What are the best and worst case scenarios for conference expansion, and what’s likely going to happen? Here’s the best guess for every league in the Daily Cavalcade.
College Football Daily Cavalcade: Conference Expansion Scenarios
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
I don’t have the $75 million in buyout coin to get out of this too-long article a few years early.
It’s on to Cincinnati … vs. Miami University
Until and/or unless something momentous happens, this is it for the conference expansion analysis for a while. It’s on to the 2021 college football season, but first let’s tie this all into a neat bow.
Yeah, right. The conference expansion world is insane with rumors, ideas, and possibilities. Even so, let’s try to predict and project what’s going to happen next after the SEC got Texas and Oklahoma, or vice versa.
Let’s assume almost everything is on the table and all the conferences are busy plotting and planning for every possible scenario.
Before getting into the weird and wild expansion idea for each conference, here’s my best guess for what’s really going to happen over the rest of 2021.
1. Nothing. The Texas and Oklahoma move to the SEC might have rocked the college sports world, but don’t expect any more seismic shifts over the next few months.
The conferences, colleges and teams are all too busy trying to figure out how to make sure the 2021 college football season goes off without too many hitches – i.e. all the parts need the cash and can’t have Covid screwing things up.
But there’s another key part of the sports business world that will soon become a massive deal, especially right now for college sports.
2. Watch out for panic sirens to go off after the disastrous TV ratings for the Tokyo Olympics. There were a whole slew of reasons why the viewers weren’t there – new consumption of media, tape delay, time differences, the lack of overall star power – but it also became obvious that people weren’t going out of their way to stream the events.
Actually, that’s not quite right. People did stream, but not enough to make up for the historic TV ratings collapse.
Streaming works, and it’s the future for all and the present for everyone under the age of middle-aged adult, but the gargantuan viewership for the big ticket events is still generated by the live network broadcasts.
The Texas and Oklahoma move to the SEC assumes ESPN will have the mega-numbers in place to put together jaw-dropping rights deals for the schools – but that’s trickier than it might seem.
Yes, people will pay a streaming service for a destination event, but again, you don’t get the giant advertising dollars that way.
Long-winded ramble short – the timing of the Olympic ratings bomb couldn’t have been worse. ESPN is trying to change that, though, which is why …
3. The College Football Playoff expansion will get all the play. The only way this conference expansion thing works revenue-wise is if 1) there’s even more national interest in college football – people in Pac-12 and Big Ten country have to care about the SEC, and vice versa – and that comes from 2) a much bigger College Football Playoff that gets more schools involved.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … conference expansion. Let’s go. Here’s the best case scenario for each conference, the worst case, and what will probably happen.
Best Case Scenario: The ACC and Notre Dame finally tie the knot in football – that was fun in 2020, wasn’t it? – Cincinnati and West Virginia add decent regional options, and the league beats the Big 12 to UCF and USF.
The league doesn’t stand pat, and no one can figure out how to get past the contractual gates to take the schools desperate for a better deal.
Worst Case Scenario: The Big Ten lawyers figure out how to get the ACC teams out of the horrible Grant of Rights deal that goes through 2036 – or just eat the buyout money. The SEC raids the barn for Clemson and Florida State, and the Big Ten grabs North Carolina and Virginia.
What Will Probably Happen: The ACC and ESPN will figure out some way to boost up the TV and streaming deals so the league members don’t riot.
However, the Big Ten will quietly be lurking as it looks for an opening to pounce if there’s any shot, and the SEC will be constantly at the ready to steamroll through.
In the end, the rough media deal buys the league as much time as it needs.