College Football Realignment Could Be Huge For NBC Sports Network

NOTE: In the four years that I’ve been doing this site, I don’t think anything ticks off my readers more than talking about VERSUS’ other sports properties, so I figured this would be a good weekend post. Enjoy, you ingrates.

We’ve all been discussing realignment in the NHL this week, and that has certainly caused a lot of debate and anger and conspiracy theories. A lot of it (i.e. the Red Wings moving) could affect television coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network. People feel that NBC ignores the Western Conference beyond Chicago and Detroit as it is How would a hockey league go on having one of it’s conferences featuring only one regularly televised team on their national outlet? There’s a lot of rabble-rousing that’ll need to be solved at a later date.

That said, thank goodness our sport isn’t as wacky as college football, who’s realignment saga gets more and more tedious by the day, if not the hour. Big East falling apart, mid-majors getting raided, this southern team moves to another southern conference. It is nothing if not nauseating at times. That said, it does bring VERSUS/NBC Sports Network a huge opportunity, and as I’ve said for years, what is good for VERSUS is good for the NHL.

Last night, the Mountain West Conference and Conference-USA announced that they would be forming a (barring teams potentially bolting) 22-team mega-conference in football only. NBC Sports Group has a partnership with the Mountain West Conference to televise football, as well as their men’s and women’s basketball championships. The Group currently airs eight games a season under the College Football on VERSUS banner. The joint press release mentions NBC/Comcast and FOX (the C-USA television partner) as well as CBS, which holds partnerships with both leagues (The Mountain West also has it’s own television network, which Comcast has a stake in).

Now, with a 22-team league (17 at fewest, and only if all the rumors of the two leagues being raided come to fruition) that will mean anywhere from 10-20 games every Saturday, all of which will need to be televised under NBC, FOX and CBS banners. Now, the teams involved (aside from Boise State) don’t have much television cache, but a doubleheader from the new league every Saturday on NBCSN, plus alternating years of airing a potential championship game. Of course, that becomes even more complicated, given the fact that ESPN was awarded Conference USA’s football championship game through 2015 as part of a settlement in August after a dispute regarding C-USA TV rights bidding. Thank goodness I don’t write about college football on TV.

So at worst, NBCSN stands to gain some college football, and hopefully enough to replace the Pac-12 games they’ll be losing out to FOX and ESPN next year. But another potential suitor is out there: the Big East. The floundering league plans to raid the aforementioned merging Conference USA and Mountain West to maintain it’s BCS standing after it was rumored that ESPN influenced the defection of both Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Even if it is just rumor, the ESPN and Big East are clearly not on the best of terms after the league rejected ESPN’s new TV deal earlier in the year. It would seem likely that FOX or CBS or NBC Sports Group, and not ESPN, would have a better shot. How good would it look for NBCSN to have a BCS conference – albeit the weakest of the bunch – on it’s resume? It’d give them programming on Saturdays from September-December. Plus, don’t forget what a valuable basketball property – conference play and tournament – the Big East is. It could be a huge score for the network.

College football news moves fast, so one would think we’ll see an answer to all our questions sooner rather than later.