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August 30, 2022
Takeline
Chet’s Holmgren’s Injury + TV Money in College Football

In This Episode

In OKC, it looks like we’re heading back to tank town after Chet Holmgren was been ruled out for the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. Thunder reporter with The Athletic Andrew Schlecht joins us with the latest. Then, college football national reporter Nicole Auerbach helps explain The Big Ten’s titanic new TV rights deal & what might happen as conferences continue to realign.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Andrew Schleck It was like 2 hours of Sam. First talk for half an hour just on his own, which is just unbelievable. And then he sat there for an hour and a half and answered every single question. That day was particularly tough for me because I had to pee about an hour and 15 minutes into it.

 

Jason Concepcion What were you doing? You just like grabbing your calf.

 

Andrew Schleck I was pressing my laptop against my thighs. Like, I’m just I am in anguish because I’m just like, somebody, please ask the book question.

 

Jason Concepcion Hello and welcome to Takeline. I’m your host, Jason Concepcion. This week we’re talking about season openers and seasons that are coming up. Hope shines across the country in the world of college football, but in OKC it’s looking like we’re heading back to tank town. Chet Holmgren has been ruled out for the upcoming season after suffering a Lisfrac injury to his foot in a pro-am game last week. Andrew Schlecht, Thunder beat reporter for The Athletic, is going to join us and let us share in his sadness. And it is deep and it is rich sadness. Then Nicole Auerbach, senior college football reporter for The Athletic, will preview the upcoming college football season and talk to us about the Big Ten’s absolutely titanic new TV rights deal that is worth some $7 billion over seven years. Here we go. Chet Holmgren. It looked amazing. You saw the memes. You saw the budding romance between he and Josh Giddey how delighted Josh Giddey was to be passing this giant human who can actually shoot the ball. Chet Holmgren, setting summer league records in blocks. And then it all came crashing down at a pro-am game in which Chet Holmgren through a non-contact injury, injured his foot. Turned out to be a Lisfranc injury. He’s going to miss the upcoming season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the media last week.

 

Sam Presti I think everybody’s aware that earlier today we announced that Chet would be missing this season with the Lisfranc injury to his to his right foot. This is a rupture of a tendon and not a fracture.

 

Jason Concepcion And then basically saying, hey, this is part of sports. This could have happened at any game anywhere. And help us unpack the fallout from this event is number one sad man in the NBA. Andrew Schlecht, OKC Thunder reporter with the Athletic. Andrew, thanks for joining us.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah, glad to be here.

 

Jason Concepcion Okay, so take us through the events that led to OKC rookie Chet Holmgren injuring his foot, which we now understand is a Lisfranc injury. We can go into like what type of injury that is, a really rare injury for basketball, it seems. But take us through what happened.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah. Oh, man. So they’re playing in this pro-am game and it happens to be in Seattle, which as a Thunder fan, you feel like this is already cursed anyway. Is like this shouldn’t happen.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht And then you see the clip of him and you don’t quite understand what happened because he just comes up gimpy on this drive, and there doesn’t seem to be really anything at all that happened. He just kind of tries to block LeBron, ends up gimpy has to leave the game after like 2 minutes. So you’re like, okay, that’s weird. And then you don’t hear anything for like a week and a half, right?

 

Jason Concepcion Which is always a red flag when they go silent.

 

Andrew Schlecht Oh, it’s just depends on who you are. If if you’re a negative Thunder fan, you’re like, all right, he’s dead. You know, like, we’re never going to see him again. And then if you’re more of a positive person, I’m like, Well, no news is good news, you know, kind of thing.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht But then Shams gets a hold of it, and any time that Shams puts your team name in the word fear in a tweet, it’s not good.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah. Okay. Let’s talk about this injury. Again, we see it in football quite a bit.

 

Andrew Schlecht Right.

 

Andrew Schleck And of course, you know, any kind of injury to a big guy to seven foot and over basketball player is always a cause historically for a little bit sharper concern.

 

Andrew Schlecht Sure.

 

Jason Concepcion What is this injury?

