Conference Realignment

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#726      
One factor to consider in playoff expansion is the effect of said expansion on the product.
Another similar, yet often forgotten effect, is the impact on the regular season product. If you only have to be, let’s say .500, then the regular season games will mean less and that 3 game losing streak won’t mean you lose your chance at the championship.

Point is - if you want something to be prestigious and command a lot of viewership, every game has to matter for the end prize.
 
#727      
As of Q1 2021 the total cable subscriber base (including the "virtual" options) is at 78.7 million, and even the virtual options have started to decline. That overall number plummets every quarter.

...

Cable is a dying industry. Sports isn't, or at least it shouldn't be. But the two are in an extremely codependent relationship

Thanks for the link. I feel like a lot of the comments we're seeing are converging on the fact that there are a number of secular trends working against the sport. At the same time, you have the folks who manage the business end of it looking for ways to milk more out of the product, increasing the cost of viewership, pushing away marginal fans who feel priced out and transfer to other entertainment options. The numbers seem to indicate a tectonic shift away from the legacy media model, but at the same time, if the schools can get more revenue from fewer customers, they'll take it.

ESPN a harbinger?
This article shows a chart of ESPN ratings dropping badly for the past several years. The author attributes it to the politicization of sports, but that's probably one factor among many that contribute to alienating fans.

From another article, if that income bracket is correct and the powers that be are gearing up the sport to maximize revenue off it, it's no wonder interest is dropping.

NCAA Football:
  • Demographics: NCAA football fans are about 18% more likely to be aged 41-45 (a bit younger than their NFL counterparts) while they are also 26% more likely to be Male over Female, which is a smaller gender gap in comparison to the NFL. Household income is a bit higher than that of the NFL fan, with $125-$150k the most likely range for college football fans.
 
#728      
Thanks for the link. I feel like a lot of the comments we're seeing are converging on the fact that there are a number of secular trends working against the sport. At the same time, you have the folks who manage the business end of it looking for ways to milk more out of the product, increasing the cost of viewership, pushing away marginal fans who feel priced out and transfer to other entertainment options. The numbers seem to indicate a tectonic shift away from the legacy media model, but at the same time, if the schools can get more revenue from fewer customers, they'll take it.

ESPN a harbinger?
This article shows a chart of ESPN ratings dropping badly for the past several years. The author attributes it to the politicization of sports, but that's probably one factor among many that contribute to alienating fans.

From another article, if that income bracket is correct and the powers that be are gearing up the sport to maximize revenue off it, it's no wonder interest is dropping.

NCAA Football:
  • Demographics: NCAA football fans are about 18% more likely to be aged 41-45 (a bit younger than their NFL counterparts) while they are also 26% more likely to be Male over Female, which is a smaller gender gap in comparison to the NFL. Household income is a bit higher than that of the NFL fan, with $125-$150k the most likely range for college football fans.
What is really on ESPN anymore? Not sure when the last time I even watched ESPN. Football is mostly CBS and Fox for NFL; BTN and Fox for College. NHL has been regional or NBC. Don't really watch NBA but I know they have a big presence on TBS. MLB is mostly regional.
 
#729      
Ordained Dudeist Priest
Johns Creek, GA
What is really on ESPN anymore? Not sure when the last time I even watched ESPN. Football is mostly CBS and Fox for NFL; BTN and Fox for College. NHL has been regional or NBC. Don't really watch NBA but I know they have a big presence on TBS. MLB is mostly regional.
During CBB season all of ESPNs channels are carrying mens or women's games almost every night of the week and all day on the weekends. During CFB season it's the same thing on Saturday's--non-stop football and analysis. ESPN is heavily invested in college content, it doesn't matter if it's going across a cable connection or streaming.

Even without college programming right now they've got NBA summer league, Little League world series, UFC, and a seemingly endless supply of news, analysis, betting, and fantasy analysis programming. ESPN may not have the luster they did a decade or 2 ago, but they're still a major player in the sports media world.
 
