Does is really make financial sense for Notre Dame to stay independent?

Submitted by ncampbell on December 13th, 2009 at 3:34 PM

The general consensus on this board (it seems) is that because of its NBC contract and sweetheart BCS deal Notre Dame has no financial incentive to join the Big Ten. I wondered about this conventional wisdom so I took a look...

Through 2010, Notre Dame's NBC contract is worth $9 million a year.
http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3452161
(I couldn't figure out how to link stuff properly, apologies)
They renewed their deal with NBC through 2015 but I couldn't find the financials.

The Big Ten has a 10 year $1 billion dollar with ABC/ESPN and a 25 year deal with News Corp. which is projected to be worth $2.8 billion (The payout with News Corp. is based on an equity distribution so the money per year depends on profitability). The ABC deal is escalating so on average each school will be paid $9 million a year over the life of the deal (through 2016 i believe but last years payout was probably closer to $8 million). The Big Ten Network will pay out an average of $10.18 million per year per school over the life of the deal though last year the distribution was $6 million per school.
So, last year each Big Ten school received $14 million and Notre Dame received $9 million.
http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/58254
This doesnt take into account basketball rights deals but we'll call them as wash as the Big Ten's deal with CBS is for merely $2 million a year.

Anyway, Big Ten schools on television rights contracts alone make significantly more per year than Notre Dame. This doesn't even take into account the equity schools have in the Big Ten Network. It has been estimated that the network is worth $1 billion and could be worth $2 billion in three years.
http://collegefootball.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=974181
Since the Big Ten owns 51% of the network that translates to each school having $45 million in equity in the network at these values. $90 million per school in three years. I am not sure how it would work out if we "let" Notre Dame, or any other school for the matter, join the Big Ten because we would be letting them have a free $45 million worth of equity in the Big Ten Network. Of course Notre Dame would add to the value of the BTN so let me just say I have no idea how the negotiations would work out merely that negotiations would be tricky.
I might be missing something but it seems to me that if television money were the sole factor driving Notre Dame's decision making metric its a pretty easy decision.

Bowl money. Notre Dame does have a sweetheart deal with the BCS getting an easy ticket to a game and getting to keep the entire payout. Forgive me some assumptions as I really don't want to do all the research this would require.
The BCS will pay out $17 million per school this year (projected), I am going to make the assumption that the BCS has had this same payout since 1998, i know its not true but we can kid ourselves that it is indexed to inflation and regardless, I think the overarching point will remain the same. The Big Ten bowl payouts are $4.3 million this year per school (including non-BCS). If you strip out BCS bowls the Big Ten makes $2.68 million per bowl.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_college_bowl_games#1999.E2.80.9320…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowl_Championship_Series
Notre Dame has made 8 bowls in the last 12 years (life of the BCS), 3 of them BCS bowls. If we make the assumption that they were paid $17 million for each of those 3 BCS games and a $2.68 million (same as the Big Ten non-BCS bowls) for the other 5 bowl games they played thats a total payout of $64.4 million over 12 years or $5.36 million per year. I would index these payouts to a crude inflation number but whats the point, I don't think bowl payouts mimic the CPI and again, the overarching point remains the same.
Basically, over the life of the BCS Notre Dame has made $1 million more per year than any given Big Ten school. That doesn't even come close to closing the $5 million per year television gap. Plus Notre Dame would get to smooth out its revenue curve.
Other relevant info:
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college/2009/07/how-much-revenu…
Notre Dame would rank 5th in Big Ten athletic department revenue.

As Brian says (paraphrased), conclusion based on incomplete evidence: Notre Dame not wanting to be a member of the Big Ten is not a business decision, they would make much more money and have a great equity stake in the BTN to boot.

What do you guys think? Any other angles i missed?

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