 

Andrew Schlecht So it’s not a bone break. It’s a tendon that was ruptured. And so there’s actually a pretty great video. I’ve been told that like this video, there’s this doc. I can’t remember what his name is.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah, I’ve seen it many times, but I know the one you’re talking about.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah, he is spot on because he puts this pressure on his leg. You have LeBron driving at him, he’s backpedaling and then he puts like this full force on his right foot as it’s like bending and then tries to kind of explode off of that foot, which it makes much more sense for football players to be in that position, especially like linemen.

 

Jason Concepcion Right.

 

Andrew Schlecht But you try to explore if that foot ends up rupturing this tendon in kind of the middle of his foot area. And it’s pretty bad. You know, I’ve talked to a physician here in Oklahoma City that’s been doing it for a long time doing orthopedic surgery. And he said this is a bad injury. He said it’s not something he can’t come back from, but this is a bad injury like it’s going to take six, he said like a normal person. It would take about six months to recover from. He said with a guy like this, you want to be a lot more careful.

 

Jason Concepcion So let’s zoom out for a second. So the Thunder have in the kind of post KD, post Russell Westbrook years been notably acquiring draft assets, flipping those draft assets for exciting young players and you know like the cynical term would be tanking.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah.

 

Jason Concepcion But we can call it, you know, acquiring young players and developing them, allowing them to play as we continue to stockpile draft assets. And it seemed like this season was certainly going to be one of the potential off ramps for that strategy.

 

Andrew Schlecht Sure.

 

Jason Concepcion Giddey and Holmgren looked so exciting in summer league. Like beyond exciting, you’ve got SGA, you’ve got a really nice young core. This throws that all into certain kind of chaos for sure. But what is the sense around the team about what’s going to happen going forward? Is SGA, for instance, going to be okay with running back the strategy of recent years?

 

Andrew Schlecht Mm hmm. I have heard nothing but positive things from Shai. Even at exit interviews, Shai, you know, ran in to the media room, all smiles and, like, saying, like, what’s up? What’s up, everybody? Like, I didn’t know who that was. I thought it was like Thunder PR or somebody behind us. And he told us that he’s very on board with what the Thunder are doing. Also the fact remains they just signed a five year deal that starts this year.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht And when you have a five year deal with no option on the last year, it’s pretty difficult to have leverage. You know, and this certainly sets the Thunder back and it really sucks for Shai in particular because.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht They have nobody that has gravity on that team.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht Like Josh Giddey, he’s a really good player, but when he’s off ball, no gravity at all.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht All the other guys. Nobody cares about any of those guys.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht Except for Shai. Like Lu Dort fire way, man. I think Lu Dort almost like eight threes a game last year and it’s because nobody cared that he shot the ball. Chet would have had gravity, and he could have had, like, a pick and pop game going pick and roll. He could have had a lot of good passes on the short roll. Like Chet can do a lot of things to kind of unlock that Shai and Giddey pairing people don’t ask me a lot like is is this good? Because it gives Shai and Giddey time to, you know, mold their games because I actually no, because Chet was going to be the link between those two.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht And so we’re really are kind of rewinding a year but if you a lot of people like always you got to trade Shai now but it’s like, wait, wait, wait, wait, stop. Let’s say the Thunder get to the next draft, they draft fifth, and then they get to bring in the fifth pick, whoever that may be and Chet that next season. Then like you have a very young, exciting team if you just wait one more year and I don’t see any reason why you would trade Shai, Because the minute you trade Shai This summer, next summer, you’re like, Okay, how can we get like a 25 point scorer? It’s like, well, he’s just you just traded him last summer. You know, you can’t you can’t turn that guy into picks.

 

Jason Concepcion The X Factor, of course, is do Shai want to stay? And it seems, again, to your point, all indications are he wants to stay. Let’s talk about that draft, because the odds on favorite for this draft is, you know, Francis Victor Wembanyama, another seven foot plus absolute freak. You know, multiple teams are going to be angling to acquire draft assets to maximize their potential to get him. What do you make of, one of the criticisms of Chet has been and this always happens with big guys who get injured was, oh, here we go. Another skinny guy. He’s too skinny to play in the NBA. Yeah. Ignoring that, you know, Brandon Ingram is a guy that plays the NBA, that Kevin Durant is a guy that plays in the NBA. Do you put any stock in that? Like, Oh, they should have got a guy who is more filled out.

