MORGANTOWN - Parts of the freshly minted television contract between the Big 12 Conference, ESPN and Fox remain somewhat a mystery.
For example, ESPN and Fox will in some fashion alternate first choice of football games over the life of the contract, with Fox getting what the league and the networks refer to as "enhanced selections'' for the first four years of the deal, and then the two networks' "rotating game selections" begin in 2016.
What specifically "enhanced selections'' means isn't quite clear, but with Fox beginning a new emphasis on college football, the network is likely to have more opportunities than ESPN for marquee matchups in the next four years.
For instance, the first scheduled Big 12 game between ranked opponents this season is the Sept. 22 game between Kansas State and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. Fox said Friday that it would air a prime-time game that night without saying what it would be, but certainly it is OU-KSU rather than one of the four non-league games scheduled.
There is also the matter of money. The league and the networks did not release financial terms, but the value of the deal is widely believed to be $2.6 billion, with revenue sharing coming out to approximately $20 million per school per year.
West Virginia and TCU, the two first-year members of the league, won't receive full shares until 2015-17, but even at the graduated percentages until that time (50 percent in 2012-13, then 67 percent and 85 percent) the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs stand to make $10 million, then $13.5 million, then $17 million.
All of those figures are more than WVU was receiving from the Big East, which paid the school just under $10 million for 2011-12 (and withheld $9 million as part of the agreement to allow the school to leave the conference), which was substantially more than in most years.
There are other details that will no doubt emerge as the league and the networks begin operating under the contract and the week-to-week selections are made. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby also said there are provisions in the contracts for adjustments if the league expands, saying he thought everyone was happy "with the extent to which we can keep an ongoing dialogue about active issues and changing circumstances.''
For the most part, though, the agreements with the two networks are fairly specific in regard to many issues. Among the nuts and bolts are these, as provided by the league:
An increase in the number of guaranteed full national football telecasts to a minimum of 25 per season on a combination of ABC, Fox, ESPN and FX.
Allows Fox over-the-air (not cable) access to Big 12 football with a minimum of six games annually on broadcast television.
Allows ESPN cable access to Big 12 football for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU
Big 12 events will be carried on platforms that include ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, FOX, FX, FSN, Fox College Sports (FCS), and FOX Sports Digital Platforms.
Member schools have the option to retain rights to one home football game and a minimum of four men's basketball games per season for distribution via permitted member institution outlets and third-party licenses including the FSN Regional Networks and FOX College Sports.
Every Big 12-controlled football game will be televised, a first for the league.
ABC/ESPN will carry 19 games per year thru 2015, increasing to 23 games annually in 2016 (a minimum 13-15 full national exposures via ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU). The maximum number of those games that can be carried on ESPNU, the network's least-available platform, is four or five.
Fox will carry approximately 38 games, with a minimum of six contests annually on Fox broadcast and six games on a national cable outlet.
ESPN and Fox combined have a maximum four six-day picks between them per season. Those are the instances in which the networks delay their choice of games (and thus delay the announcement of a kickoff time) until the week of the game.
A minimum of four Thursday games each season (including Labor Day weekend and Thanksgiving Day), and one Labor Day Sunday appearance.
A maximum of four games scheduled for 8:15 p.m. local-time starts per season with the following restrictions: No school will be required to play more than twice, host more than once, play consecutive weekends, and a six-day pick comes only with conference consent.
ESPN will televise 100-105 games per season, with 43 games on ESPN or ESPN2 (or sublicensed to ABC, CBS or Fox), including a minimum of 30 intra-conference games.
Up to 40 games on ESPNU.
An option to sublicense up to 20 games to another national cable outlet.
Up to six games per season for live origination on ESPN3.
All remaining games will be syndicated with Big 12 Network branding.
A minimum of four games each season retained for individual permitted member institution outlets.
FOX Sports Media Group platforms will carry a minimum of 40 non-football events annually.
A minimum of 31 women's basketball games per season will be televised by ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or Fox platforms.
ESPN networks retain the option for up to 25 additional women's basketball and/or other sports contests per season.
Championship events, except men's basketball, on Fox platforms. ESPN carries the men's basketball tournament.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.