Could Iowa State Wind Up in the Big Ten?

I know, I know.  Some of you are driving by here just to see if I have lost my mind.  Let me say first off, this post is about gut feel with a mix of quote-tweeting and a dash of connecting dots…but with a heap of skepticism and caveats that add up to this being my opinion.

First, as I wrote this morning and have been saying for weeks, I would not have a problem with Iowa State in the Big Ten.  I know a lot of Iowa fans would not like this, and that is fine.  I don’t want to spend any time on that topic in written form right now, because we are talking about a huge hypothetical here, or set of them.

Let me dive in.

  1. I was golfing recently with someone whose son has some ties within KU’s athletic department.  He told me that the feeling there is that KU is going to receive an invitation to the Big Ten.  I tweeted about that a couple of weeks back. I have no idea who the person is, and the person I was golfing with at my club in KC is someone I had just met one the first tee box and he told me this on hole seven after he found out I used to do some sports talking.  So I am not saying rush to the casino with that one.  Just sharing it.
  2. Iowa State’s facilities are pretty much Big Ten worthy.  They have the third largest football stadium in the Big 12 and had the 21st highest attendance average in 2019.  You know who is at #20?  Iowa.   Iowa had the 7th highest attendance average among Big Ten schools.  Which means Iowa State had a better home attendance average than Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers.  We all know how much of a snake pit Hilton Coliseum is for opposing teams in basketball and ISU’s wrestling program is on the rise…and the simple fact that they have one is a good thing.  Also, Iowa State is a fantastic education institution and is a member of the AAU.  It’s a geographic fit, a cultural fit and it just fits in my mind.
  3. Some of you may have seen on twitter today that Dave Wannstedt of FoxSports said on 670 The Score in Chicago that he had heard at Fox Sports meetings in Phoenix ‘a week ago’ and he heard from the ‘Big Ten people’ that Iowa State and Kansas are headed to the Big Ten, with Oklahoma State and Kansas State to the Pac 12.  You can listen to that at this link.  You can do with that what you will, but it adds a little bit of meat to this bone.

OK…let’s take a pause here and ask a common question that has come up relative to things like this in the PAST, emphasis on THE PAST; what type of TV money value does an Iowa State and Kansas football bring to the Big Ten?

Under the old model, yeah, I’d agree with you.  But we are rapidly moving away from the old model.  RAPIDLY.  Streaming services are going to be in play during in a big way during the next Big Ten TV media rights negotiation.

Given that ESPN owns the SEC Network, and most everyone not in the SEC is pissed at ESPN for a myriad of things (ie the Big 12 all but accusing ESPN of tortious business interference two weeks ago), and given the new streaming world we have grown into, being on ESPN isn’t as important as it once was.   As of 2018, 86M television households got ESPN and that number has been dropping.  As of this spring, Amazon Prime Video had 147M American subscribers.

Fox Sports will be a solid bet to get a large chunk of the Big Ten’s game inventory, as they own 51% of the Big Ten Network and the two have been partnering together more and more.   The Pac 12 also has a great many of its games on Fox Sports and has for a long time, although their network has not been nearly as successful as the Big Ten Network.  They have moved on from Larry Scott, who is no longer commissioner of that league, which is a great move.

Why do I bring up the Pac12 at this juncture?   Because the Big Ten and Pac12 share a very important timeline, which is the hypothetical logic infusion to this post; both leagues have their current tv media rights deals expiring just before the 2024* season kicks off.

In my opinion, and given the new area of television contracts I expect to see relative to streaming services entering the fray, the Big Ten adding Iowa State and Kansas, along with the Pac12 adding Oklahoma State and Kansas State (which are not great academic fits, in my opinion, so I am bit more skeptical of that) doesn’t derail the subtraction by addition math we have all been thinking about under the old television model.  It’s more inventory…it’s 26 teams over all three major US timezones combining forces and their numbers to negotiate the best possible television contract for everyone.  Adding two to four more teams to the mix is just more inventory…in this case, and in this new world, I think a joint Big Ten-Pac12 television negotiation offering makes a lot of sense and I think it could yield maximum revenue.  The ACC’s Tier 1 media rights, (for the time being) are locked up with ESPN into the 2030’s….the Big 12 is on the verge of collapse and ESPN already has the SEC.  A joint B1G/P12 rights offering is one of the last major land grabs available and live sports is such a prized asset because of the predominance of LIVE viewership, which means you can’t fast forward through commercials.

And oh by the way, the Big Ten and Pac12 just got cozier today with the announcement of the B1G/P12/ACC Alliance.

Again, I am not saying that I would run to the betting windows with this stuff and it’s not even a prediction…it’s just a look at a few things that seem like they could fit together…maybe Wanny is crazy and he got his towns and meetings mixed up.  I don’t know…but I don’t think this is entirely nuts.  Of course I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have written over a 1000 words on it.

*There could be a legal battle brewing between the Big Ten’s TV partners and the league; what to do about the 20 games the league didn’t deliver to the TV partners and the tune of roughly $110M in lost revenue.  Also at question is the 2023 or 2024 media rights date.  There is Force Majeure (act of god) clauses in most contracts…but this will be a tricky one. The TV partners did not get what they paid for. It wasn’t necessarily the Big Ten’s fault, but leagues like the SEC and B12 played a fuller schedule and the Big Ten made a choice to shut things down, before they restarted.  I have seen varying opinions that the COVID shortfall could lead to a kicking in of a rollover clause, adding one more year to current agreements.  If so, this is how the Pac12 and the B1G could align on contract expiration timelines.  If not, then we are talking about just one year and I think joint negotiations could happen with that small gap.

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