The Morning Report
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Once upon a time, back in the heady days of December 2011, San Diego State football was headed to the Big East conference.
The Aztecs and Boise State Broncos departed the Mountain West and its anemic TV deal for the greener pastures of an expected windfall. The move marked an apex of conference-realignment ridiculousness, with San Diego being “east” of only the University of Hawaii and lots of ocean. SDSU optimistically projected revenue of $6.4 million to $10 million in annual TV rights money in the new conference. Athletic Director Jim Sterk redundantly hailed it as a “very historic day in our history.”
The historic day in history turned out to be a footnote.
The Big East continued melting like a wedding cake in the rain, and before playing a single game as a new Eastern Power, the Aztecs sheepishly followed Boise State back to the conference they had both left in the dust. Boise State extracted a few of concessions from the old-new conference for its conference-hopping trouble, including bonuses for games broadcast nationally, which for the Broncos is all of them.
So after all the shuffling that left the Aztecs back where they started, we finally know what kind of money they’ll likely be getting from the new TV deal: ESPN and CBS Sports Network are finalizing a deal to pay the Mountain West $18 million annually through the year 2020, when we’ll all be piloting hovercrafts, presumably.
That comes to $1.5 million per school in the 12-member league, before discounting the national TV bonuses that will mostly head Boise’s way. It’s well shy of the $6 million to $10 million SDSU hoped the TV gods would shower on the program, but not far from the $20 million it would have ended up splitting as a member of the new “America 12.” Factor in the money saved from not flying the football team to games on the East Coast and the difference in revenue looks close to a push. Plus, there’s the benefit of Aztecs basketball not being demoted to the low RPI environs of the bus-league Big West. Maybe SDSU dodged a bullet.
If this all sounds like an absurd amount of money to show sportsball games on television, it’s helpful to remember that Time Warner recently paid an estimated $3 billion for the right to broadcast Lakers games for the next 20 years. And they’re not even the best team in Los Angeles.
What have we learned from all this? Don’t bail on your friends to chase cash? One in the hand is worth two in the bush? Don’t whistle past the graveyard? Rooster Cogburn may have said it best: “Don’t believe in fairy tales, sermons or stories about money.”