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May 18, 2012The Big 12 and SEC, who could have easily been on non-speaking terms after Texas A&M and Missouri bolted one for the other, today sent a message to college football that they are taking control.
At least control of the bowl game that will feature their champions. And it won't end there. Friday's events signal the end of the BCS. Friday was the first step in conferences taking charge of the postseason in college football, the same way schools wrestled control of their TV rights from the NCAA in 1984.
Not surprisingly, Chuck Neinas, interim commissioner of the Big 12, played a key role in both events. More on that in a minute.
The details of the yet-to-be-named bowl game - which we will call the Behemoth Bowl for now - are thus: The champions of the Big 12 and SEC will play in the Behemoth Bowl for five years beginning on New Year's night 2015. If one or both of the league champions are involved in a potential four-team playoff, the leagues would have a say over the replacement. But it would likely be the No. 2 teams in the league.
(That could be a little tricky for the SEC because it would possibly mean the loser of the SEC title game every year. That added loss could mean another team in the SEC playing in the Behemoth Bowl.)
So, in short, while the rest of college football waits to see what the new BCS will look like (I've heard a deadline of July 1 has been set for a first draft by conference commissioners) and how much ESPN will bid to show it to the world, the SEC and Big 12 sent a thunderous message on Friday.
And to be quite honest, it has bigger implications for the Big 12 than the SEC.
BACK FROM THE DEAD: Because the last two years, the Big 12 has been seen as a potential yard sale, and now the Big 12 is simply going yard thanks to another incredible home run by interim commissioner Chuck Neinas.
In less than a year, Neinas, a former Big Eight commissioner and former executive director of the College Football Association, has taken the Big 12 from being the laughing stock of the BCS to being a player that could rival the SEC as the nation's top conference because it has room to grow.
Have Notre Dame and Florida State called yet?
In addition to the message it sent the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and its beloved Rose Bowl, the Big 12 and SEC probably just made the Big East and ACC spit out their respective chowder.
The financial models for the game are potentially staggering because the two conferences will control everything: TV revenue, ticket sales, concessions, title sponsor, you name it.
Currently, the Fiesta and Sugar bowls, who currently have the BCS tie-ins for both league's champions, as well as the Rose and Orange, negotiate all those rights and last year paid $17 million per participant.
CASHING IN: When you start to calculate the money to be made by the Big 12 and SEC from the Behemoth Bowl by cutting out the middle man, you need Mark Zuckerberg's accountant to help count the money.
Jerry Jones figures to be a player for the game in his 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium, as does the 76,000-seat Superdome.
If the Fiesta Bowl, which figures to be on the outside looking in (after being the BCS tie-in for the Big 12 champion) because of its remote location to the Big 12 and SEC wants to stay in the mix, it will probably have to outbid Jerry Jones. (Good luck.)
Whoever wants to televise the game - ABC/ESPN, CBS, Fox, NBC, etc. - will be dealing with the Big 12 and the SEC, who will split the money evenly. The projections right now are for the TV revenue alone to reach between $34 million and $50 million per year for five years - a potential total of $250 million over the life of the contract.
When you consider ABC/ESPN's current, four-year BCS contract to show the national championship game is $500 million (it expires after the 2013 season), you get the significance of the money.
Let's project the ticket sales for 100,000-seat Jerryworld at $150 per- that's $15 million. And that doesn't even include, suites, concessions, parking or a title sponsor (some of which would have to be shared with Jerry).
And if total revenue from the Behemoth Bowl, modestly, reached $70 million per year, the Big 12 would be splitting its share - $35 million - between 10 schools, while the SEC would be splitting $35 million between 14 schools (thanks to Texas A&M and Missouri).
So we're talking about doubling the payouts made last year by the Fiesta, Sugar, Rose and Orange bowls. And not even the Big Ten and Pac-12 could top that unless it told the Rose Bowl, all the money from that game would be going to the conferences and that the bowl game could keep proceeds from the Rose parade.
(Not even Jim Delany and Larry Scott could get away with that power play, considering the history and tradition of the Rose Bowl and the leagues. Or could they?)
RICH GET RICHER: And when you combine that with the payout a Big 12 or SEC team would receive for being selected into a potential four-team playoff, both conferences stand to cash in even more. Especially when you consider an SEC or Big 12 team has been in the BCS national title game every year except 1999 (Florida State-Virginia Tech) and 2002 (Ohio State-Miami) since the BCS was formed in 1998.
The SEC has been in the national title game nine times in 14 years; the Big 12 seven times in 14 years.
No one knows what the payouts will be for being in a potential semifinal or championship game in a four-team playoff. But it figures to be a lot.
So would all of this news be enough to entice Notre Dame, Florida State or both to join the Big 12? Would the Big 12 want to split revenue with two more schools?
UNITED FRONT: Those are questions yet to be answered. All we know right now is the Big 12 and the SEC have spoken.
And who would have thought that after what happened in the last year.
"We think we have a very strong conference with the admission of TCU and West Virginia," Neinas said. "The Big 12 is in good position going forward, and we look forward to some good competition on the field with our partners from the SEC."
Leave it to Neinas to help pull this off.
He was the executive director of the College Football Association from 1980 to 1997 and led the charge for schools to take control of their TV rights from the NCAA in 1984.
Neinas negotiated television contracts and administered a television plan on behalf of the CFA members from 1984 through 1995 that included ABC, CBS, NBC and ESPN.
Friday, he led the charge for conferences to wrestle control of their postseason TV rights from the BCS.
Added Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds:
"I am really excited about this partnership between the two top football conferences in the country. This is another example of the strength and stability of the Big 12 Conference.
"In the last month alone, we have introduced this game and a new commissioner (Bob Bowlsby) that is absolutely right for this league. In addition, we are in the process of formulating one of the top TV deals in college sports. The Big 12 is strong, stable and united."