The Big 12 is saying goodbye to Missouri and Texas A&M as they are heading into the 2012 NCAA college football season as members of the SEC. Both of whom are opening their SEC schedule in week two. Nebraska and Colorado deserted the Big 12 a year ago for the Big Ten and PAC 12 respectively, and a combined $25.3 million is the overall loss Missouri and Texas A&M incurred by leaving that conference. Texas A&M is leaving behind $12.4 million, and that is close to a third of the entire revenue generated by their football team in 2010. So does the move make sense for these two schools?
It appears that it is simply a case of wise investing. The SEC offers much better opportunities for both schools moving forward, as that conference has dominated NCAA football the last 10 years. In the Southeast in the United States, football is serious business, as the appearance by LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Arkansas in five of the top nine spots of Forbes Magazine’s Top 25 Wealthiest College Football Teams list attests. And a full eight SEC teams made that list, compared to only three teams from the Big 12.
In TV contract alone, the SEC deal with CBS and ESPN cranks out roughly $205 million a year. This is in contrast to the Big 12 contract with Fox and ESPN which totals approximately $150 million a year. Certainly, with the addition of two teams, each individual team’s SEC share of conference revenue will dip, but one look at the TV deal alone shows how much more respected the SEC is than the other conferences in the United States. Bigger money is also driven by the on-field success the SEC has generated, which is far in excess of that obtained by the Big 12 in recent years.
In microcosm, the Big 12 and SEC both sent eight teams to a bowl game last year. But the SEC earned $76 million in bowl payouts, which is a whopping 46% more than the $52 million the Big 12 took home. Obviously, the SEC played in more prestigious bowls, and has been represented in every BCS National Championship Game since 2006. Of course, winning the last six National Championship titles in a row has certainly not hurt the SEC. The SEC has also sent a team to 12 different BCS Bowls since 2007, as compared to 8 for the Big 12.
While it may take some time for Missouri and Texas A&M to earn back their combined $25.3 million “investment”, the fact that NCAA college football is an absolute religion in the Southeast, combined with better marketing and sponsorship opportunities in the SEC, means that this was a wise move to escape a floundering and shrinking Big 12 football conference.