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June 14, 2010

TV deal will help Texas, others break the bank

In a development first reported by Orangebloods.com, a television package that will help Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M break the bank and provide a solid future for the seven other schools in the Big 12 has been reached to save the league.

A press conference with Texas president William Powers, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and senior associate athletic director Chris Plonsky was scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who helped present the assurances of a bonanza TV deal to his 10 remaining schools over the weekend and got them to all sign off at the 11th hour, is having a teleconference at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to sources, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M will be guaranteed $20 million per year, while the seven remaining schools will collect between $14 million and $17 million in TV revenue in combined deals with ABC/ESPN and Fox.

Both networks stepped forward and averted what could have been complete chaos in college realignment by putting forth a combined package that will push the Big 12 from a $78 million take in annual TV revenue to just less than $200 million, sources say.

And while this deal will be remembered for holding rivals like Texas, Texas A&M and OU together. It will also be remembered for two TV networks stepping up and paying a premium dollar to ward off expansion - probably for at least another 15 years.

Both networks, but especially ESPN, faced having freshly minted contracts in other leagues (ACC and SEC) torn up if those leagues came apart or began adding significant teams.

For Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State it will be a doubling of the TV revenue those schools currently haul in from the Big 12 (about $7 million to $8 million).

For a school like A&M, which has a $16 million debt the Aggies are trying to pay back to the school's general fund, the deal helps alleviate some of the financial pressure on the athletic department.

All the 10 schools were encouraged by the conference and television networks to "schedule aggressively" in non-conference games to help beef up the strength of schedule in a league that lacks a lot of wow factor.

There will be no conference championship game, and there was an initial thought about moving the Texas-OU game from the State Fair of Texas in October to Cowboys Stadium the first week of December to help make the Big 12-Lite relevant when the SEC, ACC and other leagues are having championship games. But the Texas-OU game will remain in October at the Cotton Bowl for now, sources said.

And there will be no conference name change.

The disappointment in Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was palpable.

"University of Texas President Bill Powers has informed us that the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference intend to stay together," Scott said.

"We are excited about the future of the Pac-10 Conference and we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities under the guidelines previously set forth by our Presidents and Chancellors."

Look for Scott to add Utah as the 12th team in the Pac-10 and then launch a conference network in 2012 (most likely run by Fox Cable Networks, which also runs the Big Ten Network).

Scott laid out a bold plan and nearly pulled off the coup of the last 100 years in college athletics by nearly landing Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Scott was quoted later saying he thought he had a deal with Texas. But UT officials apparently told Scott if the Longhorns didn't have Texas A&M with them, it would cause too much political strife and would be a deal-breaker.

There's no question there was unspoken disappointment at schools like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State because they figured a berth in the Pac-10 was imminent and would have helped those programs step up in competition and profile.

But Monday's developments were as much about preserving tradition and rivalries as it was about cashing big.

And cashing in big is what Texas will do. UT stands to collect between $23 million and $25 million per year once its own television network is up and running, which would make Texas the highest-paid university in America from a TV revenue standpoint.

Sources told Orangebloods.com that Colorado most likely gambled and lost when it came to moving to the Pac-10. CU will be on the hook for a buyout penalty between $6 million and $7 million. The Buffaloes couldn't even afford football coach Dan Hawkins' $3 million buyout.

Sources said Colorado felt Baylor coming for its invitation to the Pac-10 and was so confident the rest of the Big 12 was going to fall apart that it accepted the Pac-10's invitation before any of the other five schools (Texas, OU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M).

But the new television deal struck Monday wouldn't have happened if Nebraska and Colorado hadn't left the Big 12 and brought the cold, hard reality that massive realignment in college athletics appeared to be upon us.

Stay tuned.



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