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TCU's move could provide financial windfall

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Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

Added bowl game revenue, fatter television contracts and the NCAA Basketball Tournament will make Texas Christian's switch from the Mountain West Conference to the Big East worthwhile financially, although to what extent remains to be seen.

"We're investing correctly," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said Tuesday. "I think it's a tremendous economic move for all parties."

Added Big East associate commissioner Nicholas Carparelli, "It stands to reason TCU will be in a better financial position."

But how much better?

"I don't think this is a financial windfall," said Robert Boland, a professor of sports business at NYU and a former consultant to several college programs.

However, he also said, "They have a chance to double their revenues."

Perhaps "windfall" means different things to different people.

"It's too early to tell on so many fronts," Del Conte said.

This much is certain: When TCU begins playing football in the Big East in 2012, the program will have a much better chance of competing in a prestigious, high-paying bowl game.

The Big East is one of the so-called "automatic qualifier" conferences whose champion earns an automatic BCS bowl berth. No longer will TCU have to go unbeaten or hope another team gets upset, like Boise State, to have a chance. Both of those unlikely occurrences happened this season, which is why the Horned Frogs are headed to a BCS bowl.

In the Big East, the margin of error won't nearly be so narrow. With a win Saturday, UConn will take an 8-4 record to the Fiesta Bowl and its $17 million payout. Even Pitt, with five losses, has a mathematical shot.

"That's why we made the decision," Del Conte said. "Absolutely. (Automatic qualifier) gives you automatic access. ... Look what happened to Boise. One loss to Nevada and now they're ranked 11th (and out of the BCS picture)."

Last year, the eight Big East football teams divided $17.7 million from Cincinnati's Sugar Bowl appearance. Teams from the non-BCS Mountain West got $9.8 million. And that was only because TCU was good enough to crash the party and play in the Fiesta Bowl (against Boise State, another non-BCS team). Without TCU, the Mountain West would have received a pittance.

With more teams, each Big East school will receive a smaller piece of the BCS pie. But that is offset by TCU cementing the Big East's football stature and not losing its BCS affiliation as some had feared. And, bowl games with Big East tie-ins have larger payouts than bowl games tied to the Mountain West.

Attendance at TCU basketball games should increase as fans come out to see the numerous Big East basketball powers. Football attendance also is likely to go up.

TCU also will earn much more television revenue from the Big East than from the Mountain West. The Big East reportedly earns $39 million a year from TV money, a relatively low figure that resulted from the defections of Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech in 2003 and 2004.

Some even predicted the end of the Big East. But the conference replaced those teams and survived, and expanded in basketball. Now, with TCU's addition and a probable 10th football team, TV revenues should increase considerably when negotiations for a new deal begin in 2012.

Meanwhile, the less-lucrative Mountain West TV package might decline because Brigham Young and Utah are gone. "It's not the same conference we joined," Del Conte said.

As part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, TCU resides in the nation's fifth-largest TV market. That will be taken into account during negotiations. Nor should it hurt Big East commissioner John Marianatto's quest to create a television network for his conference, another major revenue source.

"Our growth, in terms of potential, is in television," Marinatto said in August.

"The last frontier, if you will, that's being explored is television," Del Conte said. "This gives us a greater (chance) of having a great television network."

Extra money for TCU will come from the NCAA Tournament, too. Last year, the Big East earned $23.1 million, more than any other conference. Even split 16 ways, each team got much more than the teams in the Mountain West, which shared just $4 million.

Additional Information:

BCS Payouts

A look at the Bowl Championship Series payouts for the 2010 bowl games played last January:

Automatic qualifier conferences

SEC : $22.2 million

Big Ten : $22.2 million

ACC : $17.7 million

Big East : $17.7 million

Big 12 : $17.7 million

Pac-10 : $17.7 million

Total : $115.2 million

• The SEC and Big Ten earned an extra $4.5 million for placing a second team in the BCS bowls.

Non-automatic qualifier conferences

Mountain West : $9.8 million

Western Athletic : $7.8 million

Conference USA : $2.8 million

Mid-American : $2.1 million

Sun Belt : $1.5 million

Total : $24 million

• These five conferences shared about $4.5 evenly, with the rest paid on a performance formula.

• The Mountain West received $6 million for TCU being an automatic BCS qualifier.

• The Western Athletic received $4.5 million for placing Boise State in a BCS bowl.

Other recipients

FCS Conferences : $1.8 million

Notre Dame : $1.3 million

Army : $100,000

Navy : $100,000

Total : $3.3 million

• Notre Dame receives an additional $4.5 million when it plays in a BCS bowl.

• Total revenue distribution: $142.5 million

Note : Revenue was derived from the BCS' $83 million TV contract with Fox and bowl payouts. For the 2011 games, the BCS television contract with ESPN will increase to $125 million.

Source : Sports Business Journal




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