#730      
Do you really think the casual viewer back in 2007 was paying extra for the Big 10 network on traditional cable?
It is absolutely critical to understand that the entire Jim Delany empire was built on not only the casual viewer but even the non-viewer paying $1 a month for their cable provider to have BTN as a part of their channel lineup. That's the whole thing. That's why all of these regional sports networks exist.

It was all a scam, essentially. This is why your, my, and everybody's cable bill kept creeping up and up and up for years. All these costs were rolled onto the consumer until the camel's back broke.

Now, as you mention, lots and lots of people want to watch these games and whether it's ESPN (who are already paying tons for the first-tier rights), Amazon, some future tech company that beams them straight into our brains, whatever, there is always going to be a market there. But the sports industry generally and the Big Ten above all has made ungodly amounts of money off of people with no interest in their product through a cable subscriber fee loophole that is ending, rapidly.
 
#731      
During CBB season all of ESPNs channels are carrying mens or women's games almost every night of the week and all day on the weekends. During CFB season it's the same thing on Saturday's--non-stop football and analysis. ESPN is heavily invested in college content, it doesn't matter if it's going across a cable connection or streaming.

Even without college programming right now they've got NBA summer league, Little League world series, UFC, and a seemingly endless supply of news, analysis, betting, and fantasy analysis programming. ESPN may not have the luster they did a decade or 2 ago, but they're still a major player in the sports media world.
ESPN just bought the first-tier rights to the NHL back, they're a 50/50 partner with Turner for the NBA, they have a big MLB package, they have Monday Night Football, as you say they are dominant and getting more so in college sports, as the outright owners of the ACC and SEC Networks and now the sole first-tier home for both as well, along with their Big Ten presence, and of course the CFP. In terms of game inventory I don't know if ESPN has ever been in control of as much major league sports content as they are right now.

They're also a big player in soccer, though honestly they seem to be facing more competition there than in any of the legacy sports, which speaks to some of the demographic stuff @Calvin mentioned earlier. They also keep most of it on ESPN+ where it's more accessible to overwhelmingly cord-cutter young viewers. That's one of the few growth areas.

ESPN is also bleeding subscribers of course, just like everyone in the cable industry. The appeal of amassing this arsenal of rights is that if you're "too big to fail", then you've got a leg up in whatever revenue model comes after. But it's a very scary, uncertain time across the whole industry right now.

The day may be sooner than we think that ESPN pulls the ripcord on the whole cable industry and just becomes a $39.99 a month streaming service that you basically can't be a sports fan if you don't have. They'll do it as soon as that's the bigger revenue play, you'd cynically imagine. And the boxing-ification of the entire sports world will rapidly accelerate.
 
#732      
Gritty: I totally agree with you that the old bundling model is falling apart. However, I disagree with your take that the revenue stream for major sports is doomed (or bound to decrease, anyway). First off, that's painting with a really broad brush (all sports are in the same boat). I think that a lot of fans are willing to ante up to see their team(s) play. Tepid fans? Kind of an oxymoron, right? They'll fall by the wayside.

The valuation of sports franchises continues to rise, and in some cases precipitously (e.g. MLS). Why is that, if the end is near?
 
#733      
Gritty: I totally agree with you that the old bundling model is falling apart. However, I disagree with your take that the revenue stream for major sports is doomed (or bound to decrease, anyway). First off, that's painting with a really broad brush (all sports are in the same boat). I think that a lot of fans are willing to ante up to see their team(s) play. Tepid fans? Kind of an oxymoron, right? They'll fall by the wayside.

The valuation of sports franchises continues to rise, and in some cases precipitously (e.g. MLS). Why is that, if the end is near?
Just to be clear on a couple things, I don't think anybody is doomed (TV deals getting smaller, which is a very real possibility, is a challenge, it's not doom), and I 1000% agree that not every sport is in the same position, the revenue models are all different. The most obvious example being the NFL having very little presence outside free-to-air network TV. So the cable bubble thing doesn't really apply to them.

