According to a report today from Let's Play Hockey, Big Ten hockey schools will receive an extra $2 million per year from the Big Ten Network. That is in addition to the money that each Big Ten school already receives for its participation on the network.
Big Ten hockey schools will get $2 million per year from the Big Ten Network, in addition to the allotment that all B1G schools receive.— Let's Play Hockey (@LetsPlay_Hockey) April 29, 2013
Next season, Wisconsin will be leaving the WCHA along with Minnesota to the newly formed Big Ten Hockey Conference. Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State will be doing the same in leaving the CCHA. Current independent Penn Sate will be the sixth member of the conference.
When Penn State received a generous $88 million donation from alumnus Terry Pegula to start a hockey program, there was little doubt the Big Ten would form a hockey conference. With six active Big Ten schools participating in varsity hockey, the league can officially be recognized by the NCAA and earn an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament.
Of course, the transition hasn't gone without heavy criticism. The WCHA has consistently been one of, if not the premier hockey league in the country over the past few decades. The year-end Final Five tournament is the best in the country, and will be missed.
The new conference alignment will give schools from the Big Ten an opportunity to tailor their schedules to more of a national flavor. Wisconsin, for example, already has deals in place to play Boston University and Boston College. That's on top of agreements to face old WCHA conference foes North Dakota, Denver and Colorado College.
Regardless, a $2 million per season windfall per hockey school is a staggering number. The conference has already stated that it plans to show at least 40 games on the Big Ten Network this season. That would be up from the 15 it showed during the 2012-13 campaign.
Considering there aren't many hockey programs in the country that are even profitable, that extra $2 million in revenue is another significant advantage for Big Ten hockey programs. That's on top of the added exposure these teams are getting in terms of TV time on a major network.
For example, the newly formed NCHC has an exclusive TV deal with the CBS Sports Network to show 18 games. North Dakota, who is one of the members of the new NCHC, was already playing close to 20 games a season on national TV with its contract through Fox College Sports. Since CBS Sports Network has exclusive national rights to the conference, it will play just a fraction of its games nationally going forward compared to the old deal.
Wisconsin and Minnesota will have an opportunity to play a significant amount of games nationally. On top of the Big Ten Network showing 40-plus games, Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports North will have an opportunity to pick up whatever the Big Ten Network doesn't schedule. Both Fox Sports channels are available on similar sports tiers on cable and satellite providers that the CBS Sports Network is on.
The point remains that while no one wanted to see the WCHA break up, it was bound to happen with the current landscape of college hockey. At this point it's already happening, and complaining about it isn't going to get us anywhere. Throwing in an extra $2 million per school, per year, and a national TV deal isn't a bad cherry on top of the sundae.
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