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Why The Big 12 TV Contracts Stink

I guess we all know that the Big 12 schools get about $10 million less per year than the Big 10 and SEC schools. In this economy, that's a huge problem.

  Why do the Big 12 TV contracts suck so bad? Because the Big 12 TV slate is a bad product. Every major conference can put out a couple of marketable games each week, and the Big 12 is no exception. How many can have four or five? That's what it takes to get the big money.

This week, the most marketable Big 12 game is New Mexico at Texas Tech. What's that you say? What about the Sooners and Hurricanes? Sorry, that's in Miami, and is an ACC game. Ags and Hogs? Arkansas is the home team for that one this year- it's an SEC game. The second most marketable Big 12 game is ISU vs. KSU- two poor performing teams with small regional followings, neither the flagship program in their small states. The third most marketable game is Kent State at Baylor, which no network with a Big 12 option cared to pick up.  Neither ABC nor ESPN is carrying a Big 12 home game this weekend.

For comparison, the fourth best SEC game this weekend is Georgia Tech at Mississippi State. The fourth best Big 10 game is Wisconsin at Minnesota. Neither game is a must-see, but that's not the point. These are the bottom-dwelling games those conferences are selling, and each of them sounds more interesting to me than the Big 12's best game. This is what killed the SWC- after Arkansas left, the third best game each week was something like TCU vs. BU or something else nobody west of Johnson County cared about.  The Big 12 was formed to create better third and fourth level games in conference play than the SWC or the Big 8 had.  That's fine for conference play, but what about during the first third of the season?

Here are comparisons of the four best (in my opinion, based on teams' fanbases) games for the three conferences discussed. Skip the best games and look at the lower level ones. Are you starting to see why the networks aren't standing in line to give the Big 12 money?

  Big 12   SEC   Big 10
Oct. 3 UNM @ TT   LSU @ UGA   PSU @ Ill
  ISU vs. KSU   Aub @ Tenn   Mich @ MSU
  Kent St. @ BU   Ark vs. TAMU   tOSU @ Ind
      GT @ MSU   Wisc @ Minn
      Bama @ UK    
  OU @ Mia (ACC)   Ol Miss @ Vandy    
      SCSU @ S. Car    
Oct. 8 NU @ Mizzou        
Oct. 10 CU @ UT   Fla @ LSU   Mich @ Iowa
  BU @ OU   UGA @ Tenn   Wisc @ tOSU
  OSU @ TAMU   Bama @ Ol Miss   MSU @ Ill
  ISU @ KU   Aub @ Ark   Pur @ Minn
  KSU @ TT   Hou @ MSU    
      UK @ S. Car    
Oct. 17 UT vs. OU   Ark @ Fla   Minn @ PSU
  TT @ NU   S. Car @ Bama   tOSU @ Pur
  Mizzou @ OSU   UK @ Aub   Iowa @ Wisc
  TAMU @ KSU   UGA @ Vandy   NW @ MSU
  KU @ CU   UAB @ Ol Miss    
  BU @ ISU   MTU @ MSU    

What does the Big 12 need to do to get better TV contracts? For one, it could schedule better non-conference games. I know that several teams (TT, KSU, and KU in particular) have openly adopted a strategy of playing creampuffs in non-conference, in order to ensure reaching the 6 win threshold for a bowl invitation. Some Big 12 schools play a D-1AA team every year! They have to understand that in doing so they are giving up potential guaranteed TV contract money in order to gain speculative bowl money. These programs have no right to complain about lack of TV revenue from football.

For another, the Big 12 could take a page from the SEC playbook and schedule earlier conference games. The SEC has plenty of non-conference creampuffs, but they also have league games in the season's second week. Sure, it's a risk for a team trying to work out the kinks in the early season, but life is full of such tradeoffs. I don't think any of them are complaining.  I saw where some TT posters thought playing UT early was a bad idea.  They need to understand that plenty of SEC teams risk their seasons early like that.

Frankly, I don't know that the Big 12 is a tight enough conference to pull this off. Too many small teams see the solution to revenue problems in getting the big schools to share more, without being willing to change their scheduling practices. srr50 had an excellent post about scheduling, and it struck me how much better the PAC-10 schedules are. Of course, the PAC-10 ADs know that the west coast fans won't sell out a stadium for a match between ranked teams.  They certainly aren't going to attend or watch a game between, say, Oregon and Azusa Pacific. Florida can get away with scheduling Charleston.  Cal can't. 

I fear that the less marketable Big 12 programs can't or won't see the benefits of better scheduling, either through better non-conference opponents or a earlier league schedule.  It's too bad, because they are only hurting themselves.  Thoughts?