College football: Conference realignment has hit a wall

After the musical chairs of the last three years, a little stability goes a long way. And now we might have a lot of stability, as long as the grant of rights schools are signing will hold up in court, and one expert says it should be solid.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 26, 2013
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photo - One way for the Big 12 to expand is to get a school on the outside looking in, like Boise State. AP photo
One way for the Big 12 to expand is to get a school on the outside looking in, like Boise State. AP photo

Meyers' opinion is grounded in history. In 1984, when the landmark TV case was settled, many schools, through their conference, gave their television rights to the College Football Association.

“That was attacked by some independent television networks by form of more antitrust problems, in a different wrapper,” Meyers said. “It came back to the same trial judge, he said, ‘You're missing the point. This is exactly the kind of plan that would be formed and is OK.'”

Meyers' theory: schools own their television rights. If they cede them to a conference, the conference becomes the owner.

“There may be escape provisions in the agreement,” Meyers said. Exit fees, for example. “But if there isn't such an escape provision, then they're bound for the length of the assignment. If it was five years, they're bound for five years.”

Meyers said grant of rights offers no antitrust problems. He's long pointed out that antitrust laws exist to protect consumers. If consumers aren't harmed financially, no antitrust problems exist.

Hard to imagine how consumers are harmed financially if conference realignment halts.

One major difference between the CFA and the current grant of rights. The CFA had no desire to restrict a school. If a school or a league wanted out, the CFA didn't mind. The CFA existed only to get ballgames on television, which no longer is an issue and one reason why the CFA no longer exists.

The current grant of rights clearly exists to bind schools to leagues.

But Meyers says that makes it no less legal.

It seems simple. Sign away your TV rights until 2020, or 2025, and you can't get them back.

“If I say, I'm assigning my rights to something for five years, by God, it's gone for five years,” Meyers said. “You're not oversimplifying it. It is that simple.”

Which could mean the music has stopped.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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