Most of what I'm saying is that these sports aren't doomed, but rather they have multiple possible futures, with some being better than others, and doing the short-term money grab in exchange for long-term damage to the product is not the smart play, and there's a lot of that going around these days as we enter choppy waters for the sports business.

I'm not sure how sound all of the pro sports valuations are, there might be a bit of an echo of "the value of Orlando McMansions continues to rise, why is that if the end is near?" circa like 2007 in that, but again, those same houses are now worth more than they were then, it's a question of the time horizon.

Anyway, as I said in that original post, I think for an entity like the Big Ten facing the uncertainties ahead and the challenge of this SEC, there is a big opportunity to think differently and make different kinds of long-term investments, rather than just desperately calling every bluff in an attempt to shore up the next TV deal and burning down the college sports landscape with this conference expansion merry-go-round that we've already lost.
 
#734      
I'm not sure how sound all of the pro sports valuations are, there might be a bit of an echo of "the value of Orlando McMansions continues to rise, why is that if the end is near?" circa like 2007 in that, but again, those same houses are now worth more than they were then, it's a question of the time horizon.
C'mon, comparing franchise valuations to the real estate bubble (right before the trainwreck of a crash, no less), is a wee bit hyperbolic, no? This isn't your average Tom, Dick and Harry leveraged to the gills and banks repackaging crap mortgages.
Anyway, as I said in that original post, I think for an entity like the Big Ten facing the uncertainties ahead and the challenge of this SEC, there is a big opportunity to think differently and make different kinds of long-term investments, rather than just desperately calling every bluff in an attempt to shore up the next TV deal and burning down the college sports landscape with this conference expansion merry-go-round that we've already lost.
On this, I agree. There's definitely an opportunity here. Chasing after the SEC in football seems like folly. The proposed 3 conference alliance could be a good, albeit inevitably temporary solution.
 
#735      
What makes you think the SEC will do anything but aggressively pursue high value members and their Premier League, no matter what the other conferences do? That process is already underway. I think the choice is either try to beat them at their own game, or play a different game. Maybe the right move for the Big 10 is to raid the Pac-12. If that happens, do you think the SEC just watches? Or does the SEC make moves towards some Pac-12 teams as well, or ACC teams, or even Michigan and OSU? When ACC teams watch the Pac-12 crumble, after watching the Big 12 crumble, think maybe some of the more valuable teams wonder what the SEC might have to offer? At this point I don't think we're going to beat the SEC at their game. Likely the best the Big 10 could do is to be the second tier of college football, with the SEC being the first tier (think English Championship vs. Premier League). I think this alliance is basically a way to try and prevent any of that from happening. If the Pac-12, ACC and Big 10 all stay intact and coordinated, perhaps they can wield enough leverage to avoid SEC hegemony.
Thanks for the reply. Maybe the 41 member alliance would hold together with the most valuable members willing to take less money than going to the SEC. I tend to believe that a ACC/PAC/BIG alliance and refusal to play SEC teams only expedites the SEC/ESPN hegemony since they will need teams to play, will be desperate for content, and have money to lure valuable programs. So you’re right. Based on the recent events with TX and OU I am now resigned to an arms race while the BIG has the means to do it. Of course the ACC and PAC currently don’t have the same means and is probably why they want a partnership. I can imagine 2 balanced 20-24 team super conferences in which Illinois is included. I am not as confident that Illinois is included in a single Premier League where the SEC selects the members. Valuable PAC 12 teams with expiring media rights in 2024 seem pivotal in how this might play out, though.
 
#736      
C'mon, comparing franchise valuations to the real estate bubble (right before the trainwreck of a crash, no less), is a wee bit hyperbolic, no? This isn't your average Tom, Dick and Harry leveraged to the gills and banks repackaging crap mortgages.
Oh definitely being hyperbolic, just an obvious example of the big money not always being the smart money, and that rocket ships upward (like the sports business has been for two decades) don't inevitably just go upward forever.

