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Welcome to College Football’s Super League Era

Last Updated: July 7, 2022
Texas and Oklahoma (and perhaps more) joining the SEC proves the inevitable: with so much money at stake, super-conferences are the new normal.

European soccer’s proposed Super League quickly and dramatically went up in flames this spring as fans from across the continent and around the world instantly went up in arms at the thought of such a shamelessly money-motivated consolidation of the Beautiful Game.

Here in the states, however, college football fans are already more acquainted with the general concept. Over the past 11 years, they saw the ACC and Big Ten rapidly expand. The Pac-10 became the Pac-12. The SEC poached Big 12-ers Texas A&M and Missouri.

But the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma also bolting the Big 12 — whittling that conference down to eight — in order to join the SEC in 2024 marks the official start of a new, downright seismic shift for collegiate athletics.

And there will be no turning back. Because there’s just way, WAY too much money to be made.

Back in December, the Southeastern Conference signed a 10-year contract with ESPN and ABC that would pay more than $300 million a year for their football broadcast package beginning in 2024; that would dwarf the conference’s current $55 million per year pact with CBS for Saturday’s game of the week.

Even when UT and OU come aboard to balloon the SEC’s ranks to 16, the ESPN/ABC deal is projected to increase the amount of revenue the conference distributes to each school from $45.5 million apiece during the 2019-20 academic year to potentially a whopping $70 million.

To put that number into perspective, a USA Today analysis found last week that adding Texas and Oklahoma would allow this new-look SEC to generate as much revenue as the entire current NCAA by 2024-25:

$1.3 billion.

Even with the Longhorns and Sooners both forced to pay the Big 12 exit fees of approximately $80 million each, the future windfall makes such a one-time financial hit more than worth it.

With the NCAA announcing Friday that it would call a constitutional convention in November to take further steps in overhauling how the organization governs itself, combined with NIL now in play and an expanded College Football Playoff inevitably on the horizon, individual conferences (and even individual schools) are poised to gain more power than ever.

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With UT and OU setting the stage and dollar signs in the eyes of every major conference, the shift from a Power 5 conference alignment to just a couple of super leagues will inevitably materialize.

The Big 12 could read the writing on the wall, sending ESPN a cease-and-desist letter as rival conferences circled to potentially pick off remaining members like West Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas, TCU, and Texas Tech.

And who’s to say a 16-team SEC would even consider itself done growing?

Given the massive increases in revenue that this new era very clearly brings, conference consolidation is a foregone conclusion in order to secure bigger TV deals like the ones the Big Ten and especially the SEC have. The time to seize an increasing share of a growing pie is now; an expanded Playoff (and the bonus payments that come with it) in the offing is more than enough justification.

In the big picture, by the time the next Summer Olympics begin in Paris in three years, the Super League revolution in college football will already be a full-fledged reality.

And with the potential to make money fall more or less from the sky, don’t be surprised if global soccer isn’t the only sport out there that attempts to emulate the SEC in the march toward super league consolidation.

About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.