How horrible is this potential deal? Really, really horrible. Another testament to the top-notch leadership Doug Woolard has been providing to USF for nine long years!
I basically gave up on the USF basketball game on Saturday. Really early, in fact. Villanova had that game won at the under-16 timeout in the first half. But that's becoming pretty common. This team isn't even competitive some nights, and if they're shooting especially poorly, it's a struggle for them to not break their futility record. (Fortunately a late burst of points got them to 40. The Dog and Tree game is safe once again.) I'm not even sure they can win another game, but that's hopefully a problem that will only last the rest of this season.
Saturday night, though... that's when the news of the Big East TV deal offer came out. That's a problem that will never go away. At $20-23 million per year for the whole league, and 12 all-sports members* (plus at least one football-only member), that comes out to less than $2 million per team.
* - I know there are only 10 all-sports members as of 2014, but since there are a number of Tulsa and UMass rumors going around, I went ahead and assumed there will eventually be 12. Navy is the football-only member.
Let's put that number in perspective:
-- In that same story, the departing basketball members, along with whatever other teams they get to join them, are being offered somewhere between $30-40 million per year for their rights by Fox Sports. That doesn't even include football, and it's quite a bit more per team than the Big East teams would get. So... um... why wouldn't Cincinnati and UConn look into storing their football programs somewhere, like the MAC, and joining them for basketball? It's already been reported that the basketball group would consider letting them join the league for all of their sports. It's at least as good a basketball league (their presences would make it better than the Big East if they left) and if the money is that much better, they would be crazy not to at least think about it.
-- The Pac-12's deal with Fox (worth $3 billion over 12 years) is worth as much or more per team ($3 billion divided by 12 twice comes out to $20.83 million per team per year) than the potential Big East contract is for the entire league.
-- It's hard to figure out the exact annual per-team value of the current Big East TV deal. When I did an exercise a couple of years ago, we put it at $3.125 million per year. This message board post (which should be taken with the necessary grain of salt) puts the amount at $3.67 million. Either way, this new TV contract would be worth significantly less than the one they have now, maybe not even half as much, at a time when all the conferences ahead of them have created much, much more revenue for themselves.
-- It would even be less money than the PREVIOUS TV contract with the Big East, the one that ran up to 2006. Check out this link from Sports Illustrated in 2002. The Big East, with 13 basketball teams and eight football teams, got a total of $25.7 million per year in TV and radio rights. (I assume the radio rights are negligible, if not nonexistent.) If you were an all-sports member back then, you got around $2.67 million per year.
Which brings us to USF's situation. As you are no doubt aware, they've had one (1) athletic director since joining the Big East, and have failed to do enough, or anything, to avoid the situation they're about to be in. The level of competition will be lower than it was when they joined the league, and they'll make even less money than they did in 2005 while everyone ahead of them in the college football pecking order makes a whole lot more.
Doug Woolard is the second highest paid athletic director in the Big East. When Louisville leaves, he becomes the highest-paid and it won't even be close. He's paid that salary because of his experience in the industry, and his ability to navigate a changing landscape. His job is to ensure the smooth sailing and growth of USF Athletics. How can anything that is currently happening be considered successful on any level?
And I know, you're going to say, "Well, what could USF have done?" Here's a few things they could have tried... and sure, there's no guarantee they would have worked, but at least they could have tried them:
-- They could have worked with the former football members to put together a Big XII style "grant of rights" that would have locked current members into being a part of the current league.
-- They could have realized what the rest of college athletics did pretty quickly: that John Marinatto was in over his head, and the other presidents and athletic directors had no faith in his crisis management. By their silence (and assenting votes in those Big East meetings), USF cast its lot with wrong guy at the wrong time. (Now they're continuing to cast their lot with the Big East as if everything will turn out just great.) Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia figured it out and made plans to preserve their futures. USF could have as well, and helped to force Marinatto out before it was too late.
-- They could have been a forward thinker, putting out their vision for what they think will happen, and what their place could be in the changing landscape. Instead, not a word out of the Selmon building throughout the entire process. The silence was deafening. The most experienced and well-compensated athletic directors have to show strong leadership. Where was Woolard during this crisis? Firing off another "why not USF" or "best athletic department in the Big East" platitude?
-- They could have realized that everyone else was looking out for number one, and done the exact same thing. They didn't want to offend the loyalty or sensibilities of the Catholic 7 by working on an exit strategy to split into two different leagues, which completely made sense to anyone with half a brain. And the Catholic 7 repaid that loyalty by... going to Fox Sports and getting more money for their league THAT WON'T EVEN PLAY FOOTBALL.
So to finish, let's put that new TV contract into perspective a couple more, Doug Woolard-specific ways.
-- Woolard threw $1.5 million out the window because of his ill-advised extension and then firing of Skip Holtz (the $2.5 million they owe him now, minus the $1 million they would have owed him without that extension). There is no clause in the contract that relieved USF of having to pay the buyout if Skip got another job. It actually says in his contract that "this payment will not be subject to any mitigation." Since there was no such clause, Woolard essentially wasted a year's worth of new Big East TV money because he just had to beat the mad rush to give a contract extension to a coach coming off a 5-7 season in 2011.
-- At $709,657 per year (conservatively estimated) last time we checked, a year's worth of new Big East TV money would barely cover two years of Woolard's salary. Oh, and this STILL wouldn't be the best athletic department in the Big East, even if UConn and Cincinnati left. Then that would probably be Houston.