College football realignment is in the air once again with another bombshell move as USC and UCLA announced they will join the Big Ten in 2024.
That move follows another seismic shift from last year when Texas and Oklahoma confirmed they would move to the SEC in the near future.
BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF followed with a move to the Big 12.
Consolidation and expansion is the way of the future in college football, as institutions jockey for position in the ever-increasing tidal wave of TV money.
Which are the next dominoes to fall? Let’s predict the future.
Clearly the biggest fish left in this pond, Notre Dame has always coveted its independence, and has been able to keep it for two reasons: 1) it has a great TV deal with NBC, who broadcasts its home games, and 2) it has a reasonable path to the College Football Playoff.
That TV deal ends in 2025 and there would be a big problem if the school thinks its losing its access to the CFP, but TV partners would be more than willing to include the Irish, and their large national fan base, in the postseason.
If ND wants to join a conference, it probably won’t be the ACC, especially given how far behind that league is compared with the SEC and Big Ten in terms of revenue.
Under current conditions, it would have to join the ACC as a football member because it is already for other sports, and the Big Ten wouldn’t want the Irish only for football. Which means ND would have to fork over an exit fee to the ACC for sports other than football.
Minutes after news broke that USC and UCLA were leaving for the Big Ten, the eyes of the college football world turned immediately to the Ducks.
Oregon has steadily increased its prominence in the Pac-12 and nationally and has developed into a solid recruiting destination. Plus, it has a major connection with Nike, whose co-founder, Phil Knight, is a major benefactor.
Why would Oregon want to stick around a conference whose very existence is under threat? And if it does continue to exist, is facing a nearly one-third drop in revenue? Oregon can maintain its West Coast matchups with USC and UCLA while also expanding its reach by establishing yearly rivalries with Eastern legacy teams.
Duke and North Carolina
One of the premier rivalries in college sports, the Big Ten could pick up another pair of elite programs in a package deal.
Granted, the Duke football brand isn’t exactly pristine, but both schools are world-renown for their basketball programs and Duke brings exceptional academic standards, which are important to the Big Ten in their considerations.
The big hurdle here is the current ACC grant of rights agreement. That contract runs through 2036, keeps exiting teams from taking their media revenue with them, and carries an absurdly high exit fee, reportedly around $ 100 million.
But that amount is expected to fall over the next few years, and some schools, when looking at potential revenues on the other side in the Big Ten or the SEC, may consider that fee a prudent investment.
Another option for the Big Ten if they want an institution that screams “elite”. Stanford has one of the country’s biggest university endowments, boasts unchallenged academic prestige, and a solid athletic department to boot. Not to mention access to the San Francisco TV market and an international reach of alumni from the most respected corners of society. As George Costanza would say, it’s got cachet up the yin-yang.
Very similar to the Oregon situation. Washington is a solid academic institution with good athletics. It’s the major university in its state. And it brings a major media market in Seattle that would bring a ton more eyes to the Big Ten Network. Plus geographically, it would take some travel load off the other West Coast teams so they don’t have to travel across the country for every road game.
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