How USC and the rest of college sports are adjusting to massive changes
With USC moving to the Big Ten one year from now, it’s a good time to look at where the Trojans stack up relative to their Big Ten peers, and how the University of Southern California fits into larger realms of academic and athletic performance.
A great resource for statistics, historical context, industry knowledge, and strategic insight on these and related matters is consultant Tony Altimore, who appeared at The Voice of College Football with host Mark Rogers to illustrate where USC stands and what the Big Ten will mean to USC, among many other topics.
We joined Tony and Mark to ask some questions and raise some points about USC’s recent decisions, and also what other schools and conferences should consider when trying to grow revenue and better position themselves for the future of college sports.
Subscribe to, like, and share the USC channel at The Voice of College Football.
Let’s explore some of the many topics Tony raised on his program with Mark Rogers:
Apr 5, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of a Southern California Trojans logo at John McKay Center. The facility will house meeting rooms, coaches offices, an indoor football field and a locker room, along with an academic center, weight room, athletic training room and state-of-the-art digital media production facility for the 21 athletic teams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Altimore looked at how USC and its peer institutions in the Big Ten are national leaders in research and development. This is part of the academic heft the Big Ten carries. It’s part of what USC will soon join. The Trojans will fit in very neatly.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Where do USC and current Big Ten schools stand relative to other major schools in terms of endowments and other resources? As one might reasonably expect, this was a part of the discussion where the Ivy League came up quite a bit.
Unknown date, 1984; Los Angeles, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; A general view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports
USC’s track record in Olympic sports is second to none. USC and UCLA will both improve the profile of the Big Ten in Olympic (non-revenue) sports.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
USC’s football championships, non-revenue sport championships, university resources, and overall academic prowess put the Trojans in good position relative to their future Big Ten neighbors. The Big Ten, once USC and UCLA come aboard, will compare even more favorably with other Power Five conferences in college athletics.
May 6, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) meets with Bronny James following game three of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
How does Bronny James fit into these kinds of discussions? It’s not as complicated as you think. Attendance at USC basketball will soar, creating lots of new opportunities and forums for donor and booster networking, which will increase USC fundraising precisely at a time when the move to the Big Ten will require more fundraising muscle. This is very timely. Bronny will be a networking catalyst.
HOW SCHOOLS AND CONFERENCES NEED TO COMPETE
UCLA outfielder Lauryn Carter hits a home run as the Oregon Ducks fell to UCLA 7-4 Saturday, March 25, 2023 at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
You might have seen a story a few weeks ago in which Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso brought up the idea of playing an occasional softball game at Owen Field, the Sooners’ football stadium. The obvious angle: selling tons of tickets to generate extra revenue.
The larger point we discussed: Schools need to be creative and bold in thinking about new ways to create revenue streams, including in non-football sports.
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives to the basket as South Carolina guard Kierra Fletcher (41) defends during the NCAA Women’s Final Four semifinals basketball game in Dallas, Friday, March 31, 2023.
In line with Oklahoma softball playing games in a football stadium, women’s basketball should consider putting its showcase teams — such as Iowa, a future Big Ten partner of USC — in domed stadiums for TV-friendly events which draw big numbers not only on ESPN, but at the gate.
Peyton Manning fist pumps after Lee Corso chooses Tennessee to defeat Alabama during ESPN’s College GameDay show held outside of Ayres Hall on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. The college football pregame show returned to Knoxville for the second time this season for No. 8 Tennessee’s SEC rivalry game against No. 1 Alabama.
Speaking of TV ratings: Tony Altimore talked about the TV ratings schools and conferences bring in. He mentioned that the specific channels teams appear on are highly determinative of the TV ratings they get. Translated: It really does matter whether you’re on ESPN instead of ESPNU, Fox instead of Pac-12 Network, NBC instead of Peacock, CBS instead of CBS Sports Network. All of this might be obvious, but it’s worth reiterating as the Pac-12 tries to nail down a media rights deal.
The National Hockey League float entry titled, “A Century of NHL Greatness” rolls along the 128th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. The 5½-mile parade featured marching bands, horseback riders and dozens of ornately decorated flower-covered floats. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Tony Altimore pointed out that Big Ten schools are not making money on ice hockey. Equipment (zambonis) and maintenance costs are high. The need to create a standalone media property — Big Ten Hockey, with its own TV package, plus a standalone NCAA Hockey Tournament which is not tethered to other NCAA non-revenue sports — is paramount for Big Ten schools trying to make money on hockey.
AAC IS BEHIND THE PACK
Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth, Texas where AAC officials officially cancelled their conference tournament basketball games following concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
One conference which is not winning the revenue race: the AAC. Altimore explained more about this particular reality. Check out the full show, though. It is full of fascinating insights across the college sports (and academic) spectrum.