SEC Sets Record with $309.6 Million Payout to Teams, but Best Is Yet to Come

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMay 30, 2014

USA Today

The final day of SEC spring meetings means it's time for Mike Slive to hand out some checks. 

No, they weren't those oversized novelty checks that Adam Sandler demanded in Happy Gilmore, but Slive did need quite a bit of room to fit all of the zeros in.

The conference announced a record revenue distribution of $309.6 million, which averages out to over $20.9 million per school. For perspective, the SEC distributed a total of $304.7 million a year ago and $165.9 million in 2009.

So what does it all mean?

Conference Payouts
Conf.Total DistributionAverage Per Team Distribution
ACC*$293 million$24.4 million
Big 12$212 million$21.2 million
Big Ten$298 million$24.8 million
Pac-12$228,242,350$19 million
SEC$309.6 million$20.9 million
Sources listed above / ACC data from 2012-13

The Numbers

According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News, that puts the SEC ahead of the Pac-12 on a per-team distribution basis. The Pac-12, which owns its own network, distributed $228,242,350 to its schools, with no school breaking the $20 million mark in fiscal year 2013, which ended on June 30, 2013, according to USA Today.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott
Pac-12 commissioner Larry ScottUSA TODAY Sports

It did, however, eclipse the SEC in terms of total revenue with $334 million for 2012-13, which more than triples the $111.8 million it reported in 2010-11. But expenses, which included start-up costs associated with the Pac-12 Network, knocked down the per-team payout a bit.

The Big Ten, which doled out $298 million, didn't eclipse the SEC in terms of total distribution. But with two fewer teams, the only team to receive fewer than $23 million over the same fiscal year was Nebraska ($15,411,595), according to Mike Carmin of, which joined the conference in 2011.

The Big 12 announced Friday that it will distribute approximately $212 million to its 10 teams, with eight of the 10 teams receiving approximately $23 million, and TCU and West Virginia, which joined the conference in 2012, taking home $14 million each.

The ACC's figures aren't out, but it distributed $293 million in 2012-13, according to the Kansas City Star, an average of $24.4 million per team.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 3: Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers returns a punt against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

What the Numbers Mean

Clearly the Big Ten Network is paying off big time for its members, and the Pac-12, which leads all conferences in revenue, has Pac-12 Network start-up costs and other expenses knocking down its per-team split.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The SEC doesn't have much rent (a conference official told me its rent is $1.00), and since the new SEC Network is owned by ESPN and headquartered at ESPN's previously existing campus for ESPNU in Charlotte, North Carolina, start-up costs are minimal compared to conferences that have gone down this path in the past.

That's huge for the conference, because its per-team distribution is already healthy and competing with the Big Ten (which already has an established network) and the Big 12, which only has four fewer teams.

When the SEC Network money starts rolling in, the SEC might as well establish a mint at its headquarters, because it'll be printing money.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive
SEC commissioner Mike SliveJohn Amis/Associated Press

The SEC's Financial Future

Instead of printing money, the SEC should just plate its offices in gold, because that's essentially what's going to happen anyway.

According to Scott Rabalais of The Advocate, the new cable network could be worth a cool $35.7 million per team once the network reaches its full distribution goals, assuming it gets a rate of $1.30 per customer per month, and it achieves its goal of 30 million subscribers.

But how realistic is full distribution?

The SEC Network has deals in place with DISH Network, AT&T U-Verse, Google Fiber and other smaller distributors. But the bigger fish in the pond—DirecTV and Comcast—aren't on the hook yet.

Don't worry, because it'll happen. In fact, it'll surpass that number. It already has around 20 million customers thanks to the DISH and AT&T deals, and more will come with DirecTV and Comcast.

Since the network is wholly owned by ESPN, it can and will leverage its other properties, including non-sports content like the Disney Channel and Disney Junior, to force the hand of potential partners.

The SEC's future is paved in gold. Gold generated from the new cable network.

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.


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