While the Big East scrambles to stave off its imminent collapse, whether it's by enticing Fresno State and UNLV to join up or begging UConn and Cincinnati to stay put, it can make no tangible promises because there's no TV dollars to back any such pledge.
Television money is the lifeblood of college sports - specifically college football, the second-most valuable property to television networks after the NFL. With the advent of DVRs and streaming services, sports is about the only thing left that can still deliver huge live audiences that advertisers crave. And that, in turn, brings in big bucks.
The Los Angeles Lakers signed a 20-year, $3 billion exclusive deal with the fledgling Time Warner Sportsnet, which commands a whopping $4 per subscriber fee and won a staredown with DirecTV. Just up the street, the Dodgers are expected to one-up that, with a new 25-year deal expected to be worth north of $6 billion. And then there's the mother of all monster deals - the NFL's next TV contract, scheduled to kick in for 2014, is worth about $5 billion annually.
College football has gotten in on the act, with the five major conferences each inking billion-dollar deals in the past two years. The annual payouts roughly go like this: