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- Boney Fuller’s Best of 2016
- BYU v. Wyoming Poinsettia Bowl Preview
- BYU v. Boise State Game Preview
- Boney Fuller Week in Review: West Virginia
- Former Cougars Rep the Y
- Stats: Going For 2 a Losing Decision…Every Time
- Boney Fuller Week in Review: Utah
- BYU v. Utah Game Preview
- 3rd Down With the Clown: At the Gathering With Swoop
- Boney Fuller Week in Review: Arizona
- By the Numbers: 2016 Season Preview
- A Boney Fuller Interview With Wilbur Wildcat
- Boney Fuller’s Season Preview 2016
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The Next Round of Conference Realignment: Part 1
- Updated: April 23, 2015
In this 3-part series, Troy Adams looks at the current stability of the Power 5 conferences, the issues most likely to trigger the next round of conference realignment, and which teams and conferences are most likely to make a change. Today’s Part 1 provides some background on conference “Grant of Rights” agreements and the role they will play in potential upcoming changes to the college football landscape.
Will There Be Another Round of CFB Realignment?
The answer is a very loud, “Yes” but nobody knows when it will happen or what will be the primary drivers. Aside from the ever-present motivational power of greed, this piece examines what I believe to be the primary force currently holding four of the five Power 5 conferences together. In the next episode, I’ll dive deeper into the timeline in which expansion may occur and which realignment scenario is most likely to play out.
What Is Holding P5 Conferences Together?
After the last round of realignment, three of the five Power 5 conferences executed a grant of media rights (GOR), which gives the conference ownership of the media rights for each member institution. The B1G already had a GOR agreement and the SEC does not have one. The perceived consequences of breaking a GOR is what currently holds most P5 conferences together. A GOR agreement allows the conference to say “if you leave, any money generated by media rights to your future home games will remain with the conference.”
How Does A Grant Of Media Rights Agreement Work?
Let’s say that University A decides it has had enough of Conference X and wants to join another conference. In other words, “I don’t like you so I am leaving.” At this point, University A has decided that the benefits of a new conference outweigh the consequences of leaving the old conference. For example, perhaps there is perceived favoritism that cannot be tolerated, or the travel is too difficult to manage for Olympic athletes, etc.
Whatever the reason, let’s say that University A has determined that a break-up is inevitable. If Conference X allows University A to walk away with no consequence, the Conference has created a dangerous legal precedent whereby other teams can also leave. But if it forces University A to stay, it will have a dysfunctional conference member on its hands. It is in the best interest of everyone associated with Conference X to allow University A to move on. But the Conference needs fines and fees to act as an exit barrier, hence the GOR.
In A Nutshell, What Are the Legal Points Here?
When a university leaves a conference, the conference argues that one less university depletes its media inventory so the university should pay damages.
However, no media entity has ever tried to reduce the financial value of a media contract when a team departs, so what exactly are the damages? The fact is that virtually every university that has left a conference has unsuccessfully used this argument. But a university has never argued (but maybe should) that since media contracts have never been reduced when a university departs, the conference should pay the departing university a “one less mouth to feed” fee.
Twice in the B12 and once in the ACC, a conference has accepted a reduced penalty and let the university walk, thus maintaining a perceived exit barrier while saving face and legal fees.
Will A GOR Really Work To Keep P5 Conferences Together?
Do pre-nuptial agreements prevent divorce? A GOR is just a threat of a protracted legal battle that conferences hope universities will want to avoid. In fact, GOR agreements have been called a “nuclear option.”1 The reality is that there is so much wiggle room in a GOR (the B12’s GOR agreement is four pages long), that the consequences of breaking it are murky at best. Nobody really knows the consequence of breaking a GOR agreement because nobody has tried. It is just a matter of time.
When Do Conference GORs Expire?
The SEC arrogantly does not have a media GOR, perhaps reasoning that no member school would ever want to leave. The GOR agreements expire for the ACC in 2027, the B12 in 2025, the P12 in 2024, and the B1G in 2017.
Check back tomorrow as Troy predicts which conference will be the next to make a move and what the next era of college football may look like.