Realignment files aren’t closed, but warning sirens aren’t blowing either. For the first time in several years, who’s moving to what conference isn’t the primary issue during spring meetings, which begin this week in the Big 12 and Souteastern Conference.
“I anticipate absolute calm,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
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Leagues seem more concerned about positioning themselves for the post-BCS world as the Big 12 meets in Irving, Texas, and the SEC in Destin, Fla.
The SEC must determine its football schedules for 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff, and beyond.
The 2014 conference schedule will be released and maintain the eight-game format. But the debate about the SEC adding a conference game to stand at nine — matching the Big 12, Pac-12 and, starting in 2016, the Big Ten — will continue.
A ninth league game would add high-quality inventory to a conference that just announced its own network and also help the league’s schedule strength. Starting in 2014, a committee will determine the four teams in the College Football Playoff and the at-large teams in other major bowl games. Schedule strength is likely to be emphasized.
Opponents of the move argue that for a conference that has won the last seven national championships, playing an eight-game conference schedule is tough enough.
A Missouri-Arkansas matchup is expected on the 2014 schedule.
Conferences also are reshaping bowl agreements. The SEC and Big 12 lost bowl tie-ins to the playoff rotation, where the Cotton and Chick-fil-A will serve as semifinal sites.
But the leagues have signed a sweet deal with the Sugar Bowl for its champions – similar to the Rose Bowl for the Big Ten and Pac-12 – in the years the New Orleans game isn’t one of the two national semifinals.
The SEC and Big 12 will keep several of their current bowl deals, but there also will be some shuffling.
The Capital One, Outback, Gator and Music City will stay in the SEC mix. The league also has its eyes on the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
The Alamo Bowl is favored to become the Big 12’s top postseason spot for a team not involved in the College Football Playoff.
Plugging last year’s final standing into a future postseason, Big 12 co-champion Kansas State might have landed in the national semifinals, co-champion Oklahoma an at-large team in one of the other major bowls and Texas, with the league’s third-best overall record, could have been slated for the Alamo.
The league has a plan for its other bowl tie-ins. It wants to land a bowl in Florida – the Russell Athletic in Orlando has been mentioned – and keep a presence in Phoenix. The league currently is tied to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.
But the Big 12 is expected to end its longstanding relationship with the Holiday Bowl.
Spring meetings also are occasions to announce conference distribution to each school, and both leagues should be in the $22 million to $25 million range. The revenue is generated from its TV deals, bowl contracts and NCAA basketball tournament, and in the Big 12, that figure won’t include the money schools earn through their third-tier rights.
But because the Big 12’s TV deals with Fox and ESPN are structured to escalate throughout its 13-year lifetime, along with the conference’s share of the Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff income, Big 12 schools can expect more – soon. Bowlsby said per-school revenue should push $30 million by 2015, “and we’ll ramp up to the low 40s through the life of the contracts,” Bowlsby said.
The SEC also will be cashing large checks soon. USA Today estimated the SEC’s per-school take could grow to $34 million by 2014-15.
Missouri and Texas A&M, which were largely cut out of conference revenue distribution last year by the Big 12 as an exit penalty, regain this item on the ledger sheet this year.