For a second consecutive year, the eight longest-tenured members of the Big 12 conference collected record-setting revenues in excess of $20 million per school at the close of Friday’s spring meetings at the Four Seasons Resort.
The remaining charter members from the league’s inaugural year of competition (1996-97) collected $23 million per school in conference disbursements, with the brunt of the money coming from television contracts, bowls and NCAA basketball tournament appearances. A year ago, those same schools collected $22 million each.
TCU and West Virginia, two second-year members, received just under $14 million each, or 67 percent of a full share. Both schools agreed to the lesser distribution as part of a four-year phase-in agreement when those schools joined the Big 12.
Even as partial-share recipients, Friday’s disbursement represented a significant bump for both schools from recent seasons. In TCU’s previous league, the Mountain West, the school never earned more than $2 million in any year from league coffers. West Virginia, a former Big East member, took home less than $7 million in 2011-12, its final year in that league.
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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said league officials distributed $212 million Friday.
The conference took in total revenues of $220.1 million this year but opted to withhold an unexpected $7.8 million surplus (from bowl and basketball revenues) as operating revenues. That money may be distributed at a later date, Bowlsby said. The surplus accounts for most of the difference in revenues received ($220.1 million) and total distributions ($212 million).
Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State president and chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, reveled in Friday’s news.
To him, it marked a joyous departure from past acrimony at these meetings, when most outsiders — and some insiders — questioned the Big 12’s staying power in the early stages of college realignment that saw the league lose four members (Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, Missouri) while adding two others (TCU, West Virginia).
“Having walked through the valley of the shadow of death in conference realignment, I think we all understand the importance of a collaborative body,” Hargis said. “What survived in that were the people who wanted to be together. Now, it’s all very positive. It’s all about the future and making it better.”
For the Big 12, Friday’s total distribution figure of $212 million doubled the take from 2007 ($106 million), when the conference had 12 teams instead of 10. Bowlsby predicted the numbers will climb again next year when league officials envision having an added $31 million to share from television contracts with Fox and ESPN, as well as revenues from the first year of the College Football Playoff.
Eventually, Bowlsby said revenues should peak at roughly $43.5 million per school by 2024. Because the Big 12 has only 10 members, administrators envision the league’s per-school revenues remaining comparable to, or ahead of, per-school distributions in larger leagues such as the SEC, ACC and Big Ten, all with 14 members.
“Our conference is doing exceptionally well with our model of 10 [members],” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “Everybody knows what we expected and it’s more than where we were years ago.”
As conference networks become more popular in other leagues, Hargis said that Big 12 officials may explore “a way to marry all of the respective interests and contracts into one network, if possible” for league teams.
Texas receives $15 million per year from its 20-year arrangement with ESPN for the Longhorn Network and Oklahoma has a school-specific deal with Fox Sports.
Hargis stressed that the idea is merely in the discussion stages.
Asked how it might come to fruition, he said: “Really, I have no idea. It’s very complex and there’s a lot of interests that have to be considered. I’m certainly not prepared today to provide a road map to that. But we’re certainly working on that kind of goal.”
Bowlsby said Big 12 officials budgeted $400,000 for legal fees last year but have upped that line item to $1.5 million for next year in light of a growing number of lawsuits against the NCAA and its member schools.
“That one budget line is problematic. But we expect it to continue to go up,” Bowlsby said.