IMG College: Quiet College Football Devil

Welcome to Tin Foil Cap Corner, where today we’ll discuss incredibly coincidental events that may or may not be nominees for “World’s Greatest Conspiracy Theories Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Today, we dig into this thesis. “ESPN, in conjunction with IMG, wanted superconferences, and has done everything possible to make them a reality.” Ready?

Consider these cobbled-together facts:

- As of today, ESPN owns broadcast rights to the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 conferences. Fox has the Big 12 (mostly, ESPN does get second crack at conference games). CBS has the SEC. These ESPN games are played around 12, 330 and 8ish EST, on ESPN and ESPN2. College Gameday leads it off, College Final shuts it down. Over 500 games will be aired on the ABC/ESPN Family of Networks this year.

- ESPN airs a marquee Thursday Night matchup, as well as a somewhat not-as-marquee Friday Night matchup.

- ESPN airs the majority of bowl games during “Bowl Week.”

- ESPN airs the Championship Games of the Big Ten, Pac-12 (every other year), ACC.

- IMG owns the rights to …

Got that so far? Good. Now, check out this sequence.

- Nov 2007: IMG purchases Host Communications, a sports marketing (among other things) company, and merged with the Collegiate Licensing Company to form IMG College. (If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve certainly heard of who they represent.)

- Nov 2008: ESPN purchases rights to BCS, outbidding FOX Sports for a cool $100M per year. The rights run through 2014.

- July 2010: IMG College acquires ISP, and along with it, ISP’s multimedia rights to over 50 colleges and universities.

- Jan 2011: ESPN gives the University of Texas $300M to broadcast The Longhorn Network. Who brokered the deal? The University of Texas’ Multimedia Rights Holder … IMG College.

- Present and Future: There is no more BCS, but the championship will still be broadcast by ESPN. IMG College to present ticketing, advertising, marketing, etc, as it does presently.

As a result, these chess pieces have been moved:

Nebraska and Colorado bolting the Big 12 (for the Pac-12 and Big Ten), because they didn’t want to deal with Texas and the unbalanced revenue sharing in the Big 12. (Only Baylor and Kansas are represented by IMG in the Big 12. Neither team has their own television network.) Oh, and a year later, Texas A&M did the same and booked for the SEC (which is entirely represented by IMG) to remove itself from Texas, also. Missouri’s contemplating the same move.

Oh, and Syracuse and Pittsburgh, a couple of (you guessed it) IMG schools also moved away from the Big East (which in May 2011 turned down ESPN’s TV rights offer to wait for their conference current deal to run out, and for a bidding war in September 2012 that will never come) to join fellow IMG schools Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in the ACC.

IMG now essentially runs the entire Southeastern Conference, 75% of the ACC, the two only Independents that matter (Notre Dame and BYU), the only Big Ten teams that matter (Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska), over half the Pac-12 and only Texas, Kansas and Baylor in the Big-12. Texas was a recent purchase, one that yielded the Longhorn Network and prompted this whole mess to begin with. You mean to tell me IMG College didn’t see this coming?

… they wanted it to happen.

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Consolidating into superconferences benefits everyone. With less conferences to offer top-tier TV money, ESPN can save cash on the front end and earn more money on the back end.  As games between ‘superteams’ occur more frequently, the price of advertising skyrockets. With fewer schools earning top-tier TV money, each school can take a bigger slice of the pie for themselves.

So, it’s money all around. But … why IMG? What are they looking to do?

Well, by mediating and acting as conduit and shepherd for University athletic programs – specifically the television, multimedia and live event sponsorships, IMG is essentially acting as an ‘agent’ for each school. And what do agents do? They take cuts. They don’t work for free, clearly.

And IMG has made an incredible effort to generate incredible revenue for each school. They are the official presenter of many rivalry games including the Red River Rivalry and the Lone Star Showdown (which is why any and all realignment talk involving Texas also involves Tech and Oklahoma. Notice I did not list the UT-A&M game, which has been discontinued).

The end of the BCS is just another stepping stone on IMG’s way to the stars. The road is paved in dollars.

To review: it ain’t the greed of the schools, though that’s part of it. And it ain’t ESPN, though that’s part of it, too. You can blame the vast majority of realignment, superconference chatter, rivalry napalm and money-grabbing squarely on the fine folks at IMG College, the silent partner and quiet conduit behind almost every negotiation aimed to threaten the very foundation of college athletics.

What do you think?

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