 

Andrew Schlecht I mean, if you look at who was left, if Paolo Banchero was there, sure. Right. I think you can make that argument. You look at who was left on the board. I don’t know that there was somebody that the Thunder were particularly enamored with because the Thunder want guys that can shoot, pass and dribble.

 

Jason Concepcion Right.

 

Andrew Schlecht Like they’re looking for guys that are big for their position and skilled for their position. And that’s not Jabari Smith. Sorry, Keegan Murray. That’s not really Jay Ivey either. And then like, what are we doing? So I think that Chet was always going to be the guy. And in fact I think if the Thunder had the number one pick, they would’ve taken Chet anyways because he’s they want five guys on the court that can all grab the ball off the rim and push. And you can say that Paolo can do that but he’s going to do that from the four the most difficult position to find is a guy who can play five and so I think that they were going to take him no matter what. Is it a bummer that he can’t play with this team this year? Yes, but I don’t think they would look back and hope differently of, you know, what they did at the draft.

 

Jason Concepcion Well, one of my friends, a lot of my friends actually are Sixers fans.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah.

 

Jason Concepcion They can’t help but contrast the way Sam Hinkie was like run out of Philly on a rail compared to the real support and gravitas that Sam Presti has essentially doing the same project. Now, you know, as I point out, and as anyone should point out, Sam Presti also had like a long and established track record of building elite level teams before this era of the Thunder. But what do you make of why Sam has been able to execute this, you know, tanking team building project for so long in OKC? What is it about that market that allows him to have that support to go and go ahead and do that?

 

Andrew Schlecht I think it’s because we’ve seen him do it before.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht He did this with the Durant, Westbrook, Harden, the team. This is how he got there. He had good players. He could have taken Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis to Oklahoma City, and then you just try to build around them and hope for the best. But he tore that whole thing down. And I think that you can point back to that and say this is the way. And he also I think he’s really good with his messaging.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht That’s something that Ime I think was not good about like he didn’t talk to the public a whole lot. He didn’t really explain himself. Kind of left that on Brett Brown, which was not good for him. And Sam, you know, Sam got on a mic right after Chet’s injury and explained everything from his side. And I think to me that is a part of why is like he’s not only like a really good GM but like PR wise, like he really does try to get out in front of things and like put his stamp on. Whatever it is, he lets people know that, listen, this is Oklahoma City. We’re never going to get a free agent. The best free agent that has ever come to Oklahoma City is Nerlens Noel and it may not get any better than that. So we have two ways to build the team. It’s their trade or through the draft and we’ve already seen how trade plays out. When you’re trading for a really good player, they likely have one or two years left on their deal. Paul George.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht Paul George thing worked out about as good as it could have for Oklahoma City.

 

Jason Concepcion Yep.

 

Andrew Schlecht And still you only had two seasons with them. And so if you’re actually trying to build a team that can stay together, that you can, you know, fall in love with and, you know, hope that they can win a title. This is the only true way that you can do that.

 

Jason Concepcion The messaging point is, I think, a good one. I completely agree with you in the fact that Sam Hinkie, you know, what he was doing was not some incredibly revolutionary thing in the NBA.

 

Andrew Schlecht Right.

 

Jason Concepcion But I think the mistake he made was not realizing, like I’m in a conference with Boston, with all these other big market teams that are with their reporters paying attention to this, that I need to get in front of what we’re doing and really prepare people for what they’re going to see so they understand what we’re doing. Sam Hinkie, to your point, came out recently with a really effective statement on where the team is post Chet injury. And I think the version of this that really struck me was Sam’s long Q&A at the end of last season.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah.

