How Much Money Are The Big Ten and Pac-12 Losing?

Big12 & Pac12 COVID-19 logos

As a result of COVID-19, the Big Ten and Pac-12 cancel their football seasons, college sports programs face a financial apocalypse. Big Ten & Pac12 could lose up to $1B in revenue after canceling fall football. 

Canceling college football season for the safety of student-athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic will cost Big Ten athletic departments more than $275 million in ticket sales and could reach $1 billion in total lost revenue, according to NCAA fiscal reports obtained by The Post.  At one end, Rutgers faces a vanishing $49 million, while cash-cow Ohio State’s would be out $104 million and include a league-high $50 million in lost tickets alone. It’s no wonder the Big Ten and like-minded Pac-12 are hoping to move football season to the spring rather than call it off.

These big-revenue programs are part of the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) — 130 football teams in all, whose athletics department budgets ranged from $16 million to $207 million in 2018. This 10-conference subdivision includes the only college football teams that still might play this fall — a number that dwindles by the day, with the news Tuesday that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 conferences have canceled the fall season.

With the cancelation of fall football in the Big Ten and Pac-12 nations, many analysts have noted that the absence of gameday action would hit local economies hard. While this may still have been the case as long as the capacity of the stadium is reduced, there is no question that the economic effects of the movements would be important.

The impact however reaches well past local companies and athletic departments. Television networks could lose tens of millions, if not a great deal more. Fox Sports is now one of the major losers, as the network has a large presence in the Big Ten and Pac-12 — Fox owns the Big Ten Network.

“The twin postponements will erase some $165.7 million in sales from Fox’s fall ledger, with the Big Ten accounting for the bulk of the losses — around $124.8 million, versus the $40.9 million the company generated with its 2019 Pac-12 slate,” Crupi wrote. “Nor will any further relief be forthcoming via Fox’s most recent rights deal, which would have seen it carry 23 Mountain West games beginning this fall.”

Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, used our database and other sources to project that the Power 5 would collectively lose more than $4 billion in football revenues from a mass cancellation, with each of its 65 programs losing an average of $62 million.

Looking at fixed expenses, our database shows that 54 of the public Power 5 institutions (data for private institutions is not available) hold $7.4 billion in total athletics debt for which they pay a combined $578 million in annual debt service. Read more.  

The lack of unifying leadership in making decisions about a fall season underscores college football’s broken and fragmented governance system. Unlike the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, the FBS’s 10 conferences manage their lucrative postseason championship—the College Football Playoff—independent of the NCAA.

Not to mention all of the great athletes that are transferring to other active football programs in the SEC and ACC.  Huge losses!