Timing Is Everything

August 14 will probably be a scorching hot day in this country but won’t otherwise mean much to most people. It’s not a holiday and it falls on a Thursday, but for the people of Disney it might as well be a holiday because that’s the day the SEC and ESPN will unveil a brand new sports network that is totally devoted to the South Eastern Conference. Many know that the SEC is the preeminent collegiate sports conference in the country and while basketball may not be its strong suit, Disney could care less if an SEC basketball game was every played again. This deal is strictly for football and the rights to broadcast games on the ESPN family of networks for the next 20 years. The annual payout hasn’t been made public, but the annual average value of the deal is estimated to be worth between $300-500 Million dollars which would make it the largest TV contract in the history of college sports. Back here in Chicago there’s been the little engine that could in the Northwestern Wildcats who’ve been pioneering to get NCAA Athletes to become unionized so that they can receive benefits, negotiated work rules, and even compensation for their efforts on the gridiron or the hard court. Kain Colter has been the leader of Northwestern’s movement and he should be given credit for having recognized just how important it is for these athletes to keep playing under the current status quo for the benefit of every college president of big-time sports. Now I didn’t got to Northwestern but certainly Mr. Colter has to have known that these TV contracts are basically corporate mergers. The SEC, Big Ten, Big-12, and Pac-12 are the big four conferences in college football and with the new playoff system about to go into effect this year, the money should start to fly as Fox, CBS, and ESPN get their hands on every game possible. As currently constituted ESPN owns the rights until 2025 for the three-game playoff system that’ll decide the national champions in college football. The price tag for this 11-year contract is $5.64 Billion or $470 Million annually, thus putting the price tag for their whole college football package over the next 11-years at nearly $10 billion for just the CFP and the SEC. So now that we’ve estimated that Disney alone is dropping $10 Billion for an 11-year contract with the SEC, let’s not forget there’s three other major conferences still up for grabs. Not to mention the fact that the SEC still has another deal with CBS, who gets to cherry-pick the games it wants for it’s national spotlight on Saturday afternoons in the fall. Fox still gets the Big-12 for the most part on its two new sports networks, and NBC has exclusive rights to Notre Dame football which it just renewed for $150 Million, and that’s just to air the games in South Bend. Then there’s still all those bowl games that don’t include the four teams vying for the title. The fact of the matter is that the money that’s being shelled out to these conference presidents with a trickle-down effect to the other universities is astonishing. The money is in the tens of billions of dollars and you’re telling me that Johnny Manziel can’t sign his autograph for a measly couple of grand. To think that there’s not a bidding war going on between coaches and AD’s to get the best of the best is just lunacy. I can’t imagine that Nick Saban is motivated to consistently win championships for status alone; he needs to have a little green to go with it. Kain Colter is advocating for athletes who are basically playing minor-league football and will all make the majority of their money in the first three years of their NFL careers if they’re not out of the league. The basketball argument is even easier to make because there’re less people on the court and these kids have to stay in school for only one year. A perfect example is right here in Chicago with Jahlil Okafor who’s the number one prospect in the country and goes to school at the First Lady’s alma mater, Whitney Young. How can one put up the argument that he’s completely coming to a decision by himself without anyone’s outside influence. Lebron James would’ve single handedly dominated college basketball and four ninth-graders could’ve stood on the court with him and watched while he did it. Kain Colter’s argument is not merely out of spite, but more out of reason and understanding. These kids are playing an extremely dangerous game in order to line the pockets of university presidents and directors of schools. The networks are buying at a premium and the kids are playing for free while their likenesses are sold to the people who fill the stands and support the teams. The money is flying and it’s not out of line to think that these kids not only deserve protection from catastrophe but compensation for their efforts and contributions to the school popularity and performance. The coaches get the money and they don’t have to tackle anybody.