Will the Fox Deal Hound Denver?

Just when it seemed that TV money was drying up with ESPN’s parent company, Disney, pulling back on college sports television right fees, newcomer Fox Sports has jumped into the television rights business with the Big 10. According to CBS Sports, the new broadcast rights fees between Fox Sports and the B1G is worth $250 million to the conference schools for half of their television rights over a 6-year contract.  The Big Ten’s reported new deal with Fox would go through the 2022-23 season. It also includes more of the conference’s basketball and football games on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and FS2.

Expect the other half of the Big 10 sports inventory to go for another $250 million – half a billion dollars in all. According to SB Nation , $250 million is about what the Pac-12 will get in 2019 for all of their TV rights. This deal is a huge win for Big Ten athletic departments, especially in the face of concerns that cable-cutting would limit the growth of future TV revenues. The other major conferences won’t get a chance to renegotiate their deals until later in the 2020s –  so if the market doesn’t turn for the worse, the Big Ten gets the last big TV payday in the sport.

Some of the conference’s newer members will get partial shares of the new deal but the agreement could mean as much as $60 million dollars to some of the conference members during the term of the agreement. That by any measure is a lot of cash.

The B1G athletic departments are likely to be flush with cash for coaches’ salaries, cost of attendance (CoA) payments to all revenue and non-revenue producing sports, scholarships, capital improvements, coaches’ recruiting travel, advertising and promotion, team travel, and equipment and uniforms. While a major portion of their cash influx will go directly to football,  there will be plenty of additional cash to pour into other sports as well.

On the other hand, this may be the last big television rights payday for college sports. The biggest issue facing the Big 10 may come in six years when their rich Fox Sports contract expires and they have to tighten their belts in an ever-changing television rights environment.

So, what does this mean to Denver?

Denver will have to play smart off the field and play to their strengths – desirable location, academic reputation, an excellent athletics administration, quality coaching, good facilities, and judiciously manage the athletics budget. Moving men’s basketball to a money making or revenue-neutral endeavor will certainly help Denver’s athletic department. Soccer and volleyball both seem to have a growing following and may continue to cover a greater portion of their costs. Also, Denver can offer cost of attendance (CoA) payments strategically to land targeted recruits. However, DU will never be able to match payments to all athletes and sports under their current operating model.

While Denver, rightfully, looks to fully fund capital projects before beginning construction, donor fundraising will continue to be an important factor to complete critical capital projects like the hockey locker room expansion and, potentially, expanding seating at Peter Barton Stadium. If DU had more conference money flooding in the front door, those projects would be easily funded with that TV money. Instead, DU will be continue to look for donors, both big and small, to fuel much-needed capital improvements (including renovating the Peter Barton press box…hint hint).