The Big Ten finds itself in a bit of a pickle regarding its massive new media rights deal. The league secured contracts with FOX, NBC, and CBS to the tune of $1 billion a year this past offseason.
That agreement was easily the most lucrative in college athletics, with the SEC’s deal with ESPN and ABC ranking second. Unfortunately, the folks negotiating that contract didn’t discuss the details with the members of the conference.
Reports surfaced this week of unhappiness amongst the Big Ten’s affiliates over certain requirements drawn out from the television networks. Those include having teams available for specific time slots, most notably a primetime slot during the month of November.
Other hiccups involve having to pay back nearly $40 million to FOX because former commissioner Kevin Warren delivered NBC the Big Ten football title game in 2026 without the full authority to do so.
The league will also have to pay another $25 million to FOX for lost 2020 football game inventory during the COVID season.
Leaving those major repayments aside, many are focusing in on those primetime game requirements. At first thought, it seems like a no-brainer that teams would want to play big time night games in front of a national audience, particularly late in the season with playoff hopes on the line.
But things are a bit different in the Big Ten.
Historically in the conference, after the first weekend in November, schools were not required to play night games for myriad reasons — health, recovery and campus logistics among them. These were known in league circles as “tolerances,” and prior television contracts accounted for them.
This latest deal did not.
The B1G got some good news on Monday as one of its most recognized brands offered itself as a candidate to take some of those primetime slots. The bad news? It’s likely not a team the conference wants to see playing in the national spotlight.
Nebraska offers to take Big Ten primetime spots.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have no issue with the new game time requirements according to AD Trev Alberts.
Nebraska AD Trev Alberts talked about the reports on the Big Ten TV deal. The biggest thing he wanted to say is he’s excited about the chance to play on FOX, CBS and NBC in best windows and has no problem at all with playing primetime games at night, no matter what time of year.
— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) May 22, 2023
Alberts went on to talk about how the Cornhuskers have a history of playing primetime games dating back to the glory days in the Big XII.
Unfortunately, Nebraska is far removed from that elite college football status.
The Huskers are beginning Year 1 of the Matt Rhule era following a disastrous four seasons under Scott Frost. The program has seen six straight losing campaigns and they haven’t won double digit games in a decade.
While it would be beneficial for Nebraska to play in primetime, they’re likely far from the Big Ten’s top choice. Until the league can convince the Ohio States, Michigans, and Penn States to follow suit, they might be in some trouble.