While the Atlantic Coast Conference recently awarded its 12 schools an average of $10.85 million for the tax year ending June 30, 2006, the Big East awarded its eight full members an average of $5,842,599.There was never any doubt that for the first few years after the revised Big East, that the football revenues from TV would be down. The first year after everything that happened was simply about trying to remain part of the BCS coalition.
The Big East average has fallen for the last three years. For the July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, reporting period, when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were still members, the average was $6,794,029.
After the ACC's raid, six Big East schools (including BC, but not Tech nor Miami) received full football-basketball share averages of $6,445,968.
Overall, the Big East's total revenue went from $74,800,951 in 2003-04 to $62,641,685 in '04-05 to $75,411,511 in '05-06. So over the tumultuous three-year period, the league's revenue increased - but only $610,560 in a healthy sports atmosphere.
Some of the fluctuation, though, had to do with television and radio rights fees earned by the league. In 2003-04, the Big East made $25,910,626 in fees. In '04-05, after the defections, it dropped to $15,349,543 before rebounding to $19,225,441 this past reporting period.
It could be argued that only a few of the football schools took significant revenue hits in the first couple of years. Half the football schools were coming into a new conference.
WVU hasn't suffered as much, because the Big East distributions aren't completely equal, but still their revenues from Big East football have been flat. Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers probably have been feeling more of the pinch. They saw media revenue dip to varying degrees.
For three of the eight members -- Louisville, Cinci and USF -- the money was still better than what they were getting from being in Conference USA. UConn never got serious football money until moving up to 1-A and becoming a football member of the Big East. These four schools may have expected more money flowing to them initially, but it was still an increase.
On the football side, arguably, the Big East managed to do okay in the short term. Especially considering they had to drop to eight teams -- and lacked marquee names.
The basketball side, however, may reveal a bigger problem.
In the last reporting period, Big East basketball took in $34,492,992. Split 16 ways, the average take was $2,155,812. Big East football, meanwhile, took in $28,400,000. Split eight ways, that average take was $3,550,000. The difference was a mere $1,394,188.Sixteen teams makes the split much smaller. Even with the Big East's latest TV deal that begins next year, the basketball side of things would seem to have too many hands in the jar to create significant revenue increases per member school. That means the relative take for each school remains fairly flat.
It's also worth pointing out, that even though the Big East's basketball side of things may have actually generated more revenue than football, the individual take for each school on the football side of things was greater for all of the schools except Cinci. In football they got the lowest payout in the last period: $2,129,031. About $26,000 less than the average in basketball.
The only way to increase an individual school's take, is in the NCAA Tournament. Creating even more pressure to win, and with that increased ticket prices. The basketball only schools will feel more pressure from the flatter revenue stream. Unlike the football schools, basketball is their only revenue producing athletic activity. Expenses will not remain nearly so flat.
I've always believed that the Big East would split at some point in the next 4 years. I think it might take a little longer, but I still think that. Where I may have been wrong is which side would drive the split. I always assumed the football side would finally break-off with the need to expand and grow. Now, I'm beginning to see how the basketball side might want to make the break.