Big Ten Media Revenue is Exploding

As per a report from CBS Sports’s Dennis Dodd, Big Ten schools can expect some serious cash coming their way soon.

He reported Big Ten teams will exceed $60 million in annual media revenue each in 2025, with that number projected to balloon to $70 million by 2029.

These numbers include revenue related to all sports.

In May, USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reported that the Big Ten made almost $759 million in revenue in fiscal 2018, the highest amount ever for a conference and a 48 percent increase from its mark in fiscal 2017. In that same time frame, the SEC made almost $660 million in revenue and the Big 12 earned $374 million in revenue.

Berkowitz reported the every team in the conference except Maryland and Rutgers received approximately $54 million. New media contracts that kicked into effect at the start of the 2017-18 school year were the reason for the massive jump.

The Big Ten’s two most-recent members took loans from the league against future revenue shares. Maryland took nearly $31 million in loans from the conference, bringing its total borrowed amount in its first four years in the Big Ten to $66 million, which will be felt in future payouts. The school received $26.1 million in revenue shares for the year.

Rutgers received its first loan from the league, which lent $14 million to the school. The Scarlet Knights inherited $11.7 million in revenue share for 2018.

The Spin on Big Ten Revenue

There is no way around it: these numbers are bonkers. What used to be a hyper-regional phenomenon in college sports is now a mega-million dollar industry, and its momentum heading further down the corporate rabbit hole is showing no signs of slowing downs.

There are two ways to look at it, and they of course come down to how you value money and profits. It is only natural for universities and athletic departments to maximize their revenues like any business would, and there is no ceiling. If a conference can get more than $70 million to its schools, it will do it, and in how college sports and most things in this country operate, it is the expected and standard thing to do.

Don’t get me wrong: profits and business are not inherently wrong. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the most off of your work and innovation. But in the case of college athletics, is there a point where enough is enough? I can’t say where that line should be, but there’s something unsettling about ever-increasing record-setting profits that the employees don’t see.

Should universities and athletic departments function as businesses, though, particularly when the athletes, the de facto employees in this business, are not allowed to see a chunk of those profits? Many fans will cheer that their schools are racking in the dough, thus theoretically better equipped to recruit, improve facilities and otherwise win more, and that’s reasonable. We have to ask ourselves, though: with so many aspects of college sports so clearly becoming a business, at what point does it stop being okay for that billion-dollar industry to not allow a large portion its employees to be paid?

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