Chaos is a ladder for upper tier G5 schools, and chaos is coming soon with the Power 5 conference TV contracts being negotiated over the next few years. In this article we compare the overall strength of Mountain West, American Athletic, and the BYU athletic programs to see which teams will be in the best position to climb the ladder to the untold riches associated with Power 5 TV deals.
The Figures of Merit:
Five measures are defined as important here. Overall attendance is an indicator of the core strength of an athletic department. In addition to ticket sales, Revenue also includes donations from wealthy donors as well as direct revenue from the schools usually in the form of student fees. School Enrollment and Metro Area Population define how big of a (potential) market a given school can grow into, and finally Academic Ranking is a matter of prestige – which is important to Power 5 conferences like the Pac 12.
The raw data can be a bit difficult to digest, so each column was normalized by the school with the best value, and to gain an overall sense of ranking, the normalized values were summed.
The schools were then ordered based on the overall sum.
Be, Why, Who?
There is quite a bit to consider here, but the one thing that stands out is that BYU is head and shoulders above the rest of the G5 schools. Their combined football and basketball attendance is higher than any other G5 school by quite a bit, and even though their Metro Area size is not all that great, they have a national following which is not reflected in these rankings. One can see why they decided to break away from the Mountain West and go independent. They were simply much stronger in all other areas than the rest of the conference, and this strength led to a relatively large TV contract.
Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing
The same, however, cannot be said of Boise State which is at the bottom of this list. While their football program is strong, they are a one trick pony when it comes to athletics. Their overall revenues are middling and they bring very little else to the Mountain West. The school and its market are very small, and they are one of the lowest ranked universities in the United States. While Boise State should be commended for having the juevos for demanding a TV carve out deal, one can see why the Mountain West is intent on cancelling it. This controversy will continue to play out as Boise State continues to return to the mean in their football program.
The AAC has the TVs
Besides Boise State, there were a couple of surprises in these rankings. Central Florida is one of the largest public universities in the nation with a decent academic reputation and fairly strong following. While attendance for Temple, SMU, and Houston are not very good, they make up for it in revenue from likely wealthy donors as well as being located in very large markets. Dallas, Houston, and Philadelphia are some of the largest metro areas in the nation, and one can see why the AAC TV deal should be more lucrative than the Mountain West TV deal. There are simply too many Mountain (mostly) and West (Nevada) schools in very small markets.
Where does San Diego State fit in all of this? SDSU is the pride of the Mountain West and in many ways fits better in the AAC. It is a large public university with a decent ranking in a fairly large market. They rank at the top in terms of revenue. Once SDSU Mission Valley is completed, increased revenue from the stadium (assumed here to be $20 million), increased enrollment (by 15,000), and increased academic ranking (SDSU is also planning on becoming an R1 research institution) SDSU will be on par with BYU in its overall rankings.
Where will the P5 expand? – if they expand.
There are an unlimited number of scenarios that may unfold over the course of the next few years. The eastern Power 5 conferences could want to capture the larger TV markets of the upper tier AAC schools. USC, Washington, and Oregon could bolt for either the Big 10 or Big 12 – leaving room for top tier western G5 schools to join a weakened Pac 12. Perhaps the Big 12 brings in Arizona and Arizona State instead? The Big 12 could look west to penetrate the California market. The threat of the Big 12 picking up a California school could help encourage the Pac 12 to expand by two or more teams. The AAC could go national.
In all of these cases the two clear choices in the west to make the jump to the P5 are SDSU and BYU. This is why recent rumors of AAC and Pac 12 expansion always include SDSU.
Even if SDSU does not gain access to the P5 TV golden goose, it still has a great option – stay in the Mountain West. With a future college football playoff expansion including a G5 team, SDSU will be in a better position to make the playoffs than a majority of Power 5 schools, and that will lead to better recruits arriving on the Mesa.
SDSU will dominate the conference with its increased revenues, and it will be able to schedule more compelling out of conference games. The future is bright!