Since everyone is speculating on the 15 million different situations, I'll advocate for one that makes the least obvious sense but may have the best return. Rutgers should go football independent if the alternative is to stay in the Big East. Now, I'm not TV business expert. And, quite frankly, my proposal is an overdeveloped brain fart. But, hell, why go down with the Big East when you can go down swinging on your own.
Football conference is about TV money and alignment. The Big East, especially without Pitt and Syracuse, is a dead end. The inclusions of Louisville, South Florida and Cinci was supposed to be a stop gap for a reinvestment period. However all proposals since Villanova would only have the effect of downgrading the Big East and its bargaining power for upcoming TV contract negotiations. We'll inevitably end up with less money from attendance and TV revenue, as well as bowl tie ins. Going independent is certainly a risky proposal. However, the alternative guarantees being dragged downwards even further.
Rutgers' goal, however, is to exceed its expectations in terms of annual capital revenue and build its brand recognition - the former being the immediate priority. Independence will permit Rutgers to control its own TV contracts and improve its scheduling (to develop inventory) by controlling its schedule better. At this point, RU's contract via the Big East lands them about 8-9 million per year. The prior proposed agreement may have added another 2-3 million annually. RU wanted to hold out to negotiate on the open market when it was at its fully strength, but that bargaining position is substantially weakened. If independent, RU will have to generate 13 to 18 million annually to make this venture worthwhile. I think can be doable without a national, conference tied TV deal.
How would this be accomplished?
1. We have to put our money where our mouths are about the RU media markets of New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia. Within those three market, RU can lock in contracts for local affiliates for our 6 home games per year. I know that RU games are never played on TV enough to keep me from complaining - so any airtime should be an improvement in revenues for this one asset. This will not reach my 13-18 million target by itself, but I think we can get more than half way there. Plus, once local affiliates or stations are on the hook, the stations will be have the incentive to promote RU football.
2. Once we lock down local contracts, we sell off inventory to other regional markets. The Pac 12 and Big 10 networks are absolute godsends for this scenario. Teams in those markets don't earn revenue from playing other market teams. RU games against Pac 12 and Big 10 schools will be picked up at a price to be played for other regional networks. Those conferences will be have the incentive to play Rutgers because it adds to their overall coffers and inventories. And, vice versa, games on non-RU regional networks can be played on RU's local networks. For other regions outside of the individual game footprints, some small local sports cable networks may just pick up games for the sake of inventory - similar to SNY and MSG's practices.
3. Setup an options pipeline with a non-ESPN related national network for national worthy games. Comcast/NBC may be the best bet considering their rebranding of the Versus network. Oh, and if you forgot, Comcast is a Philadelphia based company. Nationally televised games generate huge revenues. I'm sure NBC would love to have some games to play alongside their Notre Dame to get rid of junk programs. RU is not a goldmine for Comcast off the bat. Rutgers, however, would an inexpensive and flexible vehicle to supplement its Notre Dame inventory.
The above assumes that RU becomes its own TV production company (of course with the grunt work being outsourced to third parties). But, no other AD in the country has Tim Pernetti's resume as a sports TV executive. ESPN is paying BYU somewhere in the rumored ballpark of 1-2 million a game. So, on that market value, we shouldn't be too far off on our own with better media markets.
1. We are out of an AQ Conference. First, the way that the Big East is going. It would be bound to happen. Second, we should earn way more respect before we demand a national championship level stage.
2. It's highly risky and well, ESPN has the power and the ego to squash us. We take on the financial risk. But, I think that if we go this route, there is a strong chance that Comcast stands behind us because of its cable presence in our footprint and they will need to take a stand against ESPN if it wants any chunk of the CFB market.
3. Bowl games are going to be sparse. We had crappy bowl games anyway when we were good. When we get good, we'll clamor for a BCS with the New York media's backing. Or, again riding off Comcast, you may see them invest in some bowl games and bring us along for the ride.
4. It's a boat load of work. I, however, think this is the exact reason why Tim P. is the right man for the job. Dude built a minor college sports TV network.
If you've made it this far, you'll realize this is an absolutely bat sh!t idea. But, I don't see much of an option by sticking with the Big East. Rutgers is at a respectable position (in terms of brand recognition and marketability). This may be the only time in a long time can we make our own market rather than letting the status quo and system define us.