While the vast majority of the attention from the report by John Ourand of SportsBusiness Daily on the looming deal between the Big Ten and FOX went to the gargantuan money involved, a much smaller number in the story might be even more important: six, as in the number of years in the contract.
Signing on for such a short duration not only grants the conference flexibility to re-evaluate its options in a rapidly changing industry. It also all but assures more realignment among the power conferences in the not-too-distant future.
The forthcoming B1G deal will run out right around the same time as the current ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 agreements. That means the grant-of-rights pacts currently holding those conferences together will be sunsetting, too.
If they so desire – and nothing in their history suggests that they wouldn’t – the B1G schools could again start the process of vetting potential expansion candidates. The league should have no problem poaching at least a couple schools from the ACC and/or the Big 12. (To quote Jim Cutler, “It’s a lot of money!”)
And as we’ve seen in the past, any move made by one conference in realignment is likely to set off a chain reaction in others. Expansion offers the only path toward the Southeastern Conference re-opening its media deal, which is about to be blown away by Jim Delany’s empire. In that scenario, the SEC could nab a few teams from a destabilized Big 12-ACC combo. (Frankly, that seems plausible whether the B1G expands or not.)
At that point, some reconfiguration of the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 into two conferences might even make sense.
Of course, what looked to some like an inevitability during the last round of realignment never came to fruition – the Big 12 is still kicking, there’s no Pac-16, the ACC didn’t implode. However, this week’s developments mean the B1G will continue to have a big hand in shaping the landscape of college sports for the foreseeable future, as was the case in 2010.
As such, I’d bet on more shakeups sooner than later. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if the wheels start turning well before the expiration of the current media contracts.