On the emergency podcast of Unnecessary Roughness, Kayce brought up a fascinating point that is missing from the discussion in the CFB world right now: ESPN was the one pulling the strings that brought Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC.
Prior to the recording, that thought did not enter my mind. Oklahoma and Texas were going to the SEC because it was the right choice for their school and athletic programs. However, after listening to Kayce and reading an article from Jon Wilner this morning? This was a move about the future of sports media as we know it.
The strengthening of the SEC and kneecapping of the Big 12 is, in our view, entirely about ESPN.
Specifically, it’s about ESPN’s master plan, as directed by the Disney overlords, to reallocate resources within a changing media landscape.
As ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro told Variety before the Texas and Oklahoma news broke:
“We have a five-year plan and also, we have a ten-year plan, and we are actively looking at our rights and evaluating what’s coming up, and what we can go after.”
That plan obviously includes college football, but with a laser focus on total ownership of two immense properties: The SEC regular season and championship game; and the expanded College Football Playoff.
Nothing is signed, but Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC is pretty much a done deal. They've been working on this for 6 months and it makes sense for all parties involved. This leaves the Big 12, quite frankly, fucked.
With those two properties locked up, ESPN could simply dabble in everything else, including the Pac-12, based on the need to fill ESPN+ programming needs and specific broadcast windows on the linear network, such as 10:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday nights.
(Were Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC, then ESPN could abandon the Big 12 altogether, since the only brands worth owning would have become part of the network’s golden goose. From the perspective of Disney’s ROI, the resource consolidation makes perfect sense.)
Now ESPN owns the ACC, SEC, part of the Big 10, and the Pac-12. On top of that, they own the rights to the College Football Playoff. With all of those in their back pocket, they pretty much own college football as we know it. The future of TV for networks is streaming and live sporting events. Outside of the NFL, College Football is the most valuable entity in live American sports (you could argue NBA).
What does this mean for college football as a whole? We aren't quite sure yet, but we do know the sport is in for a BIG change. Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC is just the start. These were the 1st 2 dominos to fall. The easiest next move is to have the Big 12 dissolve and have 4 power conferences, but I'm not sure it's going to be that simple. We may be heading towards a European soccer model:
For years, there have been not-so-quiet whispers of college football morphing into English soccer, with a group of 30-32 schools creating a version of the Premiership and the other 90-something programs existing on the second tier.
One could argue that the SEC, with Texas and Oklahoma and Alabama and LSU and Georgia and Florida, would be that very Premiership.
Or framed differently: Competitively and economically, it would be a mini-NFL.
The revenue and cross-promotional opportunities for Disney — we have long envisioned the Houndstooth Hatterhorn ride at Disney World — would be limitless.
It's been very clear that those in the know of college football have understood the sport is in for a big change over the next 5-10 years. Dabo knows it:
SOURCE-“I would say you will hear a lot of conversation over the next five to seven years. I would imagine there will be some type of restructuring in college football over the next decade,” Swinney said. “I don’t have any intel, that is just my gut instinct, but we will see.”
So does Ryan Day:
The whole world has changed a lot over the past 20, even 10 years. With players now benefiting off of NIL and habits of fans changing, so do the sport. Overall, I think a Premier League structure would really work well. It solves the P5 vs. G5 issue. Have promotions and relegations. Have a 40 team tier 1, 40 team tier 2, and a 50 team tier 3.
Will it happen? Probably not, but if other top schools (i.e. Clemson, FSU, Miami, OSU, Michigan, USC) start to see the walls closing in on them as the SEC asserts pure dominance…anything is possible.