Weakened Big 12 better financially than other leagues for Iowa State

Published: June 14 2010 | 4:49 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 2:53 am in
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If the Big 12 Conference disintegrates and Iowa State is forced to look for another league, it could cripple Iowa State’s athletics department financially.

As conflicting reports surfaced Monday that at least four current Big 12 schools were considering staying or leaving the league for the Pac-10 Conference, Iowa State’s financial situation remains fragile. The Cyclones earned $45.8 million in revenue during fiscal year 2009, according to figures reported to the U.S. Department of Education. Iowa State showed a profit of $45,140 that year, and it received about $3.6 million in university support.

Iowa State’s athletics department earned more than $8.9 million from the Big 12 Conference that year as part of its revenue-sharing package. It was second-lowest among all league schools, but far more than what Iowa State likely would receive should the league discontinue.

Conference USA, for example, earned just $12.76 million in television revenue during fiscal year 2009, nearly as much as Oklahoma earned from Big 12 revenue-sharing coffers. Conference USA reported revenues of $41.73 million to the Internal Revenue Service that year. The Big 12 reported nearly $70 million in television revenue that year, which is considered low by major conference standards.

The Big 12 earned nearly $31.75 million in bowl revenue that year, compared to about $7 million for Conference USA.

The league’s current revenue-sharing formula splits half the revenue evenly, while the other half is dispersed through television appearances. Monday, multiple outlets reported Big 12 Conference Commissioner Dan Beebe is making efforts to keep the 10-school league intact with assurances of $20 million in annual television revenue to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Other schools, like Iowa State, would make between $14 million and $17 million annually from a new deal. That’s even with the loss of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10 last week.

The Big 12’s current contract with Fox Sports Net expires in 2012, while its contract with ABC remains through 2016.

At the Big 12 meetings 10 days ago, Beebe told reporters he believed the league could improve its television contract. His belief centered on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s reported $155 million per year deal with ABC/ESPN completed in May. Big 12 football teams have competed in the national title game seven of the last 10 years.

“We have had analysis and projections that look like we’re going to be every bit as well compensated in the future,” Beebe said. “But there are all sorts of other aspects to money that comes into a program, including donations, contributions to try to compete or be in the conference. Sometimes those can dwarf — at an institutional level — the conference distribution level.”

Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione echoed Beebe’s sentiments on Monday.

“We have a very, very strong sense from our television partners that the revenue stream would be very, very good going forward,” Castiglione told The Daily Oklahoman. “Better than where we are today.”

That’s good news for Iowa State. If the league disbands and the Cyclones scatter to another conference, it could cost the school much more that prestige. It could destroy the Cyclones’ bottom line.

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