The Power 5 conferences have never been richer. That doesn’t mean business is easy for everyone in college sports, though.
According to a report from Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot, Conference USA is in line to receive $2.8 million — total — from its 2016-17 television contracts. Keep in mind Texas will earn more than $40 million on its own next year, with the entirety of the Big Ten and SEC soon to follow.
Conference USA received $9.95 million in fees from CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports this year and another $6.15 million in exit fees from schools leaving for the American Athletic Conference, but each of those revenue streams is set to dry by the fall.
Due to incredibly unfortunate timing, C-USA had to return to the negotiating table at a time sports networks are in between the bubble of the cable explosion and whatever comes next in the digital world. The result is C-USA returns to ESPN and its fire hose of much-needed exposure, but at a substantially reduced rate. The league will also be found on CBS Sports Network, beIN Sports and the American Sports Network.
“Right now, the television market is horrible,” C-USA commissioner Judy McLeod said. “The pool of money that’s there is going to the big guys.”
According to Minium, C-USA’s $200,000 per school media rights distribution ranks ninth in FBS, trailing each of the Power 5 schools along with the AAC ($2 million per), the Mountain West ($1.7 million) and the MAC ($670,000) but ahead of the Sun Belt ($100,000).