 

Jason Concepcion Take us through that, because that is a thing that you just don’t see really in the NBA, where a GM will just come out on Zoom or on a video conference and just answer everybody’s questions about what the team is doing.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah, we were at the practice facility. It was after exit interviews. It’s like a few days after and Sam said, I’m going to sit down, I’m going to give an opening statement and then I’m going to answer any question that you guys have about anything. He said whenever we start to talk about the books that we’re reading that I’m reading this summer, that will be a signal that we’re done. And it was like 2 hours of Sam first talked for half an hour just on his own, which is just unbelievable. And then he sat there for an hour and a half and answered every single question, that day was particularly tough for me because I had to pee about an hour and 15 minutes into it.

 

Jason Concepcion What were you doing? You just like grabbing your calf.

 

Andrew Schlecht I was pressing my laptop against my thighs. Like, I’m just I am in anguish because I’m just like, somebody, please ask the book question. And somebody finally did. And I got some relief. The bathroom was very close, but. Yeah, no, it’s great. Sam. Sam is just such an interesting figure because he is he is the Thunder. You know, I think when people think about this team, they think about him.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah, he’s the face of the team. SGA No. Josh Giddey, no. When you want to know what’s, you know, who’s a leader? Who the voice of the Thunder is? It’s Sam Presti.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah, he. And it’s funny because he’s sitting there with Mark Daigneault, who’s the head coach of the team, and this is at summer league. They’re sitting there and I turned to somebody next to me and it’s like, how many people know that? That’s the head coach? Like, everybody knows that. Sam Presti. How many people know that that’s the head coach and how many teams are like that? You know, in the NBA, who knows the general manager more than the coach, right? Like the coaches on TV all the time. Like you should know who that guy is. Like nobody knows who the Thunder head coaches because they’re never on TV. But who do you know? What other team has a more famous executive than head coach? I guess it’s unusual. There’s probably examples out there. Maybe the Heat.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht But like, who else has that? I mean, it’s it is pretty fascinating and it kind of goes to show like what what Sam has been able to do, you know, through the years with his messaging and with the job that he’s done, that he is like he’s the face of the franchise until they get another true superstar.

 

Jason Concepcion What are your hopes for this season and what are your hopes for any kind of, you know, recuperation timeline for Chet? As you said, it seems like they’re going to want to really, really take their time. And this is an injury that can take a lot of time to recuperate from anyway. And that’s not we’re not talking about someone who is a seven foot one elite athlete going into this season. What do you expect to see? You know, what are you hoping to see?

 

Andrew Schlecht I think you hope to see progress from some of these younger guys. I think I got like Josh Giddey that he can take a step forward. Tre Mann, they just signed Lu Dort to this pretty big contract that maybe he can start. And this is one of the things that’s a bummer too about Chet being out, is that Chet was going to put Dort in, like, the role he was going to be in. And now Dort is probably number two scorer again, which is not ideal, but you kind of hope to see more corner threes from Lu. And then what do they have in Jalen Williams? You know, what do they have in Ousmane Dieng? You know, is Poku an NBA player? Like those are the things that you can kind of figure out this season. So there’s there’s going to be things to take away on the court. But honestly, this is like another fast forward to the middle of May like with the lottery again.

 

Jason Concepcion Is Poku an NBA player? I mean, he’s certainly a meme. And there were some flashes. Is he NBA guy?

 

Andrew Schlecht I have no idea. I have absolute, no clue. I have seen every professional game of Poku, including G-League games.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht And I have no idea. I don’t know what he is. I don’t know what he’s going to be. He is. He’s fascinating, though. He he did shoot 40% from the field, which is like a mark that I put at the beginning of the season, like, dear God, please let this guy please shoot 40% from the field. And he did that. So that’s good. But to me, it’s going to be all about like efficiency with him.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht Now they’ve put him in places to succeed. He hasn’t really done it yet. He’s still super young. I think he’s just turned 21. So we’re not or he hadn’t even turned 21. He turns 21 in December. So he’s still 20 years old. He’s actually younger than a lot of guys that were just drafted.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht I mean, that’s only excuse for so long. This is your three as well.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht So it’s to me, some work ethic stuff has been called into question which is like, oh boy, like he’s already not good enough, this one work ethic stuff. So there’s so to me this is a big year. I don’t know what he’s been doing the summer. I don’t know how summer’s gone. I’m very interested to see what he looks like in pre-season because if he has to go to the G League again, it’s not a good sign. This may be Bruno 2.0.

