Amanda Filipcic-Godsey | What the realignment may mean for Pitt’s future | Sports


Southern California and UCLA shocked the college football world Thursday when the two longtime Pac-12 members announced they would join the Big Ten for the 2024 season.

The announcement comes 11 months after Texas and Oklahoma announced they would move from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2025.

With both conferences soon to have 16 members each, many insiders are predicting that more marquee programs will join the Big Ten and SEC and college football will have a Power 2 instead of a Power 5.

Insiders and the media predicted that each conference would grow to at least 20 members, with some suggesting as many as 26 schools per conference.

Pitt deserves to be in the conversation if the conferences expand from 20 to 26 teams. The question is whether the Big Ten or the SEC will want or have room for the Panthers. If the conferences allow some of their lesser football powerhouses to stay — like Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten and Vanderbilt and Missouri in the SEC — Pitt’s chances dwindle.

I imagine Pitt Athletic manager Heather Lyke is calling all the Big Ten contacts she currently has.

Lyke is a native of Ohio, a Michigan alumnus and former Senior Associate Athletic Director at Ohio State, where she spent 15 years. Lyke worked under current Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith for the last eight years of his tenure with the Buckeyes. Having a professional relationship with Smith — one of the most powerful figures in Big Ten football — can’t hurt, but the Big Ten might not be interested. The conference already has a presence in the Pittsburgh television market with Penn State.

Since conferences span two at a time, Pitt’s best decision might be to try joining Notre Dame. The two schools have played 72 times since 1909 and are among each other’s most played opponents.

However, Notre Dame has little incentive to give Pitt any consideration, as the Fighting Irish would be welcomed with open arms into any conference.

Pitt may well find himself on the outside when it comes to the two super conferences.

It’s less serious if the ACC can stick together and maybe get Notre Dame to join as a football member, but both could be big tasks.

Many believe the SEC will react to this latest development by raiding the ACC, with Clemson, Florida State and Miami considered a no-brainer for the SEC.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten are waiting to see what Notre Dame does. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported Friday that Oregon and Washington had been told the Big Ten were awaiting a decision from the Fighting Irish before adding more members.

The Fighting Irish have remained independent in football, but the money offered by the Big Ten might be too good to pass up for Notre Dame

Of course, this is all about money.

The Big Ten is to strike a new media rights deal that was expected to bring in $1 billion — and that was before the integration of Southern California, UCLA and the nation’s second-largest TV market. The Athletic cited figures from Navigate, a data-driven consultancy, for projections of how much each Power 5 conference will pay member schools by 2029.

The estimates show the harsh financial realities – Navigate projects that each Big Ten school will receive a payment of $101.1 million per year by the end of the decade. SEC payouts to member schools are even larger — $117.8 million in 2029.

The other three conferences don’t come close, with the Pac-12 payout forecast at $62.8 million in 2029, the ACC at $61.5 million and the Big 12 payout forecast at $57.5 millions of dollars.

While Notre Dame football is independent, the school’s other sports are members of the ACC (with the exception of hockey, where the Fighting Irish play in the Big Ten). Notre Dame plays five football games a year against ACC opponents and would have to pay a penalty — the amount is unclear — to leave the ACC. But with the big payout already slated for the Big Ten schools, it may still make financial sense for the Fighting Irish to pay a penalty now and reap the rewards later.

The same goes for ACC members who might try to jump ship, but it’s unclear at this time how or if a full ACC member will be able to break the grant of rights, which doesn’t expires June 30, 2036. of Rights means schools have transferred their media rights to the conference for a set period of time. The cost of a school leaving ACC and breaking the rights grant agreement is speculated to be in the hundreds of millions – but if the math works, it’s certainly possible that programs will choose to pay now, knowing the kind of money they’ll make down the road.

ACC schools may also want to avoid being left behind by waiting another 14 years for a new media contract. If Notre Dame joins as a football member, it could force a renegotiation of the ACC media deal, but even a new deal that includes Notre Dame would still likely pale in comparison to the large sums brought in by the Big Ten and the SEC.

It’s unclear where college football goes from here, but it’s sure to leave a lot behind and forever change the sport as we know it now.

There are currently 65 Power 5 schools, with Brigham Young, Central Florida, Houston and Cincinnati slated to join the Big 12 in 2023.

With 69 Power 5 schools, there will be plenty of super conference outcasts stuck in college football purgatory.

Other historic rivalries will die, but schools will make millions as college football fans try to get excited about UCLA-Illinois and Texas-Vanderbilt.

You might be wondering where the NCAA is right now. It appears the NCAA has once again taken a hands-off approach, just as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic and as NIL legislation was passed nationwide.

It’s easy to imagine outgoing NCAA President Mark Emmert sitting somewhere on a beach, sipping a mai tai and counting his millions as college football chaos reigns.

Amanda Filipcic-Godsey is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt football and basketball for CNHI Pa Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey


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