The Big Ten Conference’s announcement that its schools are limiting any fall sports competition to games against conference opponents will have financial ramifications not only for Big Ten schools, but also for schools across the country – especially in the Mid-American Conference.
Big Ten football teams had been scheduled to play 33 non-conference games at home. USA TODAY Sports has been able to obtain contracts for 26 of those games – and they had been scheduled to have total payouts to the visiting teams of nearly $22.2 million. That figure includes payouts connected to single, one-off games and games that were to be parts of series.
Most of this money was headed to schools in conferences outside the Power Five – schools that could be significantly impacted by the loss of revenue.
From May: Mid-major colleges could be crippled by football cancellations; so what do contracts say?
“I know the impact that these guarantee games have for these programs – and it’s dramatic,” said Big Sky Conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill, who worked as Akron’s athletics director from 2009 to 2015. “It certainly sends a shock through the system. And I certainly feel for those programs, especially in the (Mid-American Conference) … that has a lot of games with those Big Ten schools and rely heavily on the.”
Altogether MAC schools stand to lose more than $10.5 million from games against Big Ten teams.
Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Ball State and Northern Illinois each had two games this season against Big Ten teams.
Bowling Green was due $2.2 million – $1.2 million for playing Ohio State on Sept. 5, and $1 million for playing Illinois on Sept. 19.
Central Michigan, which has dropped two teams and gotten a temporary waiver from the association’s minimum sport-sponsorship requirements for Football Bowl Subdivision membership, was set to get $2.15 million – $1.3 million for playing Nebraska on Sept. 12 and $850,000 from Northwestern for a game the following week.
Arkansas State and Buffalo each were set to receive $1.8 million for games against Big Ten teams on Sept. 19 – Arkansas State for playing Michigan, Buffalo for playing Ohio State.
Kent State and San Jose State each were set to get $1.5 million for playing Penn State – the Golden Flashes on Sept. 5, the Spartans on Sept. 19.
Central Michigan, Appalachian State, Florida Atlantic and Toledo also had been scheduled for guarantee games against Big Ten teams worth more than $1 million.
What could become an issue, however, is whether the language of the various contracts will result in the games being canceled with no payment due, or whether the Big Ten schools will have to either make payments for canceling the games or make arrangements for a future game.
For example, Ohio State’s contracts with Buffalo and Bowling Green state: “If it becomes impossible to play the football game for reasons of power failure, strikes, severe weather conditions, riots, war, or other unforeseen catastrophes or disasters beyond the control of either party, this Agreement may be terminated by either OSU or the Visiting Team, the football game shall be cancelled, and neither party shall be responsible to the other for any loss or damage.”
It would seem that the pandemic would qualify as a disaster “beyond the control of either party,” but there potentially is room for interpretation.
If Ohio State were deemed in breach of either the agreements, according to the contracts, it could owe the full guarantee amounts. The contract says the visiting teams would be owed the difference between the guarantee amount and the amount the visiting teams receive for the game scheduled to replace the game against Ohio State with Bowling Green and Buffalo each recognizing “its legal obligation to mitigate its damages in the event of OSU’s breach.”