 

Jason Concepcion How much do you think about Wembanyama?

 

Andrew Schlecht Not a whole lot, because I’m somebody who likes to guard my heart and I like to I don’t like to put my eggs in one basket. So I’m more thinking about Cam Whitmore.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht That’s that’s that seems like a good place to put your eggs. Like, he maybe is like the fourth or fifth prospect in this draft class. And then if you have the opportunity to get Wembanyama, I’m like, great. But yeah, no, I don’t, I don’t devote any energy to that until I actually see it come to fruition.

 

Jason Concepcion This is kind of a silly question, but it’s also one that I think, you know, in light of Chet’s injury, that it’s impossible not to think about like any trepidation about letting young players play in pro-am stuff like this. I was summer league is a different thing. You’re developing chemistry with you’re with your team. You’re understanding kind of what your new team is going to be asking of you. You know, very often these summer league teams will run some kind of like scaled down version of whatever offense the team is running, whatever defensive scheming etcetera, but a pro-am. Now, this is, you know, you’re the opportunity to play with LeBron James.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah.

 

Jason Concepcion With Tatum, etc.. I don’t know how you turn that down as a young player. That is so exciting. At the same time, what do you think? Is there any way to ask a player, Hey, can you think twice about this, please?

 

Andrew Schlecht I don’t think so. Like these guys are they’re playing basketball. I mean, they’re going to play basketball no matter what, you know? And weird things can happen.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht You know, Danilo Gallinari just got hurt like that super sucks, too, I guess. Just. I mean, it’s just part of the game.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Andrew Schlecht You want to be reactionary because it’s like he doesn’t have to do this, right? He doesn’t have to be there. But also, if you’re a fan of this particular player, don’t you want them to be there? Don’t you want them to, like, want high level competition all the time? So it’s just kind of it’s sucks that it happened, but to look at it and say this is the wrong thing to do, like, no, this is an NBA sanctioned pro-am.

 

Jason Concepcion Right.

 

Andrew Schlecht You know, put on by a former NBA player like this is not going to play at the YMCA. You know, this is a legit thing. And there was obviously, you know, the the wet floor was not ideal, especially optically. I don’t really think it had anything to do with it because if you look at the way that he was able to still like try to push off on his foot, he didn’t slip.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah, there’s no slip.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah. If he slipped, then it would just be like, oh, boy. Okay.

 

Jason Concepcion I should add, the game was canceled in the second quarter because of moisture conditions on the court. But again, to your point, that did not it certainly did not appear that that wetness was the issue behind Chet’s injury.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah. So there’s a lot of unfortunate things, and I actually feel bad for Jamal Crawford in all of this because because he’s probably super stressed out about how man like this guy got hurt, you know, really hurt his career. It’s like, man, this is just the game, man. You know, as I get older, I have stopped playing pick up. But when I would, I did, you know, I had like three of my friends have like serious leg injuries in that time, like just a part of playing sports and it just sucks. Like, it’s just one of the worst parts of it. Yeah, but it’s just a part of it. And to say like, Hey, you should stop playing, right? Those guys are going to go play somewhere anyways, whether it’s NBA sanctioned or not. And you want those guys to love the game. That’s the biggest red flag you can have for a star player is I don’t know if they love the game.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah, I don’t know if they want to play.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah, that to me that is way worse. Whereas like, you know what Chet, he is like Anthony Davis, hadn’t touched a basketball in a long time. You know that, that those kind of stories like those are more concerning, like this one sucks, but to me, I’d be more concerned about a player like, yeah, I know they love basketball that much.

 

Jason Concepcion Well, Andrew, I can hear the hurt in your voice and and and I wish you the best. Listen, obviously, it’s not ideal. At the same time, I think, you know, some thinking about recent guys who sat out their first year because of injuries, etc., whether it’s, you know, Ben Simmons or Embid, it turned out okay and turned out for the best. So I’m hoping that is the case because man, Chet is freaking exciting at his size. The things that he can do, the way he can move, the kind of skill that he has.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah.

