For years, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference have battled it out for richest college conference. Now, college sports has a new king and the way it managed to get on top is nothing short of amazing.

From recently released tax returns from all of the conferences for the fiscal year 2012-13, the Pac-12 ranks on top in total revenue generating $334 million. That is a $158 million increase from the previous year when the league received just under $175 million.

And the Pac-12 has leap frogged over the Big Ten ($318.4 million) and the SEC ($314.5 million) in a huge way. Much of the increase can be attributed to the new TV contracts with ESPN and Fox which paid a combined $171 million. Don’t count out the The Pac-12 Networks which paid the conference just under $82 million.

Consider the 2011-12 fiscal year when the conference received just $85.6 million in TV rights fees and in 2010-11 during which the Pac-12 received even less, $59.5 million.

So the Pac-12 has become a huge player in college sports thanks to ESPN/Fox and its own TV network. This is what Commissioner Larry Scott was hoping for when he came on board to take the conference into the 21st Century. For years, the league languished at the bottom in rights fees and had TV contracts that gave it little to no national exposure. That changed in 2011 when the conference signed 12 year contracts with ESPN and Fox and Scott announced the formation of the Pac-12 Networks.

Even without DirecTV on board to carry its programming, Pac-12 Networks has managed to put plenty of money into the member schools’ coffers. And all of the conference members except for Utah received a full share of $19.8 million. Utah was paid “just” $10.2 million, something that will change in a few years.

The SEC has to feel quite good about the prospects about the SEC Network which launches in August on a cadre cable and satellite providers (except for DirecTV). If Pac-12 Networks can shell out $82 million, one wonders how much SEC Network will pay to the SEC for the upcoming fiscal year.

That Pac-12 Networks can generate so much money and help vault its conference into the top spot of all of the power college sports shows the benefit of having a league-owned channel. The Big Ten knows all too well as the Big Ten Network is the gift that keeps on giving to that conference.

Seeing those numbers, one wonders if an ACC Network and Big 12 Channel aren’t going to be far behind.

[USA Today]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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