The faculty soccer panorama will look very totally different from 2025: NPR

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Nicole Auerbach, Senior Writer for The Athletic, about reorienting sports conferences and what it means for the future of college football.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The college football landscape will look very different in 2025. On Friday, the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma both accepted invitations to participate in the powerful Southeastern Conference, the SEC. You will be leaving the Big 12 Conference. One of the questions at stake now is how fans can watch teams competing against each other on television. In other words, billions of dollars and media rights. And a lot of people are not happy. Nicole Auerbach covers college football for The Athletic and is now joining us.

Hello nicole.

NICOLE AUERBACH: Hello. Thanks for the invitation.

KELLY: So we should point out that this is what Texas and Oklahoma wanted. They asked to leave the Big 12 and join the SCC. As short as you can put it, why?

AUERBACH: Well, the shortest way is to just say money. The SEC will pay their schools the most. Everyone has renegotiations, has media rights deals pending or just coming. And the SEC is incredibly well positioned to continue to benefit from the biggest brands in college football. And Texas and Oklahoma were fine. It really was you. But there is more money in the SEC.

KELLY: How crushing a loss is that for the Big 12?

AUERBACH: Oh, it’s very overwhelming. I mean, you are talking about the linchpins of the Big 12 conference, the biggest brands, the anchors. And you can already see from industry experts that if you take Texas and Oklahoma out of the equation, the value of this group of schools drops significantly.

KELLY: Now I’d like to bring ESPN and its role here. ESPN owns the SEC network. ESPN also shares a deal to broadcast Big 12 games. And Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has accused the network of conspiring to tear apart his conference to help the SEC. ESPN denies that. What do you read about it?

AUERBACH: It’s very complicated. This is clearly a very ugly divorce. And it is so rare to hear a seated conference commissioner chasing one of his broadcast partners. But he does it because it comes down to money again. Texas and Oklahoma, they are bound to grant rights until 2025. The question is, if the rest of the league fell apart, then Texas and Oklahoma wouldn’t owe the people that much money.

KELLY: How does that fit into some of the bigger changes that are underway? Speaking of money, when I talk about college sports I think of the recent decision to let athletes benefit from their own name and likeness, for example. There is a lot of change going on here.

AUERBACH: It’s a transformative time in university sports. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the SEC is making this takeover in an era when the NCAA has never been weaker. They want to position themselves to determine their own future, to set their own course, and not wait for more lawsuits to go to the Supreme Court or for the NCAA to change and make committee-by-committee rules.

KELLY: I can’t let you go without really asking about football. What does this mean for people who just want to watch good college football?

AUERBACH: There’s good college football in the SEC. I mean, every time that happens it gets harder for people like me to just remember what leagues and divisions everyone is in, but also for fans because you’re moving to a conference much further away, and it is more difficult and maybe more expensive to go to games. And there are new rivalries, and not the traditional ones. So it’s just – it sucks. And it affects the balance across the country. And it’s just – it’s not great.

KELLY: Nicole Auerbach, senior writer for The Athletic.

Thank you Nicole.

AUERBACH: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE BY FRANZ FERDINAND LIED, “SHOPPING FOR BLOOD”)

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