24 May, 2023
After the Big Ten voted to include USC and UCLA in a move that shocked the world, it certainly looked like the conference had won the latest round of college football expansion. This allowed the league to sign a historic media deal worth more than $1 billion annually over the next seven football seasons.
However, according to ESPN college football analyst Pete Thamel, there now seems to be some difficulty behind the scenes for Tony Petitti, the Big Ten’s first-year commissioner, as he tries to work out some of the specifics of that deal before the start of the season.
According to Thamel, there is “some discontent in the loose ends that Kevin Warren did not tie up before he left,” including “some large bills that have surprised some of these schools” over specifics surrounding the NBC contract.
There are “numerous dueling tensions there” among Big Ten power brokers, Thamel said, adding that “there are varying sides of how they’re going to get ironed out just in terms of where the responsibility lies.”
The study claims that more than $5 million per school, or more than $70 million in total, is still “in flux.”
This sum includes the nearly $40 million that the Big Ten now reportedly owes to Fox after Warren, who did not appear to have the necessary contractual power, awarded NBC the rights to the league’s football championship game.
The Big Ten also still owes Fox $25 million for income lost from the Covid-19 season in 2020.
The primetime agreement with NBC will require the Big Ten to reconsider its previous policy of not requiring teams to play after dark in the month of November, something that could change in the future. Additionally, there is a perceived scheduling issue.
Although athletic departments and even football coaches themselves apparently claimed they were unaware of the terms of the agreement, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State have been outspoken about their discontent with that fact behind the scenes.
And thus, in the most crucial month for the sport, the Big Ten is suddenly in the embarrassing position of having to fulfill a nine-figure contract for nighttime football games without necessarily having the support of the league’s top companies.
It’s a complicated situation, and many people have informed us on the record that they are unhappy with how things were left, according to Thamel.