On this, I agree. There's definitely an opportunity here. Chasing after the SEC in football seems like folly. The proposed 3 conference alliance could be a good, albeit inevitably temporary solution.
The new name image and likeness rules are, IMO, a big big part of this. What could that mean in terms of basketball, keeping star players around and teams together? What could it mean for sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer that are accustomed to never even having a lot of the elite talent in the first place?

My fundamental threshold question for any of these moves is: are you growing sincere fan interest to monetize later, or are you harvesting that interest grown over decades to eat now? It's not cool and savvy to say so, it doesn't make you feel like an insider reporter big shot, but we all know in our hearts the answer to that.

And just as a sidebar, one big difference and I think big problem college sports has is that with the conferences and schools holding all the power and competing with each other, no one is minding the store of college sports as a whole the way the commissioner's offices of the major sports are. Tragedy of the commons-type outcomes become possible under those circumstances.
 
#737      
While I think Illinois would certainly be an attractive addition to a conference were we in limbo (especially since a lot of those decisions seem to get made on potential rather than "how good are you right now?") ... I am so damn happy that we are in what appears to be a very stable position. We should all be really thankful, at least for the moment. Like them, hate them or nothing them, can you imagine how much it would suck to be an Iowa State right now and worry that your favorite team might get totally screwed while going through a mini golden age for your program?
 
#738      
Just to be clear on a couple things, I don't think anybody is doomed (TV deals getting smaller, which is a very real possibility, is a challenge, it's not doom), and I 1000% agree that not every sport is in the same position, the revenue models are all different. The most obvious example being the NFL having very little presence outside free-to-air network TV. So the cable bubble thing doesn't really apply to them.

Most of what I'm saying is that these sports aren't doomed, but rather they have multiple possible futures, with some being better than others, and doing the short-term money grab in exchange for long-term damage to the product is not the smart play, and there's a lot of that going around these days as we enter choppy waters for the sports business.

I'm not sure how sound all of the pro sports valuations are, there might be a bit of an echo of "the value of Orlando McMansions continues to rise, why is that if the end is near?" circa like 2007 in that, but again, those same houses are now worth more than they were then, it's a question of the time horizon.

Anyway, as I said in that original post, I think for an entity like the Big Ten facing the uncertainties ahead and the challenge of this SEC, there is a big opportunity to think differently and make different kinds of long-term investments, rather than just desperately calling every bluff in an attempt to shore up the next TV deal and burning down the college sports landscape with this conference expansion merry-go-round that we've already lost.
Sadly, you are describing the U.S. business system very well.
 
#739      
If these three conferences (with 40+ votes) want, they can exert control over a larger playoff by setting the rules for selection. Rather than the current committee model, simplify the selection process to:

12 team playoff
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game winner automatically qualify with seeds 1 to 4 randomly assigned
B12 conference champion automatically qualifies with seed 5
G5 highest ranked conference champion qualifies with seed 6
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game loser automatically qualifies with seeds 7 to 10 randomly assigned
2 at large teams with seeds 11 and 12
The at large teams cannot both come from the same P4 conference. Coin flip as to which gets 11 and which gets 12

R1
5 v 12; 6 v 11; 7 v 10; 8 v 9

R2
1v w8/9; 2v w7/10; 3v w6/11; 4v w5/12

R3 winners of R2
Champ winners of R3
Total of 11 games over 4 weekends

The power 4 conferences send both of their division winners to the playoffs. The B12 sends it's conference champion and the Group of 5 sends it's best team. The two at large teams would almost always be the 2nd/3rd best team in the P4 conferences. ND would take an ACC slot if they join conference otherwise they need to be good enough to be an at large team.

If you're the 4th best team in a power conference...well there's always next year as you aren't eligible. You can play a bowl game though, that's nice right champ?