 

Jason Concepcion Blocking shots and scoring. I’ll be excited to see him back on the court, man.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah. Same here, man. It’s terrible because in summer league, the arena was just electric when he was out there. And you just were, you know, hoping to see that with Shai, with Giddey, with Poku, even. And, you know, you have that stripped from you. It’s it sucks.

 

Jason Concepcion I mean, Giddey and Chet. I mean, that was. You could tell how much Giddey appreciated these passes that he’s been throwing, like, had a home. All of a sudden, you know, like.

 

Andrew Schlecht Yeah. No doubt that I’m not throwing the ball to Darius Bazely anymore. I’m throwing it to a guy that I can be playing with for for a long time. And Giddey’s kind of an interesting guy because he didn’t really have anybody I would say that he was like close with on the team last year and he already seems to have like a real affinity for Chet. And so you were kind of hoping to see that bromance blossom during the season, and now we don’t get to see that. It’s just it’s just a I’m sad now. I told you I was good at the beginning of the episode. Now I’m sad.

 

Jason Concepcion Well. Andrew, again, I wish you the best and good luck and quick recovery for Chet. Awesome. Thanks, man. And I’ll be watching the Thunder. Thanks for joining us, man.

 

Andrew Schlecht I appreciate it.

 

Jason Concepcion <A.D.>.

 

Jason Concepcion College football season is here, which means it’s time to dust off my Rutgers jersey. What a run they had some years back and whatever. And there’s a lot to look forward to this year, including realignment, the shattering of age old rivalries, the Big Ten fleeing its home since the Reagan administration to a panoply of new homes across multiple networks and a $1 billion a year annual payday. P.S. These players are still technically amateurs. To help us break down all of this is the great Nicole Auerbach college football reporter for the Athletic named the 2020 national sports writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Just one of the best legitimately to ever do it. Nicole, welcome to Takeline. Nicole, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Nicole Auerbach Yeah, thanks for having me.

 

Jason Concepcion Take us through this landmark Big Ten deal. You know, $7 billion over the life of the contract, $1,000,000,000 a year. Multiple networks are going to carry the games. Tell us about this deal and tell us how it changes the sport.

 

Nicole Auerbach Yeah, well, I think, you know, the money is obviously a big headline topic. And the idea of a college conference making over $1,000,000,000 a year in media rights revenue alone, in in a world where, yes, athletes are compensated for NIL. But it’s you know, we’re not talking about employees employers. We’re not talking about revenue sharing. I think that is it draws attention just to that. And I feel like there’s been actually.

 

Jason Concepcion For sure.

 

Nicole Auerbach Quite a lot of attention around that, like C.J. Stroud, the Ohio State quarterback, bringing it up and talking about it as well, kind of coming out of this. But it’s also structured in a very interesting way. I think, you know, everyone everyone’s curious to see how much are these brands and like pro leagues or people willing to go into streaming? How much are they going to dip their toe into there? So obviously, they partner and they have grown to have eight Big Ten football games on Peacock per year. I think we’ll see that more with basketball. They’ll have a lot more basketball games that people will have to seek out and go find. But the more interesting pieces to go with over the air, linear national networks, major audiences leaning into that and going away from ESPN. I mean, I think that’s been, you know, really massive. And every time I’ve talked to anyone throughout the industry, that’s one of the first things they bring up is I can’t believe the Big Ten is leaving ESPN or ESPN didn’t do what it took to get the Big Ten, depending on how you know, which side you come on that. But that’s pretty stunning. And it says a lot about, again, I think kind of the way we consume live sports and consume content these days is the Big Ten is betting that you’ll find wherever the game is and you’ll turn it on to watch the game. But you’re probably also getting your news and your storylines and your talking points in your interest, interesting things that you consume about college football elsewhere, and you don’t have to be on SportsCenter highlights. You don’t have to be, you know, thinking about the ESPN Studio Show. So I think that is also a very interesting dynamic of this deal.

