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Big Ten schools get more money than ACC schools, but just barely

Big Ten's ability to negotiate new television deal will make it the more lucrative conference

By Chris Korman

10:55 AM EST, January 18, 2013

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According to The Kansas City Star, which is using numbers published by Forbes magazine (in an article that does not appear to be online yet), the Big Ten will earn $310 million during the 2012-13 financial year from outside deals.

That’s the most of any conference.

But because the Big Ten is paying 12 schools and the Big 12 is only paying 10 schools (what an absurd clause to have to write), Big 12 schools get the most money returned from the conference at $26.2 million. Big Ten schools make $25.8.

Forbes projected how much each conference would make through bowl games, the NCAA men's basketball tournament and, mostly, television deals (which account for about 75 percent of the total).

But Big 12 schools also retain their third-tier broadcast rights – games that television rights holders turn down -- and are free to monetize them as they see fit, by selling games locally or forming networks (as Texas did, to the tune of $300 million over 20 years according to Forbes.)

Meanwhile, the Big Ten Network is built on the conference’s third-tier rights, and that network's shared revenues resulted in a $7.2 million boost per team last year (a drop from the year before, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.) Expanding the network's reach into DC and New York -- and therefore increasing the revenue generated from fees paid by cable companies (and eventually subscribers) -- has been widely sited as the driving force in the Big Ten's decision to go after Maryland and Rutgers.

Of particular interest to Maryland, especially those disgruntled with the school’s decision to move to the Big Ten, is the ACC pulling in a total of $293 million and paying out $24.4 million per school. That’s not far off from what The Big Ten is doling out.

When Maryland announced its move in November, information leaked to Sports Illustrated indicated the school would make an additional $100 million from 2014 to 2020 by being in the Big Ten instead of the ACC. Those projections, according to Pete Thamel (you may have heard his name in the news recently), indicated the school would make an additional $12 million in its first year in the conference.

Thamel’s story says the ACC anticipated paying only $20 million in 2014, by which time both Pitt and Syracuse will be members of the conference. So it’s possible that the drop in revenue-per-school could be attributed to the pie being split into more pieces without a correlating increase in the overall size of the pie.

It’s also possible that many of these numbers are … imprecise.

Besides, there are still many factors that will change the economic picture for college sports. ESPN is going to pay $470 million for the right to broadcast the new football playoffs, and it’s still unclear how that money will be disbursed to member schools. The SEC, home to the most fervent fans and best teams, is due for a major upgrade in its television deal and could dole out $34 million per team according to USA Today. 

And the Big Ten will be able to renegotiate its television deals in 2017, while the ACC is locked in until next decade. That's another reason analysts envision a future where the Big Ten is able to offer significantly more than the ACC would to cash-strapped Maryland.