This does a lot of things including discouraging super conference set ups. It gives the majority of the lucre to the Power 4 as they would automatically slot in 2/3 of the available slots so they take the bulk of the cash. If solely conference games determine 10 of the 12 bids then there is less disincentive to schedule high profile interconference games.

It keeps the B12 as something of a P5 team by giving it it's own slot, but it's runner up would need to grab an at large birth.

It gives the Group of 5 an auto slot but both the B12 and G5 would have to face off the two at large teams to get past the first round. I would give the G5 an option to choose their participant with a wildcard game between the top 2 G5 teams.

Seeds would simply be used to randomize matchups not as a reflection of team rank. You get your ranking (and bye week) from winning your conference or not (no bye week). A top team that lost it's conference championship game, wouldn't be out of the mix, but they would have a longer road.

With a G5 wildcard weekend, you would have a 12 game inventory every year to market instead of the current 3 game inventory.
 
#740      
If these three conferences (with 40+ votes) want, they can exert control over a larger playoff by setting the rules for selection. Rather than the current committee model, simplify the selection process to:

12 team playoff
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game winner automatically qualify with seeds 1 to 4 randomly assigned
B12 conference champion automatically qualifies with seed 5
G5 highest ranked conference champion qualifies with seed 6
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game loser automatically qualifies with seeds 7 to 10 randomly assigned
2 at large teams with seeds 11 and 12
The at large teams cannot both come from the same P4 conference. Coin flip as to which gets 11 and which gets 12

R1
5 v 12; 6 v 11; 7 v 10; 8 v 9

R2
1v w8/9; 2v w7/10; 3v w6/11; 4v w5/12

R3 winners of R2
Champ winners of R3
Total of 11 games over 4 weekends

The power 4 conferences send both of their division winners to the playoffs. The B12 sends it's conference champion and the Group of 5 sends it's best team. The two at large teams would almost always be the 2nd/3rd best team in the P4 conferences. ND would take an ACC slot if they join conference otherwise they need to be good enough to be an at large team.

If you're the 4th best team in a power conference...well there's always next year as you aren't eligible. You can play a bowl game though, that's nice right champ?

This does a lot of things including discouraging super conference set ups. It gives the majority of the lucre to the Power 4 as they would automatically slot in 2/3 of the available slots so they take the bulk of the cash. If solely conference games determine 10 of the 12 bids then there is less disincentive to schedule high profile interconference games.

It keeps the B12 as something of a P5 team by giving it it's own slot, but it's runner up would need to grab an at large birth.

It gives the Group of 5 an auto slot but both the B12 and G5 would have to face off the two at large teams to get past the first round. I would give the G5 an option to choose their participant with a wildcard game between the top 2 G5 teams.

Seeds would simply be used to randomize matchups not as a reflection of team rank. You get your ranking (and bye week) from winning your conference or not (no bye week). A top team that lost it's conference championship game, wouldn't be out of the mix, but they would have a longer road.

With a G5 wildcard weekend, you would have a 12 game inventory every year to market instead of the current 3 game inventory.
Can't find fault with this plan (I tried, lol). And it neuters the SEC, to boot (Lord of the Flies situation). Well done.
 
#741      
Here is my "dream" scenario:

Have the following schools from the PAC 12:

West Division (all AAU schools):

USC
UCLA
Stanford
California
Oregon
Washington
Utah
Arizona

The Central Division is:

Illinois
Northwestern
Iowa
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Nebraska
Kansas
Notre Dame

The East Division

Michigan
Michigan St.
Ohio St.
Penn St.
Maryland
Indiana
Purdue
Pittsburgh

Atlantic Division

Duke
North Carolina
Clemson
Virginia
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
FSU
Rutgers

Have each division winner play a qualify for a conference playoff.

Play each team in your division and then play the corresponding same place team in the other divisions from the following year. Two non-conference games.

