Nebraska Not Reaping Financial Windfall from Big Ten Move - Yet

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

While Nebraska is doing better financially than they were in the Big XII, the other Big XII schools have since passed Nebraska in terms of league revenue. But that changes in 2017, when Nebraska becomes fully vested in BTN and a new TV deal begins.

When Nebraska broke from the Big XII to join the Big Ten, people attributed the decision to either a pursuit of more money or the inability to beat Texas. Well, Texas has gone 25-14 without Nebraska to kick around in football over the three years, while Nebraska has gone 28-12 on the field. So that may - or may not - have been the case.

The Omaha World-Herald has requested tax records from Nebraska as well as other Big XII and Big Ten schools to examine and compare just how Nebraska is faring with the move. And at the current time, Nebraska is earning much less revenue than their current and former conference members.

With the Big XII's new television deal, Big XII schools averaged $22 million per school in 2012-13.  Big Ten schools earned $25.7 million per school, as the Big Ten's television contract still has another three years to run.

In comparison, Nebraska earned $15 million in 2012-13.

That number comes with an asterisk, though. Nebraska agreed to accept less money per season for the first six years in the Big Ten, as Nebraska's equity investment in the Big Ten Network.  Unlike the new ESPN/SEC Network and the Longhorn Network, the other 11 schools own 50% of BTN.  And starting in 2017, Nebraska will own a portion of BTN as well.  What's the difference?

Nebraska agreed to accept less money per season for the first six years in the Big Ten, as Nebraska's equity investment in the Big Ten Network.


The SEC and Longhorn Networks pay the SEC and Texas a set fee, and if ESPN is able to make more money from commercials and carriage charges to cable providers, then ESPN pockets the difference.  With the BTN model, the profits are split between Fox (who owns the other 50% of BTN) and the Big Ten schools.

Something else happens in 2017:  the current contract between ESPN/ABC and the Big Ten will have expired, and new deals will be in place.  The Big XII already cashed in.  The SEC and ACC have already cashed in.  The Big Ten has not...yet their revenue numbers are comparable with those other conferences.  But if the trend of big paydays continues as it seems to be headed, the money is going to flood into the Big Ten.  How much?

Estimates seem to be that it could be in the neighborhood of $40 to $50 million a school.  That'll dwarf what SEC, ACC, and Big XII schools make...and Nebraska will be a full participant in those revenues at that time.

Maryland, who joins the Big Ten next season, received a better deal initially (perhaps double what Nebraska will receive in 2014-15) than Nebraska, though the Big Ten is quick to point out that the situation with Maryland is quite different.  Maryland is likely to face a much steeper buyout from their agreement with the ACC ($52 million, though the issue is still under litigation), and the ACC deal that Maryland left ($20 million per school) is much sweeter than the previous Big XII deal ($9 million) that Nebraska left behind.  The Big Ten still believes that Maryland and Rutgers each will have to wait six years, like Nebraska, before being fully vested into sharing Big Ten revenues equally. At it's core, the Big Ten wants each school to have at least as good of a deal with the move as the one they left behind.

The only problem with that is that Nebraska left the Big XII before the Big XII negotiated a new television deal.  As a result, Nebraska now trails Iowa State by nearly $7 million a year in revenue...in the short term.  Did Harvey Perlman negotiate a bad deal for Nebraska? Again, consider the circumstances at the time.  The Big XII seemed to be poised on the side of a cliff, with Texas threatening to leave and take Oklahoma and Texas A&M with them.  Nebraska seemed to be at risk of being relegated to the Mountain West or Conference USA, along with some other have-nots of the Big XII.

So yes, Nebraska's move to the Big Ten was really all about Texas, though not because of the results on the field. Nebraska had a choice to make: jump to the Big Ten and reap a huge reward down the line, or take a chance that Texas wouldn't kill the Big XII.  Reducing it to that argument, the decision to jump to the Big Ten was an easy one and still the correct one. Nebraska will reap a huge financial windfall starting in 2017, and Husker fans were spared the "llama drama" that the Big XII suffered through the last few years.

Could a better agreement have been brokered with the Big Ten? That's a tougher call; Nebraska used every bit of leverage that they did have to become the Big Ten's twelfth school. Nebraska doesn't possess the demographics that Maryland and Rutgers provide; the football resume was what made Nebraska so enticing.

But it's obviously clear that Nebraska would be earning much more now in the Big XII than they are in the Big Ten.

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