Pac-12 revenue drops $12 million, but school payouts rise
By RALPH D. RUSSO
Pac-12 revenue fell by $12 million in 2018 to $497 million because the conference could not make up for lost Rose Bowl revenue from when the game hosted a College Football Playoff semifinal after the 2017 season.
Payouts to Pac-12 member schools rose 5% to $31.3 million each as conference distributions included money held back from Rose Bowl payments in the previous two years. The Pac-12's Rose Bowl revenue dropped from about $36 million in each of the seasons during which the conference's champion participated in the game to about $14 million when it hosted the CFP. The Rose Bowl hosts a national semifinal every third year.
After its spring meetings concluded Monday, the Pac-12 released its latest financial records and announced its university presidents had approved three measures:
- Standardizing nonconference schedules in men's basketball to avoid weaker opponents;
- Eliminating the year of lost eligibility for athletes who transfer within the conference;
- Extending by five years the $3.6 million in annual funding to the conference's Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative. The portion of funding that goes to on-campus mental health services will increase to $1.1 million.
The scheduling change comes after a couple of poor seasons by the Pac-12 in men's basketball. The conference has placed only three teams in the NCAA Tournament field in each of the last two seasons, the fewest among Power Five leagues.
To give the conference an overall boost, the Pac-12 will now require its schools to beef up nonconference schedules. Using the NCAA Tournament selection committee's NET metric, Pac-12 teams will be required to play nonconference opponents whose combined five-year average ranking is 175 or better.
The Pac-12 schools will not participate in so-called buy road games, where it plays at an opponent's home court without a future return game scheduled. The plan also calls for eliminating regular-season games against non-Division I competition and road games versus nonconference opponents with a five-year average of 200 or worse in the NET rankings.
The schedule standardization sets modest goals for Pac-12 schools. Commissioner Larry Scott said only occasionally have Pac-12 schools had nonconference schedules that would not have met the 175 average ranking.
"But this was something our schools felt strongly about we should establish as a standard," Scott said.
Earlier this month, the Pac-12 voted to increase the number of conference games its men's basketball teams play to 20 per season.
The elimination of the loss of eligibility for transfers does not affect the NCAA's year-in-residence rule for most transfers. Athletes who transfer within the Pac-12 will still be required to sit out a season in cases when the NCAA rule applies.
As for the Pac-12's financial news, it was not surprising. The conference continues to lag behind its Power Five competitors in revenue as the Pac-12 Networks produce modest returns in comparison to the SEC's and Big Ten's networks.
The Southeastern Conference reported payouts of $43.7 million per school earlier this year and the Big Ten has reportedly distributed up to $54 million to its members.
The Pac-12 is seeking an investor to purchase equity in the conference's media rights, hoping to inject hundreds of millions in revenue.
Colorado chancellor Philip DiStefano said there has been "significant interest in some of the most respected companies investing in this space."
"While we can't publicly say the company's names, we can say it's a diversity of organizations ranging from traditional players to technology companies," DiStefano said. "While we had a robust discussion today of the pros and cons of such a deal, we did not make any final decisions."
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Updated May 20, 2019