Sure it was obvious, but I applaud the decision by whoever organized the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum to pipe The Cars “Shake It Up” through the loudspeakers of a bland room in New York’s Marriott Marquis as the conference wrapped up.
College sports — and here I’m the one being obvious — are going through a serious transition. Conferences are realigning, TV deals are being struck, and feelings are getting hurt.
“This has been a painful, stinging two years,” said Chris Plonsky, Women’s Athletic Director at University of Texas, which this year launched its own regional sports network, The Longhorn Network. The battling “belongs on the field”, she said. “When it comes to business, let’s play nicely in the sandbox.”
Easier said than done, given the big money at stake. Check out these estimates from IMG: College sports have 173 million fans; 79 million of them are female and 29 million of them earn at least $100,000 a year. Those are the kind of numbers that make a TV executive’s head spin.
Sharing the stage with UT’s Plonsky were NBC Sports President Jon Litner, University of Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and Chris Bevilacqua, a well-known dealmaker who helped put together the Pac-12 TV network. It was no surprise, then, that Swarbrick was asked about Notre Dame’s own plans for a TV network. (At the moment, Notre Dame, with its huge following, has a long-term deal with NBC reportedly worth around $9 million year).