Sports Illustrated recently put together its lists of the 10 most powerful men in college sports today. Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by the Big Ten, the SEC and television. Should either Mike Slive or Jim Delany, commissioners for the SEC and Big Ten, respectively, choose to flex their muscles, either could be at 16 schools in the next few years.
However, neither of them would be leading the charge for superconferences if it was not for the television advertising revenue being brought in through deals with ESPN and Fox Sports. Fox owns 51-percent of the Big Ten Network and recently launched a 24-hour sports network in Fox Sports 1 that will immediately reach 100s of millions of people. The SEC Network is set to launch in 2014 and will be, presumably, partnered with ESPN.
One major wildcard on this list is Ed O’Bannon. The former UCLA forward has introduced to the court system Ed O’Bannon v. the NCAA. Basically, should he and his class action team win, every single college athlete who’s likeness is being used in a video game or anywhere else will have to be paid by the NCAA. The amount of money lost by the schools might even force the biggest conferences (Bit Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big-12 and ACC) to break away. Definitely stay tuned on that one.
Finally, Mark Emmert, even though he is the NCAA commissioner, is not the most powerful person on this list, and here is one of several reasons why.
10. Lee Fitting, Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN’s College GameDay
9. Jimmy Sexton, Agent to a number of top coaches
8. DeLoss Dodds, Texas athletic director
7. Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner
6. Eric Shanks, co-president and COO of Fox Sports
5. Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming
4. Ed O’Bannon, O’Bannon vs. NCAA – May force schools to pay players for using their likenesses
3. Mark Emmert, NCAA commissioner
2. Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner
1. Mike Slive, SEC commissioner
Dodds is the only athletic director on the list, because Texas is simply overwhelmingly powerful in terms of its budget when compared to every other Big 12 school (heck, the Horns even have their own personal TV station, The Longhorns Network).
Should Fox’s Shanks manage to grow his new, Fox Sports 1, right alongside the Big Ten, he could eventually move the channel right up alongside ESPN.
But that is far down the road, if ever.
For now, it is ESPN’s world to televise, and the SEC’s to dominate on the gridiron.