IRVING, Texas — Gordon Gee couldn’t contain himself.
On a day when the Big 12 revealed yet another record distribution to its 10 members, the West Virginia president — known for his outspoken personality and bow ties draped from his neck — was already looking ahead to next year when figures are projected even higher.
“I’m planning on spending $40 million, so get it up there, OK?” Gee said Friday as he turned to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Laughs were shared as the league spent a portion of this week’s annual meetings celebrating at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort following a $364.9 million revenue distribution to its 10 members for the fiscal year 2017-18.
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The average take-home amounts to $36.5 million per school, up from last year’s announced average figures of $34.8 per school. In 2017, the Big 12 trailed only the SEC ($40.9 million) and Big Ten ($37 million) in average distributions. The Big 12 is the first Power Five program to release 2017-18 figures.
“I have great appreciation for this conference,” said Gee, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. “We have institutions that are very like-minded. We have institutions that I think have a real sense of purpose about what they are doing academically and obviously athletically. We feel we are in a very strong position.”
Bowlsby expected 2018 distributions to be flat, perhaps even decrease, in large part due to the College Football Playoff schedule. In 2018, 2021 and 2024, the CFP occupies the Big 12’s tie-in with the Sugar Bowl, a scheduling quirk that costs the league about $40 million each year it doesn’t appear in the Louisiana-based bowl game.
Several additional factors aided in the increase. Bowlsby said the Big 12’s decision to bring back a football championship game in 2018 was worth $30 million. The league also saved on operations worth $7.5 million in unanticipated savings.
“We’ll continue to do well on that, too, because it’s a guaranteed one versus two matchup,” Bowlsby said of the title game. “It’s really the only game that has a baked-in matchup between the two best teams.
"Pleased we were able to show an increase this year because our budget didn’t show one last year going in."
Bowlsby said televisions contracts and bowl games account for roughly 80 percent of the league’s revenue, with NCAA distributions and ticket sales accounting for the rest.
Moving forward, the Big 12 will benefit from the NCAA basketball fund that pays out conferences for units earned in the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Big 12 earned a record 19 units that will be paid out as part of a six-year rolling average. With each 2018 unit worth $273,000, the conference will earn more than $31 million — $3.1 million per school — over the next six years.
Those figures are part of next year’s basketball fund that could prove lucrative if the Big 12 can continue to string together 15 to 20 units, especially when a historically low eight units from 2012-13 roll off in two years.
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Member distributions could surpass $40 million for the first time when the Big 12 resumes its share of Sugar Bowl revenue in 2019.
“We have escalators in several of our revenue streams, so it could be that or more,” Bowlsby said. “We have an excellent profile of increase over the coming years.”
Big 12 distributions have doubled since 2012-13 when each team averaged $19.8 million. The current figures are a sign of the league’s financial growth during that time. In 2016 and 2015, the league doled out an average of $30.4 million and $25.2 million, respectively, to its members.
Actual figures per member institution weren’t revealed Friday. Bowlsby said each school’s distribution is adjusted for member participation subsidies and deductions. Some subsidies reach seven figures, and Bowlsby said the range is $2.5 million from the top to the bottom of the league.
And unlike other Power Five leagues, the Big 12’s distribution figures aren’t all-encompassing. Each school earns additional revenue through third-tier rights, varying from a few million dollars at some Big 12 schools to Texas, which Bowlsby said tops out near $20 million.
Whatever the final per-school tallies are, Baylor will still receive only a 75 percent disbursement. Beginning in 2017, the league started withholding 25 percent in escrow as part of an ongoing review of Baylor’s Title IX practices that stem from a 2016 sexual assault scandal.
Isabella covers the Big 12 for CNHI Sports.