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UCF to the Big 12: Unanswered Questions

We consider some big questions we still have about UCF’s potential move

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 24 Northern Colorado at Texas Tech Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is being reported widely now that the UCF Knights will be invited to join the Big 12 Conference alongside BYU, Cincinnati and Houston this week.

This is the biggest thing to happen to UCF Athletics since the undefeated national championship of 2017, and it’s probably bigger than that.

Still, we still have a lot of unanswered questions, that we hope to get answers for in the coming days, assuming everything happens the way it’s being reported.

Here are the biggest ones:

How much money will UCF get from the Big 12?

Currently, members of the Big 12 receive $37 million per year from the Big 12’s media deals. UCF currently averages about $7 million per year in The American.

While the departure of Texas and Oklahoma are definitely a blow to the remaining Big 12 schools’ budgets, according to CBS’ Dennis Dodd, the addition of the above four schools does help them preserve a considerable portion of their value:

Industry sources tell CBS Sports that the Big 12 lost at least 40% of its value with the departure of Texas and Oklahoma. However, the reconfigured Big 12 with four additions could earn $20 million-$25 million per season, softening the financial blow.

“These are the four that will allow us to enter that future negotiation favorably,” a source within the Big 12 said. “What we’re trying to do will give us the best opportunity to retain our CFP status and our Power Five status.”

That’s at least a 3x increase over what UCF is currently making from their media deal.

Plus, there’s also the CFP money. Dodd again:

Under the current CFP contract, Power Five leagues each receive $66 million for merely participating in the process. The remaining Group of Five leagues split $90 million.

Figures may vary in the final analysis with the contract renewals coming up, but that means UCF could be jumping from a $7-8 million annual payout from media and the CFP to some $25-30 million per year just by virtue of existing in the Big 12.

Will UCF receive a smaller media revenue share once joining the league, and if so, for how long?

West Virginia and TCU received staggered shares for three years after they joined the Big 12 in 2012, and it’s possible UCF may be forced to do the same if they join.

That’s not ideal, but consider those schools’ staggers went 50%-67%-85% over those first three years, culminating in full shares in Year 4. So if UCF had to negotiate an identical deal with the projected $20-25 million yearly payout that Dodd mentioned above, that means UCF’s payments would go from around $7 million in The American to:

  • Year 1: $10-12.5 million
  • Year 2: $13.4-16.8 million
  • Year 3: $17-21.5 million

Not a bad jump.

What happens with the Big 12’s media deal?

The Big 12’s media contract with Fox and ESPN comes to an end in 2025.

You may recall Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s late-night discussions with CBS’ Dennis Dodd, where Bowlsby accused UCF’s current conference, The American, and ESPN of conspiring to raid and perhaps destroy the conference in the wake of Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC, which has an exclusive media deal with ESPN. UCF has been a darling of ESPN since their national title season of 2017, providing the network with some of their most-viewed games involving non-power conference teams.

The Forth Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel reported on Friday that Texas and Oklahoma decided to leave the Big 12 because of ESPN’s most recent offer to the Big 12 was going to be almost exactly similar to their current deal:

ESPN has Big 12 Now as part of its ESPN+ streaming platform, and carries Big 12 basketball games on Monday nights as well as marquee games on Tuesday night. That is important properties to ESPN and Big 12.

Do not be surprised if ESPN still ends up as part of the Big 12’s next TV deal by getting the rights to carry other Big 12 sports on ESPN+ and networks, while deferring to another network on Football, like they currently do with Big 12 and Big Ten, which both televise Big 12 football on Fox’s family of networks.

CBS and NBC have shown little interest in adding college sports to Paramount+ and Peacock respectively, instead using those streaming platforms for NFL, Soccer and original series. Fox currently does not have a true stand-alone streaming service.

The Big 12 will likely seek a multiple network deal with Fox and ESPN, but hopes it will draw interest from other networks such as CBS, who will be losing the rights to the SEC to ESPN after the 2023 season, if not sooner.

It’s also possible the Big 12 could land a Tier 1 deal with CBS, with marquee games airing on broadcast network in 3:30 p.m. ET timeslots on Saturdays, and other games airing on CBS Sports Network.

Fox could also end up renewing with them, with games on Fox and FS1, but keep in mind that the Big Ten is Fox’s priority, so the Big 12 may prefer another network if they don’t get what they want from Fox.

What does this do for Men’s Basketball?

Joining the Big 12 should be an even bigger boost to UCF Basketball than joining The American even was, and that was a huge help.

Last year, the Big 12 was tops in all of Division I in Conference RPI. Baylor won the national championship. We all know about Kansas. West Virginia still has Bob Huggins. Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State have all finished ranked in the top 25 in the last five years. And neither Texas and Oklahoma have finished higher than third in the Big 12 regular season since 2011-2012.

The transition may be difficult, but that level of competition and Johnny Dawkins’ recruiting should mean big things for UCF hoops going forward. We’ll expand on this and the other sports in the coming days.

Ultimately, there are a lot of unknowns out there. Which questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter at @UCF_Banneret.