Since UCLA and Southern California decided to move to the Big Ten a week ago, the college sports world has been upside down. It seems as if there are as many rumors about the next big move as there are schools that would be impacted, and there is at least one rumor that includes Las Vegas.
There is a rumor that UNLV will join the Big 12 or the Pac-12, but that is not true. The Running Rebels have a better chance of getting Randall Cunningham or Ickey Woods back in uniform than they have of getting an invite to a major football conference. Instead, it involves the remnants of the Pac-12 joining what is being called a “loose partnership” with the ACC, and the top teams from those conferences playing in a championship game that would take place at Las Vegas, which is currently where the annual Pac-12 championship game takes place.
John Canzano, an Oregon-based sports writer, has been reporting on this for the past couple of days, and one of the reasons it makes sense is that the Atlantic Coast Conference has 10 markets that have more than one million television households.
Bruce Haring, my copy editor, told me that market size doesn’t have the same cache since apps and streaming services have helped to expand the audience that can watch games.
The ACC is in the crosshairs and at a crossroads. The SEC and Big Ten are ahead of the conference and it has schools that could easily slide into either conference, which could leave the rest of the conference in the rubble.
The grant-of-rights agreement between the schools has prevented that from happening. It is a poison pill designed to deter defections by giving the conference rights to media revenues even if the school leaves for another league.
If the revenue gap between the SEC and Big Ten gets to the point where a school could buy out its grant-of-rights agreement, then the ACC could be in trouble.
The Fighting Irish have a television contract with NBC. Notre Dame may have to choose between football independence and a chance to remain relevant for a national championship, as the top of the college football pyramid shrinks.
It is possible that Notre Dame will bolt for the Big Ten if that happens.
This is not a sports betting story for now. This is a story that involves a few dozen major colleges and the major television networks, and it will probably end with the networks giving more money to a smaller number of schools.
It is possible that a sportsbook could get involved. The college athletics landscape is changing dramatically before our eyes despite the fact that the NCAA has not done what its fellow plaintiffs in the landmark PASPA case have done by becoming full-on partners with legally licensed sports betting operators.
Student-athletes now have the ability to monetize their talent and fame through name-image-and-likeness deals, in addition to the seemingly never-ending rounds of realignment. For some, it is a six-figure or more paycheck, and it is a further erosion of the image that college sports are amateur events.
Is there a time when a sportsbook approaches a conference that is on the verge of going under, with a partnership offer that would give the schools a new revenue stream that could help bridge the gap between its peers?
It is unlikely that something like that will happen in the near future. Last week, no one thought USC and UCLA would leave the conference.
UNLV has a better chance of getting Randall Cunningham or Ickey Woods back in uniform than they have of getting an invite to a major football conference. UCLA and Southern California pulled their shocking move to the Big Ten a week ago. The ACC right now is both at a crossroads and in the crosshairs.