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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
My former colleague Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News reported last week that Arizona received $28.6 million from the Pac-12 in the fiscal year 2015-16. That sum is similar to the other Pac-12 schools, an annual collection from media rights, and income from the NCAA basketball tournament and football bowl games.
Wilner's report also disclosed that SEC schools were paid $40.5 million and that Big Ten schools were paid $34.8 million from annual conference revenues.
So how does Arizona keep up financially?
Two things happened last week that seem sure to be part of college sports over the next decade. One, the Cleveland Cavaliers will begin wearing a Goodyear logo on game jerseys next season.
By 2020, it's possible all Arizona athletic teams, and those in the Pac-12, will have similar corporate logos on their game-day gear (in addition to Nike, Adidas or Under Armour). The Pac-12 could arrange the sponsorship from someone like DISH (but not DirecTV) for several million per school, per year.
USC is expected to announce it will sell naming rights to the historic Los Angeles Coliseum for as much as $70 million over 15 years. Once that dam breaks, anything goes. In the Pac-12, only Washington — with Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium — has sold naming rights to its football stadium. The Huskies are being paid $41 million over 10 years.
Wilner wrote that, "barring a major new revenue stream, each Pac-12 school will be $12-plus million behind its SEC and Big Ten peers for the final seven years of the conference's media rights deal, which runs through 2023-24."
The math is sobering: Seven years of a $12 million per year deficit per Pac-12 school is $84 million per school over the seven years. That's close to $1 billion during the life of the league's media rights package.
The kicker to this economic gloom is that Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens last week told The Oregonian that the demand for football tickets to Autzen Stadium "softened" even while the Ducks went to the 2015 college football playoffs and deployed Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"The buying public has changed," Mullens said. "Sports consumption has changed, both live and through media outlets."
But financial issues are for the suits, right?
Right now, in May 2017, the biggest sports issue in Tucson is whether Rawle Alkins will return to McKale Center for his sophomore season.
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