Back in 2006, six months before Da Blog started, the Big Ten announced a lucrative TV deal that included a partnership with Fox to launch a network entirely dedicated to the conference. Although the Mountain West had started its own network, the spectacle of a BCS conference doing so, combined with the piles of money associated with it, made many wonder if such networks would become the wave of the future, one that had to be concerning for ESPN. And one conference that seemed almost certain to take that plunge was the king of college conferences, the SEC, whose own deal was coming up for renewal fast. Instead, ESPN paid off the SEC to the tune of over a billion dollars, and combined with the most-distributed syndication deal in sports history, complete with the branding of “SEC Network”, it seemed as though the SEC didn’t need to launch an actual SEC network.
In the years since, though, the Pac-12 and the University of Texas have announced the formation of their own networks, and they have proven so lucrative that the SEC has started having second thoughts. One might wonder if the SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri last summer as a pretense to reopen its TV deal and get a do-over on the whole network thing.
This would leave just the ACC and Big 12 as the only true major football conferences without their own networks. The ACC just extended its deal with ESPN without launching a network; presumably they felt that the SEC wouldn’t do it, but with the SEC now potentially starting a network in their backyard, combined with their new bowl agreement with the Big 12, they may now be screwed. Their football power is already substantially behind the others; now it may be permanently relegated to second-class citizen status. The Big 12 is largely hamstrung by Texas’ desire to have their Longhorn Network, rendering it too fractured and weak outside its biggest programs for a conference-wide network. That might not be a game-breaker, though, given the power of Texas and the aforementioned bowl agreement.