In May 2013, the Big 12 announced a revenue distribution of $198 million, the highest in its 20-year history, to be split among its 10 members. Split…not split evenly.
One year after Texas A&M and Missouri departed for the SEC, Colorado for the Pac-12, and Nebraska for the Big Ten, and the Big 12 landed TCU and West Virginia, the conference was distributing a record $198 million to its 10 member institutions, eight of whom—Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech—received a $22-million distribution, and two of whom—TCU and West Virginia—received an $11-million distribution.
For the Big 12’s newest members, it was still a bigger distribution than they received in their former conferences and the biggest conference distribution in school history, but it was exactly 50 percent less than the eight Big 12 members who remained after conference realignment. It was the first year of a three-year transition period for TCU and West Virginia, who agreed to accept a smaller piece of the pie upon joining the conference: 50 percent in 2012-13, 67 percent in 2013-14, and 85 percent in 2014-15. It wasn’t until the 2015-16 academic year that TCU and West Virginia received their full revenue share.
The Big 12 hasn’t added a new member since 2012, so we don’t know if the deal remains the same. If a new school joined the Big 12 in 2021, 2022, 2023 or beyond, we don’t know if the 50-67-85-100 structure would apply. We don’t know if that was part of UCF’s pitch to the conference in 2016 or any other school’s pitch over the last eight years. We don’t know if the deal would’ve applied to Nebraska, whose mutually beneficial relationship with the Big Ten has suddenly soured as the Huskers reportedly analyzed “whether it’s possible to cobble together a fall season in defiance of the league’s collective decision” before announcing on Thursday their acceptance of the Big Ten’s no-play vote.
We do know Nebraska isn’t West Virginia or TCU; the Huskers rank 97th among all FBS teams in total wins since 2018 but their athletics department is a well-oiled machine with loads of resources, some of which come from the Big Ten’s annual record-breaking distributions, which hit $55 million per school this year. We do know the Big 12 distributed about 67 percent of that amount, approximately $37 million, to its members in 2020. And we do know if the same three-year transition rule applied to new members, a first-year member would’ve received $18.5 million for the 2019-20 year.
Nebraska as a Big Ten member in 2019-20: $55 million.
First-year Big 12 member in 2019-20: $18.5 million.
Difference: $36.5 million.
Eight weeks ago, athletics director Bill Moos announced an athletics-wide 10-percent budget cut for 2020-21 as the department and university grapples with COVID-related financial issues. That would lower a $124-million budget (2018-19) to roughly $112 million. Remove $36.5 million from that and now they’re, theoretically, facing a budget of $75.5 million, or about 61 percent of their typical annual budget.
Nebraska must know they’re in a good spot, right? The Huskers must understand they hit the jackpot in landing an invitation from the most financially stable conference in college sports? Sure, some stakeholders are likely bitter about losing the old Big Eight rivalries and other relationships from their longtime home that made more geographical sense, but, frankly, geography and rivalries mean nothing when you’re cashing a $55-million check that accounts for more than 40 percent of your annual budget.
If Nebraska would’ve played football this fall, they wouldn’t have remained a Big Ten member, commissioner Kevin Warren said on Tuesday. And while Nebraska didn’t contact the Big 12, said commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Wednesday, the Huskers would be welcomed back to the Big 12 with “open arms” if they want a reunion.
And if they wanted a reunion (or still want in the future), it could’ve cost them tens of millions of dollars.