The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 8, 2022

The PiRates Are Leaving The Port For 2022-23

It’s Football Time In Tennessee! Actually it’s football time everywhere, but when you live in the Volunteer State and spent 30+ years listening to the radio play-by-play GOAT, John Ward, say that phrase 11 or 12 times a season, it becomes the adrenaline boosting tagline to put one in the mood for “THE SPORT” that matters.

College football as we know it has reached the dawn of evolutionary change. Massive restructuring of the game is forthcoming, and some of that change will be apparent this season, as the Sun Belt Conference has more teams at the expense of Conference USA. With Texas and Oklahoma possibly becoming SEC members as early as next season, and USC and UCLA making the move to the Big Ten, there are a couple more major dominoes that could fall and send the conventional football alignment falling en masse.

I have tried to stay in the loop with more than a dozen insider contacts developed from my years in sports journalism in radio, TV, and in print. There are many differing opinions about what could happen and what they have heard is in the works. However, nearly every one of them agree on one thing: everything is in a holding pattern concerning the move beyond 16 teams in the Big Ten and SEC, until Notre Dame learns what their potential media contract will be and what the Big Ten media contract will be.

Notre Dame is getting $22 million from NBC and $12 million from the ACC. Next year, the final year of that contract with NBC, it will rise by $2.5 million. The Big Ten is being rumored to distribute possibly $1.2 billion in media revenue share. Notre Dame is seeking $75 million a year from NBC to renew the contract. If the offer is not in that ballpark, the Irish are likely to bite the bullet and join the Big Ten. One or two Southern insiders believes Notre Dame has not completely eliminated the possibility of seeking SEC membership, but my Midwest contacts say that their fan base will demand Big Ten membership so that travel will be minimized.

Let me address something else that has come to my attention. In various ways, I receive comments from others asking what I think about the big conferences forcing the small private schools out of their leagues. It usually goes something like, “Why does the SEC allow Vanderbilt to remain in the conference, when they sponge millions of dollars and don’t contribute much to the total pot?”

Three private schools have departed the SEC through the last eight decades. Sewanee, Georgia Tech, and Tulane left on their own account. Tech and Tulane would gladly return to the league today if they could. Vandy is not leaving the SEC, and the SEC is not kicking the Commodores out either. Even though all this realignment and expansion is 100% about football, and Vanderbilt football is basically a perpetual expansion team, their value to the conference comes in multiple essential ways. First, the league now considers Nashville their most essential city in their footprint. The 2023 Football Media Days will relocate from Atlanta to the Music City. The league’s annual postseason men’s basketball tournament is under contract for Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for many years to come. Yes, the Tennessee Vols are the top college team in the city, but Knoxville is 185 miles to the east.

There is another major reason that every conference wants to have a private school as a member. When every conference member is a public institution, then the entire league is subject to open records laws. With just one private school in the league, that school closes those records. The SEC isn’t going to give up their covert operating methods.

Now for the real reason that 99% of you come to this site to read. Beginning Tuesday, August 9, 2022, the annual PiRate Ratings’ Conference Previews will begin posting here one league at a time, debuting in order of lowest-ranked conference to highest-ranked conference.

Here is the schedule for each preview:

August 9: Conference USA

August 10: Mid-American Conference

August 11: Sun Belt Conference

August 12: Mountain West Conference

August 13: FBS Independents

August 14: American Athletic Conference

August 15: Pac-12 Conference

August 16: Atlantic Coast Conference

August 17: Big 12 Conference

August 18: Big Ten Conference

August 19: Southeastern Conference

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