The Big Ten Conference is once again shaking up the college athletics landscape.
Last month, the league revealed that UCLA and Southern California will be joining in 2024. On Thursday, the Big Ten announced it has reached seven-year agreements with Fox, CBS and NBC to share the television rights to the conference’s football and basketball games.
“I think what it does, it affords us the opportunity to make sure that we can continually do the things we need to do to take care of our student-athletes, to fortify our institutions, to build our programs,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Associated Press.
The new $7 billion media rights deal will string the conference’s top football games across three major networks each week, creating an NFL-style television schedule on Saturdays. The deals go into effect in 2023, expire in 2030, and eventually will allow the conference’s soon-to-be 16 member universities to share more than $1 billion per year, according to the AP.
“I just thought where we were in the Big Ten, we had a very unique opportunity because we have the institutions that could do it,” Warren said. “We have the fan avidity. We have the breadth, we have the historical foundation, that we were in a position to really do something unique with three powerful brands in Fox, CBS and NBC.”
In 2017, the Big Ten signed a six-year, $2.64 billion media deal with ESPN and Fox Sports that’s set to expire in 2023. The new deal ends a 40-year relationship with ESPN.
Fox Sports 1 and the Big Ten Network, of which Fox owns 61% equity, will also continue broadcasting the league’s sporting events.
Len DeLuca, a New York University adjunct assistant professor and former ESPN and CBS media programming executive, said he is not surprised that ESPN is no longer partners with the Big Ten after Fox joined the negotiations.
“ESPN demands the first choice in almost everything,” he said. “And demands love exclusivity.”
With conference realignment and the new media rights deals, DeLuca said we are witnessing “the Darwinian evolution of college football.”
Here’s everything you need to know and the new media rights deal.
Former Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson recalled having police protection for two weeks after the school announced in 2012 that it would leave the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten in 2014. Although longstanding rivalries were shattered, Anderson said the school had to look closely at the future of the athletic department and the direction it wanted to go.
With the Big Ten’s new media rights deal, Anderson said Christmas came early for the Terps.
“Maryland went into the Big Ten seeing that when it became a full member, it would mean at that time $50 million per year,” said Anderson, Maryland’s athletic director from 2010 to 2018. “Now looking at that almost [doubling], it’s a gift from heaven.”
According to USA Today, Maryland ranked last among the 13 public Big Ten schools in total revenue last year at $92.2 million. Maryland’s athletic program lost more than a third of its revenue because of spectator bans and other issues related to COVID-19 during its most recent fiscal year, records show, resulting in a $20.9 million deficit.
Maryland and Rutgers are also beginning to repay loans they had received while getting smaller annual shares of conference revenue, according to USA Today. They still owe $145 million, with most due from Maryland.
According to Sports Business Journal, the per-school payout under the new media rights deal could reach $70 million or more, well ahead of the rest of the Power Five conferences. The SEC distributed $55 million per school in fiscal 2021, according to SBJ.
Tom McMillen, a former Maryland congressman and basketball star who heads the LEAD1 Association, which represents athletic directors of universities in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, said there’s going to be more money on the table. However, with the deal being backloaded, McMillen said Maryland won’t see its share go up until later in the contract.
“It’s very gradual,” McMillen said. “The stability of it is important, but it’s not going to be revolutionary Day 1.”
McMillen, who was a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland when the school left the ACC, said he voted against the school joining the Big Ten. However, he understands that the revenue pie has gotten bigger. With the deal mainly benefiting football, McMillen said Maryland has to put together a winning program.
“That’s going to be sort of the bottom line in this,” he said. “They had good progress last season and hopefully, they’ll make progress this year. If Maryland is competitive in football, it makes the decision more favorable in the long run.”
For current Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, the new deal means the Terps will be able to “play on the biggest stage.”
“With the recent additions of UCLA and USC, the Big Ten is a national conference with the biggest media markets represented including Maryland with DC and Baltimore,” Evans said in a statement. “These new agreements will deliver unprecedented coverage and exposure for our student-athletes at Maryland. We are proud to be members of the Big Ten.”
At Big Ten media days last month, Warren said the league is creating a Big Ten Student-Athlete Advisory and Advocacy Committee with the goal of allowing student-athletes to address their concerns, such as the idea of sharing media rights revenue.
“I’ve already started some dialogue with our student-athletes,” Warren said. “We’re going to amplify that committee here quickly. I want to hear it from them. I want to be a great listener to figure out what is important to them. It’s so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does that mean? I want to make sure that I listen and learn to be able to have big ears and a small mouth to truly understand what’s important to them.”
Maryland junior wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, a former five-star prospect and two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention, said revenue sharing with players in college football is “long overdue.”
CBS will broadcast seven Big Ten football games in 2023 while it still carries SEC games in the 3:30 p.m. window.
From 2024 to 2029, CBS will carry 14-15 Big Ten football games a season, including a Black Friday game. Unlike with its longtime SEC deal, CBS will not be guaranteed the first selection of football games each week with the Big Ten. Fox, CBS and NBC will hold a draft for games, allowing each network some opportunities for first selection in a given week.
While games will continue to be broadcast on Fox and the Big Ten Network, NBC will launch “Big Ten Saturday Night” in prime time and broadcast 15-16 games per season. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s direct-to-consumer streaming service, will broadcast eight regular-season football games.
“By having the Big Ten on Saturday night and the NFL on Sunday, [NBC] creates a nice prime-time package that their sales guys can take advantage of,” DeLuca said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be great for the viewers.”
Each network will broadcast the Big Ten football championship game at least once during the length of the deals. Fox will air the championship game in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, CBS will host the game in 2024 and 2028 and NBC will have it in 2026.
Fox will continue to broadcast Big Ten men’s basketball games each season. CBS will televise men’s basketball regular-season games, the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament semifinals and the championship. The Big Ten women’s basketball tournament championship will appear on CBS for the first time.
Peacock will stream 47 regular-season men’s basketball games (32 conference and 15 nonconference) and 30 regular-season women’s basketball games (20 conference and 10 nonconference). The Big Ten Network will also continue broadcasting men’s and women’s basketball games.
The Big Ten Network will be the home of Olympic sports competitions throughout the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.