Is this all going to work out?
Is this all going to work out?
Or are the power conferences in college sports consolidating like banks and insurance companies, ultimately going to lead to the end of college athletics as we know them?
In theory it all sounds great. About six dozen schools that play "big-time" football realign in four or five conferences. So what if every other sport becomes marginalized? It's not like football has major safety concerns and is facing lawsuits that could lead to the sport being uninsurable at the high school and lower levels, is it? Football is like real estate -- it's only going to keep going up in value (popularity).
But let's assume that the 880-pound gorilla of sports in this country remains such. Will we be paying to watch our sports on television in the years to come?
It's a fairly important question and answer because the entire foundation of college football, the revenue from which supports much of an athletic department, depends on television revenue.
Currently, the business model is perfect. TV networks, either through advertising or cable/satellite fees, pay billions of dollars to televise sports. Corporations and/or consumers pick up the tab. The cable/satellite fees are accounted for in our bills, whether we watch the sporting events or not.
But what if our sports viewing habits change like our appetite for reading/watching the news has over the last generation? For hundreds of years, people bought the newspaper. Then along came the Internet and the industry made a huge mistake from which it may not recover. Newspapers gave their content to us consumers for free.
Once you get something for free, you expect it for free and are unwilling to ever pay for it. So newspapers gave away their product for over a decade, and we all know what that has led to.
Well, many of the current sports networks have technology where you can view the games on your phone or on your computer for free. More and more, in our busy, changing society, people are not watching their sports on television. Sure, there may be some advertising on your phone or computer, but the revenue garnered from that pales compared to our monthly cable/satellite fees.
What if we decide, a la newspapers, to do more and more of this? Which we will.
Many in the industry feel this lead to everything on television being sold a la carte. If you want a channel or a game, you pay for it. But why would you pay for it if you already get it for free on your phone or computer?
How many people saw the demise of the newspaper industry a generation ago? Probably the same number of us who can imagine the demise of the television sports industry in 15 to 25 years.
The problem is, college athletics and the financial health of many of these universities would crumble if sports television goes the way of the newspaper industry.
That is why the university presidents, conference commissioners and athletic directors who have created an "arms race" of hundreds of millions of dollars for facilities, millions for coaches, and all of it financed on the back of the sports television industry better be right -- that we the people will be willing to finance big-time college athletics through our cable/satellite television bills forever. Because if our appetite for sports or how much we pay to watch our sports changes, the entire empire could come crumbling down.
And take college athletics at our favorite schools with it.
Sure hope these folks know what they are doing.
Because college athletics is either getting too big to fail or so big that its demise is only a matter of time.