The Great BIG Conference
 
#742      
Not sure the BIG wants much of an alliance other than to stop SEC dominance. I don't see them getting very cozy other than to shore up the power differential for the expanded CFP. And if that doesn't work, I could see the BIG look at poaching programs.
 
#743      
Not sure the BIG wants much of an alliance other than to stop SEC dominance. I don't see them getting very cozy other than to shore up the power differential for the expanded CFP. And if that doesn't work, I could see the BIG look at poaching programs.

Maybe it's semantics, and it's certainly political, but I think Warren and company would much rather have schools initiate the process rather than vice versa. That could change, but I don't think the current situation calls for poaching mode.
 
#744      
If these three conferences (with 40+ votes) want, they can exert control over a larger playoff by setting the rules for selection. Rather than the current committee model, simplify the selection process to:

12 team playoff
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game winner automatically qualify with seeds 1 to 4 randomly assigned
B12 conference champion automatically qualifies with seed 5
G5 highest ranked conference champion qualifies with seed 6
SEC B1G ACC P12 conference game loser automatically qualifies with seeds 7 to 10 randomly assigned
2 at large teams with seeds 11 and 12
The at large teams cannot both come from the same P4 conference. Coin flip as to which gets 11 and which gets 12

R1
5 v 12; 6 v 11; 7 v 10; 8 v 9

R2
1v w8/9; 2v w7/10; 3v w6/11; 4v w5/12

R3 winners of R2
Champ winners of R3
Total of 11 games over 4 weekends

The power 4 conferences send both of their division winners to the playoffs. The B12 sends it's conference champion and the Group of 5 sends it's best team. The two at large teams would almost always be the 2nd/3rd best team in the P4 conferences. ND would take an ACC slot if they join conference otherwise they need to be good enough to be an at large team.

If you're the 4th best team in a power conference...well there's always next year as you aren't eligible. You can play a bowl game though, that's nice right champ?

This does a lot of things including discouraging super conference set ups. It gives the majority of the lucre to the Power 4 as they would automatically slot in 2/3 of the available slots so they take the bulk of the cash. If solely conference games determine 10 of the 12 bids then there is less disincentive to schedule high profile interconference games.

It keeps the B12 as something of a P5 team by giving it it's own slot, but it's runner up would need to grab an at large birth.

It gives the Group of 5 an auto slot but both the B12 and G5 would have to face off the two at large teams to get past the first round. I would give the G5 an option to choose their participant with a wildcard game between the top 2 G5 teams.

Seeds would simply be used to randomize matchups not as a reflection of team rank. You get your ranking (and bye week) from winning your conference or not (no bye week). A top team that lost it's conference championship game, wouldn't be out of the mix, but they would have a longer road.

With a G5 wildcard weekend, you would have a 12 game inventory every year to market instead of the current 3 game inventory.
I like this. I just think that the money can be spread around kind of similar to NCAA basketball where it gets distributed nationally.
 
#745      
Ordained Dudeist Priest
Johns Creek, GA
Here is my "dream" scenario:

Have the following schools from the PAC 12:

West Division (all AAU schools):

USC
UCLA
Stanford
California
Oregon
Washington
Utah
Arizona

The Central Division is:

Illinois
Northwestern
Iowa
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Nebraska
Kansas
Notre Dame

The East Division

Michigan
Michigan St.
Ohio St.
Penn St.
Maryland
Indiana
Purdue
Pittsburgh

Atlantic Division

Duke
North Carolina
Clemson
Virginia
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
FSU
Rutgers

Have each division winner play a qualify for a conference playoff.

Play each team in your division and then play the corresponding same place team in the other divisions from the following year. Two non-conference games.

The Great BIG Conference
Kansas AND ND in our division. That's enough to turn me off of sports forever.
 
#750      
I like this. I just think that the money can be spread around kind of similar to NCAA basketball where it gets distributed nationally.
If you think football money will be spread around the NCAA, I believe you fundamentally misunderstand the interests of the parties involved in P5 conferences.
 
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