The Big 12 has been talking expansion. There are no obvious options, just less awful ones. This has rekindled a wistful attraction for one of the conference’s ex-girlfriends: Nebraska.
Bill Snyder intimated Nebraska may be regretting their decision. This report that Nebraska “put out feelers” about rejoining the Big 12 made the Twitter rounds yesterday.
The Big 12, one could argue, was a better competitive football environment for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers played traditional rivals. They had direct access to Texas, instead of being marooned in the mediocre B1G West after the division realignment.
Though, the nine-game schedule will ameliorate the latter concern somewhat. Nebraska will play Ohio State in a cross-division game each of the next four years. There are also games with Michigan and Michigan State over that stretch.
Major college football, however, is a business. The prospect of Nebraska reversing course to the unstable Big 12 is laughable. Big Ten revenues rose 33 percent from 2014 to 2015. That was before the new first-tier TV agreements with ESPN and FOX that will increase the take from $150 million to $430 million. Toss in an additional $10 million per year from CBS for basketball.
That’s $31.4 million per year, not counting the Big Ten Network revenue or postseason revenue distribution, more than the Big 12 deal pays for everything.
Nebraska was the fourth-biggest earning football program in the Big Ten last year, turning a profit of $30 million. This is before Nebraska really starts getting paid, when it begins earning a full-share of the TV rights in 2017. In coming years, the Cornhuskers could be earning roughly what Texas makes adding its $15 million Longhorn Network deal to Big 12 revenue.
The Big Ten is college football’s premier destination. The checks are larger than everyone else’s and they cash. Revenue is distributed equally. No school has any incentive to leave. That’s why Nebraska joined and why it would be silly for them to back out now.