What Illinois athletics are looking to gain with the addition of USC and UCLA

Illinois athletics will see some new faces in the years to come.

Great news

A few weeks ago, it was announced that two PAC-12 institutions from USC and UCLA would join the Big Ten in time for the 2024 football season.

Following this announcement, rumors arose surrounding the status of the Big Ten’s ongoing negotiations with their upcoming TV deal. It was announced earlier this year that the Big Ten were close to reaching an agreement with FOX Sports to finalize a new media rights deal.

Then, silence on the subject.

We’ve gone months without new updates, and now we know why. The conference suspended negotiations to add two new teams to the fold. With the addition of the two big brands of USC and UCLA, the valuation of the Big Ten TV deal is now worth much more than it was before. It also means larger potential payouts for all member institutions.

History of the Big Ten

Let’s do a quick history lesson for our young Illini fans. The reason the Big Ten is the most desirable conference to land comes down to a few key reasons. Much of that can be attributed to one man, former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney.

In 2005, the conference accepted bids for a new media rights agreement. Historically, the Big Ten had partnered with ESPN, however, negotiations with ESPN in 2005 did not go well.

ESPN executives gave Commissioner Delaney what was considered a low offer for all the conference TV rights. Additionally, they planned to relegate non-profit sports to air on less accessible channels, limiting the exposure of the sport to fans and capping the potential growth of their viewer base.

Unsurprisingly, Commissioner Delaney did not accept ESPN’s offer. Instead, he came up with the idea of ​​bundling Big Ten sports and selling them on their own platform. Of course, this later became known as the Big Ten Network.

Originally, the network was not marketable as it did not include football or basketball. After further negotiations, however, the Big Ten Network was to include both sports as well. Now, with a marketable TV package, the Big Ten was able to strike a hugely lucrative media rights deal with FOX Sports.

This deal significantly increased revenue for Big Ten member institutions while providing greater exposure to all of the conference’s athletic programs. Speaking of revenue, let’s look at how the Big Ten compares to other Power Five conferences.

Income and payments

By Steve Berkowitz of USA Today on the Big Ten.

“Payments to schools: ranged from $43.1 million to $49.1 million. (In 2020, they were approximately $54.3 million for each of its 12 longest-serving members, $27.6 million for Maryland, and $11.4 million for Rutgers.”

As we can see, before COVID, the Big Ten paid out $54.3 million to each of its member institutions (excluding Maryland and Rutgers.) This sum led all conferences in payments of team in 2021. Additionally, the Big Ten has had the largest payout to each of its members every year since setting up their last media deal.

Planned increases

Going into negotiations for the next media deal, the Big Ten were expecting a big increase in value before the new additions to the squad were announced. After USC and UCLA entered the fold, the estimated value of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal increased significantly.

The new TV deal is now expected to be worth at least over $1 billion a year. While there is no hard figure yet, member payments are estimated to be between $80 million and $95 million per year, depending on the conference’s annual revenue.

It should be noted that these are the 16 teams expected to be part of the conference in 2024. Adding more teams would increase the total value of the TV deal, but depending on the brand popularity of the school, this could increase or decrease the estimate. payments by member institution.

What this means for Illinois athletics

Regardless of how it goes, the Illinois athletics department is going to get a huge payday. This extra money will put all of Illini’s sports programs ahead of funding compared to similar institutions in other conferences.

We can reasonably expect to be able to pay more to retain winning coaches for our top programs. That means we could afford to win a bidding war if Blue Bloods from the ACC, PAC-12, Big-12, and even the SEC tried to poach one of our coaches again.

For our non-paying sports, this additional funding solidifies their future in Illinois collegiate athletics. Programs like men’s gymnastics shouldn’t have to worry so much about budget cuts and years of declining sports revenue.

Plus, with smart investment from the administration and support from the Urbana-Champaign community, Illinois could eventually afford to add a few more sports. This might mean revisiting the addition of a hockey program.

It could also mean funding the construction of an indoor training facility for the track team that is also accessible to the top wheelchair collegiate track team in the country to train. Additionally, wrestling may also benefit from a new location.

These are all possibilities the athletic department and university can now explore with an additional $25 million or more per year. As we improve our facilities, we will also be more competitive in recruiting better recruits in the future.

Regardless of your opinions on conference expansion, we can all agree that it’s an exciting time for Illinois athletics. This extra money is a game-changer for our athletic programs as we continue to build for the future under the leadership of Athletic Director, Josh Whittman. Safe to say this move will make Illini’s athletic pockets much deeper going forward.

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