The sticky details of TV contracts continue to be a hurdle for college conferences, and it’s not just the Pac-12.

Now those among Big Ten school leadership are scratching their collective heads.

But let’s look at the Pac-12 first.

Three weeks ago, CBS sports college writer Dennis Dodd reported from an Arizona collegiate athletic summit that ESPN and the Pac-12 were no longer talking about a deal. He immediately received pushback from several other national voices.

But over the weekend, Andrew Marchand of the Sports Business Journal podcast confirmed it: ESPN and the Pac-12 are not close to agreeing on a tier-one product contract.

Meanwhile, remember that lofty standard-setting deal the Big Ten announced after annexing USC and UCLA? Well, an examination of the small print left many league presidents and chancellors concerned and unfulfilled.

Apparently, new Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti discovered that parts of the mammoth $7 billion TV deal his predecessor negotiated is kind of unfinished.

So, what should we make of this reporting during the past 24 hours?

Does TV have too much to do with college football?

Does TV drive the game?

Are universities addicted to TV money? 

Yes, this coin-fest appears to be the opiate of this age of modern football.

It’s powerful.

It’s the engine.

TV has the ability to break up conferences, cause expansion and retraction, feed the haves and starve the have-nots, and challenge the pure foundation of academic institutions. This power and money has the ability to make friends turn on one another, break promises and test loyalty.

Literally, TV is in control of NCAA sports.

In the Big Ten, presidents and chancellors are trying to clarify “unfinished” aspects of its multibillion-dollar TV contract, the largest money deal in college sports.

One challenge that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to the new-look Big 12 and Big Ten
Pac-12 TV negotiations reaching critical stage as mood, atmosphere grow more stressful

Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State have said they will not play late-November night games that would be on NBC, affecting “tens of millions of dollars of value” to NBC’s contract. They apparently don’t like the night games in the cold that “detract” from recovery and the convenience for their teams. But if they don’t play those games, it would cost the league about $5 million per school.

Another Big Ten “item” that needs resolving is that schools have to pay Fox $25 million for lost 2020 football games due to COVID-19.

These details were somehow lost in all the celebration and ballyhoo over the Big Ten’s huge money windfall negotiated by previous commissioner Kevin Warren. They were assumed to have been taken care of. 

Now, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, there is more than $70 million either “gone or in flux.”

How does this impact Pac-12 stuff? Well, with the Big Ten tackling fine print and a lot of money disparity, there really can’t be further poaching of the Pac-12 (Oregon, Washington) in the immediate future.

The Pac-12’s situation is simply perplexing. Who will be the main carrier of that league’s games? Will the majority of it be linear or streaming? What brands and platforms?

According to New York Post sports columnist Marchand, “ESPN & Pac-12 are having no substantive talks at this time. ESPN passed on Big Ten, Sunday Ticket, Premier League, Champions League & MLS, so the idea it will be completely out on Pac-12 is not in the least bit surprising. Things can always change & maybe Pac-12 can figure out a creative way to get ESPN involved, but right now that seems very unlikely.”

I believe ESPN had an offer on the table months ago and simply hasn’t budged and won’t move because nobody else is in a position to up the ante.  

View Comments

Thus, ESPN is not involved in an active role because it just will not and doesn’t need to at this point.

Meanwhile, you must be impressed with the solidarity and faith expressed by Pac-12 leaders that a satisfactory deal will be consummated soon. It’s just that nobody knows what soon and satisfactory mean.

Writes David Hookstead in, “Multiple Pac-12 officials have tried their best to claim everything will be fine and the conference is strong. However, with every single day that passes without a deal, it starts to look more and more like a Baghdad Bob situation.

“Sure, you can claim Iraq is winning the war, but we can all see the American tanks on the horizon. That’s increasingly the energy people are seeing out of the West Coast conference.”

The Pac-12 logo during a game between Arizona State and Kent State, in Tempe, Ariz. | Ralph Freso, Associated Press
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.