currently firmly behind Jim Delany's* from a financial standpoint, and -- with their current 15-year network-less television deals in place through 2023 -- would have been poised to only fall further behind without some kind of action.
Texas A&M and Missouri became that action, and the SEC is now well on its way to unveiling a network of its own--one that, along with a renegotiated base contract, will likely restore the SEC to financial parity with the Big Ten and Pac-12. And on the off-chance it doesn't? Slive's decision to pass on an SEC network three years ago will look even more misguided than it already does, and Delany's decision to have struck out in the other direction even better.
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