Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Income Gap in College Athletics: Does it Matter for Hoops?

About ten days ago, the SEC announced $651 million total revenue was divided amongst its 14 members. That comes out to about $45 million per member institution. In 2018, the Big Ten generated $759 million in revenue, leaving each member institution $54 million. Maryland and Rutgers received less than others because they haven’t “vested” to fill shares.

From what I could find, each member of the Big XII received close to $39 million in revenue from the conference in 2019. ACC members received about $29 million in shared revenue in 2019. The Pac-12 was at about $29 million per school in shared revenue, actually decreasing from 2018.

The difference between the SEC and Big 10 versus the other power conferences doesn’t seem significant to the layperson but last night saw an event occur that showed the vast difference in the arms race that is college sports. Mel Tucker left Colorado after one year to take over the Michigan State football program. He left a program with moderate expectations, access to West Coast talent (through decreasing in recent years) and took a job that at best is the 4th best in its own division and has to fight 3 legit heavyweights for talent in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania not to mention SEC schools. Why? Michigan State doubled his salary and the pool to put his assistants. He leaves a program after one year for a program sinking like a ship and almost certainly in the crosshairs of the NCAA.

Why is this important? There is a legitimate gap increasing between the Big Ten and the SEC and the rest of the college landscape. We’ve seen the SEC swing big in coaching hires in basketball in recent years. It hasn’t always worked but the money involved makes it easier to swing big, strikeout and swing big again.

An argument can be made, the dollars and cents haven’t hit college basketball hard yet and perhaps because there are 350 D-1 options, it’s a different creature than football and it is. The truth is, schools in the Big Ten and SEC that want to build monster facilities and pay through the nose for coaches and assistants can. That doesn’t even take into account perks such as private jets for recruiting and whatever other accessories that may come available.

If the disparity continues, the future of the Pac-12 comes into question. It already struggles to compete nationally for a variety of reasons, the largest being the time its games are on. I’m not sure there is anyway they can increase revenue and close the disparity without a move inland. I’m not sure what that entails but I suspect the next wave of realignment is upon us.

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