The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will soon see the full benefits of the Big Ten Conference: big green.
Starting this fall, Nebraska will be a fully vested member of the conference it joined six years ago, meaning Nebraska will see its largest pay day from a conference ever.
When Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, it received $14 million. From there, it increased to $15.4 million in the second year, then $16.9 million, $18.7 million and $22 million last year, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Finally, Nebraska will see the full benefits of leaving the Big 12 Conference, but those initial payouts were still an improvement over the Big 12’s $9 million in 2010.
Next year, the money from the conference could easily exceed $40 million.
At the same time, Nebraska will become equal to its peers. This fall, the Big Ten’s television revenue will nearly triple, according to Forbes. Last June, the conference completed the sale of its media rights to Fox and ESPN. Fox will take over with the most prominent role, paying $240 million per year to the conference in a six-year deal. ESPN will take the second half at $190 million per year, while CBS will add $10 million annually for basketball.
Financially, Nebraska is unique in many ways, and an influx in cash will improve on an already good situation.
According to a 2015 NCAA report, only 24 schools’ athletic departments spend less money than they make. However, this could become more common as TV deals increase in value.
The new media rights deal is worth $2.64 billion, or $440 million per year to be divvied up between the 14 member schools: $31.4 million when split evenly, not accounting for the Big Ten Network’s media rights.
Though Maryland joined the conference two years after Nebraska, last year, the school actually received more money than any other school in the Big Ten. It raked in $36.1 million, partially because the conference is helping the school pay off its move from the ACC. If that continues this year, Rutgers will be in the lowest tier by themselves for conference payout until 2020-21, when Maryland and Rutgers become fully vested members.
Nebraska could receive one of the largest conference payouts of any school in the country if the TV deal makes the Big Ten more valuable than the SEC. For the past two years, the SEC has been the most valuable conference, according to Forbes.
Before that, it was the Big Ten, but the SEC’s new television deal, which expanded to include the SEC Network, put them at the top of the list. Forbes uses the largest three income factors: media rights, NCAA basketball tournament revenue and college football bowl revenue, to determine the wealthiest conferences.
But according to Chris Smith, a writer for Forbes, that could change once again.
Often, the annual payment of a conference’s media rights payout increases by 5 percent each year. Smith estimates that the Big Ten will make $390 million next year. “Even at its least valuable, the Big Ten’s new TV income will give it a major head start,” wrote. “That should easily put the conference back in the hunt for the title of college sports’ most valuable conference.”
Last year, Forbes estimated the Big Ten had $431 million in total revenue, or $30.8 million per school. That includes $119 million in bowl/playoff revenue and $21 million from the NCAA basketball tournament.
This will be a big jump for the conference, as the 2016 rankings were not close. Forbes had the SEC out-earning the Big Ten by $6 million per school. The Big Ten just outpaced the Big 12 and Pacific 12 Conference at $600,000 and $900,000 per school respectively. The ACC was well behind at just $21.9 million per school – nearly $9 million less than each Big Ten school made.
Why Nebraska left the Big 12 is up for debate. Some say it was to save itself from the likelihood of the Pac-10 expanding to the Pac-16, while others say it was purely for the monetary benefits of the Big Ten, or both. Regardless of the reason, Nebraska is now seeing the benefits.