A few nuggets to get us started ....
BIG 12 NETWORK ON THE WAY?
I've gotten quite a few questions regarding the Sports Business Journal's report that Fox is willing to pay the Big Ten $250 million per year for six years (through 2022) for the rights to roughly 25 football games and 50 basketball games - and how all this could impact the Big 12 and the Power 5 as a whole?
First, I have written repeatedly that the thing to watch with the Big Ten's current TV negotiations would be the length of its new deal(s).
I've been watching to see if the Big Ten would land some long-term deal - well beyond the 2023-25 time-frame when the rest of the Power 5 (Tier 1 and 2) and College Football Playoff TV deals expire - as a possible chance for the Big Ten to break the bank before the rest of the Power 5.
Or if the Big Ten's new deal(s) would fall more in line with when the rest of the Power 5 (Tier 1 and 2) and CFP TV deals expire.
If what the Sports Business Journal reports plays out, we are in for a fascinating six years that could end up reshaping college athletics and their next generation of TV contracts.
According to Power 5 sources I spoke with, there is a feeling the Big Ten didn't get the home run deal it wanted.
So Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany might only agree to six years, so the Big Ten's primary TV rights to football and basketball would expire at roughly the same time the NFL's current TV deals with CBS, Fox and NBC expire (after the 2022 NFL season).
At that point, there is likely to be more non-budgeted TV money in the market the Big Ten could try to get its hands on before the rest of the Power 5.
But that time frame also is more in line with the expiration dates for Tier 1 and 2 TV deals in the SEC (its TV deal with CBS is up in 2024), the Pac-12 (2024), Big 12 (2025), ESPN's contract for the College Football Playoff (2025) and ACC (2027).
There are other TV deals tied to individual Power 5 conferences that run longer - such as ESPN's deal for the SEC Network (through 2034) and ESPN's deal for the Longhorn Network (through 2030).
But the TV rights to the best football and basketball games in the Power 5 - outside of the Big Ten - start coming up around 2024.
Why is that important?
Because there are those who think the Power 5 coming together and collectively bargaining their TV rights is a real possibility around that time. Seismic shifts in thinking, such as the realignment we saw in 2010 and 2011 came as conference TV deals were expiring and being re-done - and as the Big Ten started looking to expand its TV markets.
Could it happen again - only on a much wider scale? A collective scale?
I spoke with one Power 5 athletic director who thinks that's where things are headed and even predicts a 64-member Power 5 realigning into eight, eight-member divisions that would put geographic sense (and some rivalries) back into major college athletics.
I said repeatedly since last July, when I first wrote about it - and again in January - the Power 5 coming together and collectively bargaining their TV rights could be the next big step in realignment because that's how the most TV revenue is generated.
There are steps that would need to be taken to avoid anti-trust litigation and concerns from Congress that would probably include eliminating a regular-season game as well as conference title games to have an 11-game regular season. That would allow for a 16-team playoff - the way its done in FCS - and four of those playoff spots could be awarded to Group Of Five schools, allowing them to share in the billions in TV money that would be generated.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE BIG 12
In the meantime, look for Big 12 presidents to seriously discuss the feasibility of a Big 12 Network when they gather in Phoenix for their next round of meetings next month.
Without coming right out and saying it, even B12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby appears to be endorsing a conference network (and possibly league title game in football) as the best ways to try to keep pace with the scaling Big Ten and SEC television revenue.
Bowlsby said recently if the Big 12 did nothing to change, in 12 years it would find itself behind the SEC and Big Ten in TV revenue by roughly $20 million per school.
There are no revenue estimates for what a Big 12 Network could generate, because the discussion hasn't even really started, and no data like that has been collected by the league. A conference title football game would likely generate roughly $30 million in TV revenue or $3 million per school.
The key to pulling off a Big 12 Network would be the TV partners - ESPN and Fox - working to make it happen.
Texas has a third-tier TV deal with ESPN for the Longhorn Network through 2030, and Oklahoma has years remaining on a third-tier TV deal with Fox.
The million-dollar question is if ESPN and Fox would have to work together to make a third-tier Big 12 Network happen? Or if one or the other could get the rights?
Industry executives agree that a Big 12 Network has a better chance at increased distribution and a larger per subscriber share than individual deals such as Texas' LHN or OU's deal with Fox.
Sources at several Big 12 schools I spoke with said there appears to be support across the board for a Big 12 Network that would make Texas and Oklahoma "whole" on their current agreements.
Because Texas' deal with LHN is graduated, most of the $300 million contracted over 20 years is in the back end of the deal. Even though the deal averages $15 million per year, sources said Texas received roughly $9 million for the 2014-15 school year.
So with ESPN that heavily invested in LHN, there's a good chance ESPN might want any Big 12 Network to be based out of the LHN headquarters in Austin - if it seeks a Big Ten Network-type centralized HQ. How would that go over with Fox or the rest of the league?
Of course, in the SEC, each school has its own studio that feeds into ESPN's SEC Network.
At this point, it sounds like most of the Big 12 is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make Texas and OU whole and get on with a league network.
OU president David Boren has said he wants a league network AND expansion by two members to make the Big 12 a true, 12-member league.
But if Texas agrees to fold LHN into a Big 12 Network and possibly even agrees to vote for a league title game as a revenue generator, UT president Greg Fenves might be able to say the compromise is not to expand the league (since there is no consensus in the league about which two schools to add).
Things to keep an eye on - for sure - heading into next month.
TEXAS BASEBALL SWINGS AWAY - WITH SUCCESS
After giving up a 5-0 lead in Game 1 of its series at Texas Tech on Friday in a 13-6 loss, the Longhorns swung away in Games 2 and 3 - and only employed small ball principles late in those games.
The result was an outpouring of offense as the Horns rallied from a 4-1 deficit in Game 2 for a 7-4 win and then exploded for a 17-1 rout of the 11th-ranked and Big 12-leading Red Raiders in a series-clinching victory in Game 3.
Let's see if Augie Garrido continues with that line of thinking when Texas plays Texas State at the Disch on Tuesday and against Oklahoma State, who is tied for third with Texas at 9-6 in Big 12 play, at the Disch this weekend.
Good to see Ty Culbreth get some run support in Game 2 to pick up his Big 12-leading eighth victory of the season.
COWBOYS RATE EZEKIEL ELLIOTT OVER JOEY BOSA?
Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus, who served as assistant pro scouting director of the Cowboys for six years under Jerry Jones, said today on our morning radio show - The Bottom Line on AM 1300 The Zone - Dallas' priorities with the fourth pick in the draft would be:
1) Jalen Ramsey
2) Ezekiel Elliott
3) Joey Bosa
I'm fascinated by this draft because I think the Rams and Eagles have absolutely lost their minds and are setting their franchises back years by trading away their 2016 drafts to get up to No. 1 and 2, respectively, to take quarterbacks who appear to be anything but franchise guys to me.
The Rams' ownership is already succumbing to trying to find sizzle to sell for its move to Los Angeles instead of finding offensive linemen, receivers and a tight end for WHOEVER the QB is.
And the Eagles have flat lost their minds after promising Sam Bradford $18 million ($11 million for the 2016 season) and Chase Daniel $21 million over the next three years.
Even the Redskins promising $50 million to CB Josh Norman is nuts in my opinion.
People are losing their minds.
(Which is good for Cowboys' fans!)
So what's on your mind?