SBJ/August 20-26, 2012/In Depth

Extra yardage

What to watch in the upcoming college football season

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Who’s where?
TCU and West Virginia start new eras in the Big 12. Texas A&M and Missouri are SEC-ready. Syracuse, Pittsburgh,
Texas A&M and Missouri are preparing for the SEC..
Photo by: Getty Images
Boise State and San Diego State are in their farewell seasons before switching conferences. Change is the new normal. No more Texas-Texas A&M or Pitt-West Virginia or Missouri-Kansas. Will the realignment talk that disrupted football seasons and distracted fans finally go quiet or will another round of conference expansion steal the headlines?

Pac-12 Networks
Six regional feeds and a national network launched this month, making the Pac-12 Networks the most ambitious media initiative any conference has ever attempted. It’s also the only conference channel wholly owned by the league, meaning that its member schools take on all of the risk and will share in all of the revenue. By aggregating TV, digital and sponsorship rights under one umbrella — Pac-12 Enterprises — the Pac-12 looks more like a professional league than any of its brethren.

Longhorn Network carriage
It was this time last year that the Longhorn Network launched with all of the fanfare and promotional muscle that ESPN could put behind it. Despite the marketing efforts and a rabid Texas fan base, the channel hasn’t caused the kind of consumer feeding frenzy to persuade more distributors to take it. This season, the Longhorns are front-loading their schedule with two live football games, compared with one last year. Will that create enough of a consumer uproar in the markets where it isn’t currently carried?

California’s new digs
The school has spent $321 million on 89-year-old Memorial Stadium, which reopens Sept. 1 after receiving a badly needed upgrade and retrofit to make it safe enough to withstand an earthquake. To pay for much of the project, Cal established an endowment seating program, which is selling 3,200 premium seats for 30 years for $40,000 to $225,000. The school has sold about 70 percent of its inventory. Schools around the country will be watching to see if Cal can reach its $300 million goal.

Penn State’s new era
One of college football’s flagship programs is forever changed. An athletic department that relied on football for $72 million of its $116 million in total revenue in 2010-11 could see football revenue fall. Ticket sales, radio advertising, sponsorships, stadium signage — all of the revenue streams that come from football will be stressed if the Nittany Lions become a football has-been because of the severe NCAA sanctions.

Big East TV
A year ago, the Big East turned down $130 million a year from ESPN as part of a long-term extension so that it could
The Big East is hoping for big numbers.
Photo by: Getty Images
create a more competitive bid process this fall, which the conference hopes will drive up the rights fee. Newly named commissioner Mike Aresco, the former CBS executive, will have to create a perception of value in a conference that has suffered the loss of marquee teams West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as the loss of its place among the top conferences at the BCS table. He’ll also be responsible for holding together a conference that could see a split among its football and basketball members.




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