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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s $37.7 Million Payout from the Big 12

Down just $1.1 million from a year ago.



It got buried a little bit last week, but the Big 12 released its 2019-20 school year revenue numbers, which — despite the global pandemic — were fairly encouraging. Following distribution of $38.8 million in 2019-20, revenue to each school dropped just $1.1 million to $37.7 million over this last year.

I’ve put together this chart — which took more man-hours than I care to admit with more references at the bottom than I imagine are required in the average dissertation at Oklahoma State — to help contextualize some things about this revenue distribution. The Big 12 is the first conference to report 2019-20 numbers, and the ACC and Pac-12 still haven’t reported 2018-19 as far as I’ve seen.

Conf. FY 2015 FY 2016 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020
SEC $32.7M $40.4M $41M $43.7M $45.3M
Big Ten $32.4M $34.8M $37M $54M $55M
ACC $26.2M $23.8M $26.6M $29.5M
Big 12 $23.4M $28.5M $34.3M $36.5M $38.8M $37.7M
Pac 12 $25.1M $28.7M $30.9M $31.3M

SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 numbers for 2015, 2016 — Here
SEC, Big 12 numbers for 2017 — Here
Big Ten numbers for 2017 — Here
SEC, Big Ten numbers for 2018 — Here
SEC, Big Ten numbers for 2019 — Here
Pac-12 number for 2017 — Here
Pac-12 number for 2018 — Here
Big 12 number for 2018 — Here
Big 12 numbers for 2019 — Here
Big 12 numbers for 2020 — Here
ACC numbers for 2015, 2016 — Here
ACC numbers for 2017 — Here
ACC numbers for 2018 — Here

Here are a few thoughts on the report.

1. ? For those in the back: The Big 12 is healthy and thriving financially in ways two of the other conferences — the ACC and Pac-12 — are not. I’ve been hollering about this for several years now, and while the SEC and Big Ten are doing laps around everybody, the Big 12 is certainly not in group at the bottom. Rather, it exists in a strange middle ground occupied by pretty much nobody else. I think some of the national narrative is that the Big 12 is still the weakest link across the board. It’s not. It’s not even close. At least not when it comes to financial viability, which leads to ability to compete across multiple sports in a meaningful way.

2. No third-tier rights: Always a caveat here, but the third-tier rights are not included for the Big 12 like they are for the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 (the ACC has not reported numbers since launching its network, which will presumably include third-tier rights). Third-tier rights are most easily defined as anything that goes on the Longhorn Network (which nets Texas $15 million a year). For OSU, there is no Cowboy Network, but it can still sell that third-tier inventory to a variety of places (which it did recently to ESPN+). That number is again not included here.

3. Barely a dip: Though the Big 12’s revenue decreased year over year for the first time in maybe ever (?), most of the other conferences’ revenue will fall year-over-year as well. Here’s why.

The Big 12 got about $14 million less from the NCAA, which canceled showcase events like the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and the College World Series. Plus, the amount of money in member participation subsidies for conference championships was cut in half, from about $36 million last year to $18 million, after the cancellation of the Big 12 basketball tournaments, as well as baseball, softball and other spring sports. [AP]

This is peanuts compared to football money from both television and the postseason, but it still shows up in the reporting and is the primary reason you see the decrease.

4. So what would it have been? According to the AP, the Big 12 was was rolling toward somewhere around $45 million per school this year (it is expected that the Big 12 will end up close to $50 million annually per school at the end of this current round of TV contracts in 2024).

Before the pandemic, the Big 12 had projections of revenue distribution reaching the mid-$40 million range per school. The conference’s current broadcast rights deal with Fox and ESPN expires in five years. It is hard now to predict future revenues. [AP]

This doesn’t make a ton of sense to me as you would have been adding, what, $7 million per school to get into the mid-40s. That’s around $85 million total, but you didn’t miss out on $85 million. You missed out on a much smaller number than that because of the NCAA Tournament cancelation and other spring sports seeing their postseasons canceled.

Also of note: It was expected that the Big 12 would use some spare cash to compensate schools for money it missed out on and get schools closer to $40 million. I have not seen or heard anything on whether that took place, but it seems like it did not.

5. That’s a lot of money, why is there so much consternation? We’ve all seen in recent weeks a lot of hand-wringing over athletic department budgets and what a future without football looks like. If cash has been so flush over the last decade and has scarcely gone down, what’s the deal?

Well, it’s two-fold. One, you’re budgeting based on the expectation of a mid-40s (or so) number (see above). That’s not insignificant. You’re also budgeting almost paycheck to paycheck (so to speak) as an institution. OSU’s profit in the 2018-19 school year was $327,000 on revenue of $95 million. There are innumerable reasons to not stash cash away (most notably that you’re not exactly supposed to be a for-profit organization), which is unfortunately apparent during a pandemic.

All things considered this is a win for the Big 12 and OSU, although the true test will be in the next school year and will be completely dependent on whether football is played this fall. If so, expect this Big 12 number to increase even though OSU’s revenue overall will likely be down because it won’t have the attendance, concessions and ticket sales it hopes to have.

However, the Big 12 cash is not dependent on any of those factors and simply a matter of whether bowls are played, games are on TV and postseason tournaments take place. Hopefully (hopefully!) all of that will happen over the next 12 months.


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