Look at the current Big 12 rankings, and you'll see Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska at the top.
Languishing in the bottom half — Oklahoma State and Baylor.
No, we're not talking about the standings based on wins and losses. Look at those, and you'll see the Cowboys and the Bears at the top. Baylor is first in the South Division while OSU is tied for second.
But despite their on-field success this season, OSU and Baylor are nowhere near the top of the Big 12 rankings for television revenue.
Under the conference's revenue-distribution system, teams are rewarded for TV appearances. Including this weekend's games which are headlined by Baylor at OSU in a showdown for South Division supremacy, the Cowboys rank seventh in TV revenue while the Bears are tied for last.
The team in first place?
Texas with $2,725,000.
OSU and Baylor together haven't earned that much so far this season.
How is that fair? I'm all for profit-sharing that rewards teams, but where is the just reward for OSU and Baylor? They have scratched and clawed for years. They have improved their programs and upgraded their talent. They have become November contenders.
But when it comes to TV revenue, they still find themselves at the bottom.
It's a flaw in the system, a hitch that is hurting teams that deserve better.
All of the TV revenue generated in the Big 12 is split in half, then distributed to the schools in two ways. The first half is divided equally among the schools, a per-school payout expected to be in excess of $2 million this season. It doesn't depend how many times a team is on television. It doesn't matter whether a team makes for must-see TV.
Kansas, for example, will receive exactly the same amount from that pot as Oklahoma.
The second half of the revenue is distributed based on television appearances, and the formula to determine the payouts assigns a unit value to each appearance.
Non-conference games played on network television earn two network units while a conference game played on a network earns one network unit. Each network unit will be worth approximately $300,000 this season.
Non-conference games played on a cable network earn two cable units while a conference game played on cable earns one cable unit. Each cable unit will be worth approximately $175,000 this season.
Clear as mud?
Here are a couple close-to-home examples that might explain things.
* OSU opened the season against Washington State, a non-conference game broadcast on Fox Sports Net. That earned the Cowboys two cable units, each of which is worth $175,000.
OSU's payout for that game: $350,000.
* OU opened conference play against Texas, a game broadcast on ABC. That earned the Sooners one network unit, each of which is worth $300,000.
OU's payout for that game: $300,000.
Because the networks pay the conference to broadcast games, they have the right to determine what games they want to broadcast and when they want to show them. And when they make those decisions, they are worried about one thing — ratings.
They have to balance a bunch of factors in an effort to get the best ratings. Picking games with intriguing matchups. Avoiding teams from the same state playing at the same time. Appealing to viewers both regionally and nationally.
OU and Texas carry major cache with viewers nationally. They are interesting to folks from coast to coast, no matter whether they're winning or losing.
There have been years past, though, when those teams have played non-conference rumdums and had those games broadcast on the networks ahead of better ones. How is that fair? How is that good for the league?
For OU and Texas, those TV-appearance checks are just a drop in their athletic-department buckets (the Longhorns have an annual budget well over $100 million while the Sooners are quickly approaching that mark) but a million bucks is a big deal in places like Stillwater and Waco. At OSU and Baylor, that would be about 2 percent of their annual budgets.
And think about this: those two schools have heard for years that they needed to improve football, and now, they've done it. They've stepped up. They've gotten better. But they still find themselves losing ground financially.
The Big 12 must fix this flaw in the system. It can't be altered this season, but in the next round of TV negotiations, the conference has to push for change. Get every game on TV. Make every Saturday a payday for every team. Add a bonus to the TV payout for a ranked team.
It will strengthen the entire conference, and with the league's numbers diminishing next season, that is in every schools' best interest. The Big 12's strength won't be in numbers but in its top-to-bottom prowess.
No better way to promote that growth than by making sure the television-revenue rankings more closely mirror the conference standings.
SMALL SCREEN, BIG BUCKS
Half of the revenue that the Big 12 receives from its football television contracts is split equally among the conference schools. The other half is divided based on the teams' TV appearances. For non-conference games, network broadcasts are worth $600,000 while cable broadcasts are worth $350,000. For conference games, each team earns $300,000 when it appears on a network while each team earns $175,000 when it appears on cable.
Here's the appearance-based revenue earned through this weekend's games:
Team: Non-conference network games, Non-conference cable games, Conference network games, Conference cable games, Total revenue
Texas, 1, 2, 3, 3, $2,725,000
Oklahoma, 1, 2, 2, 3, $2,425,000
Nebraska, 1, 0, 4, 1, $1,975,000
Kansas State, 1, 1, 0, 5, $1,825,000
Iowa State, 1, 1, 1, 3, $1,775,000
Missouri, 0, 1, 3, 2, $1,600,000
Oklahoma State, 0, 2, 1, 3, $1,525,000
Texas A&M, 1, 0, 0, 4, $1,300,000
Kansas, 0, 2, 0, 3, $1,225,000
Texas Tech, 0, 1, 2, 1, $1,125,000
Baylor, 0, 1, 0, 4, $1,050,000
Colorado, 0, 2, 0, 2, 1,050,000
* Dollar amounts are approximate.