 

Jason Concepcion ESPN has been the home of the Big Ten since the eighties. Why did they not go in for this? What caused the separation?

 

Nicole Auerbach So I think you probably go all the way back to the beginning of the Big Ten Network and just sort of some of the dynamics there and the way that it was created. You know, obviously the Big Ten own part of it, Fox is the partner of the Big Two and owns the Big Ten Network now, which is very different than like the SEC network and the ACC network, which are ESPN properties, but also the ESPN and ABC and and ABC and Disney. They went all in with the SEC in their last deal. So they have an exclusive relationship with them. Like we’re not going to have the big game of the week on CBS. It’s going to be on Big Ten game actually at 3:30. The reason the CBS wanted that to be part of that package. But, you know, so they’re going all in with the FCC. And I think, first of all, you have a couple of different questions of like, well, you know, who are they going to push? Where are they going to pick for game day locations? Who are they going to support? I mean, they have a financial interest in the FCC. They have an incentive for the FCC to do what they can to have the FCC succeed. And so I think you have some of that. And then obviously also like where would you put those Big ten games because you’re going to have the best FCC games for primetime and all these different time slots.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach So I think it’s some of it’s like, well, we, we have these other college football properties. Do we need the Big Ten? And then also like the price point, the Big Ten is asking for it. That’s what ESPN will say. Like they’re asking for a lot for not even the same type of package that ESPN previously had. And so, you know, they were willing to walk away. But it is going to be really, really weird. I don’t think you’re going to have a situation like that happened when hockey left ESPN, where the networks just didn’t talk about hockey. It was like never a highlight. It was it didn’t exist. I think you’re still going to have that because.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach You’re not going to be able to talk about college football, not talk about Ohio State.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach But it is an interesting dynamic, especially because ESPN is the exclusive partner of the playoff for another four years, too. So, you know, those teams will eventually play on ESPN in non-conference or in the CFP, but it’s going to be strange to turn on the game at like noon eastern on a Saturday and not have like Purdue- Iowa. I mean, like there’s just like there’s a tradition that, you know, we’ll just feel weird.

 

Jason Concepcion This TV deal comes on the heels of some significant realignment USC, UCLA moving to the PAC 12 to the Big Ten. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in July that more realignment is probably coming. What do you think the effects of all of this, all of these changes, it’s going to be on the sport.

 

Nicole Auerbach So overall, I think it’s just an increasing professionalization of college football. You know, we’ve obviously been moving in that direction for a long time. But when you have a conference that now goes from L.A. to New York and, you know, a UCLA soccer player going to play Rutgers is a conference game and that’s going to happen on a weeknight. I mean, that just becomes very hard to say that this is about, you know, kind of the purity of competition or amateurism and all of the things that Bill always says. So, yeah, it’s obviously about money and market, but I think so you have that happening. And then also with the realignment, it’s consolidation, which I don’t think anyone who grew up on college football is happy about or likes. I think we all understand why these things are happening and, you know, everyone’s worried about their financial security in the future. So if you’re UCLA and USC and you’ve a chance to join the Big Ten and potentially like double your your your payday each year to sit to make sure you don’t have to cut sports so you can support your teams, you can compete for national championships. If there is a world where you have to pay players, you have more income coming in to then distribute whatever that might happen. I get why people want to go to the SEC and the Big Ten, but it’s definitely not great for competitive balance. I don’t think it’s great for the rivalries that we love, like the regional flare of college sports goes away.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach But I just think we are moving much more towards that and professionalization of college sports in parallel and intersecting tracks. And so it’s just sort of like everyone’s trying to everyone wants to be in the room that gets to decide like what the next iteration of college sports is. And they’re also prepared for like if a court or Congress tells you to do something, you want to be in the best resourced school. So like all of that coming together creates a very interesting dynamic, but it becomes very, very hard to to think about like, again, some of those talking points the NCAA has used for years in court.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach Like it becomes very hard to to to think that there’s any teeth to that.

 

Jason Concepcion You mentioned Congress and some recent rulings regarding name, image and likeness proceeds and the players being able to profit off of their own image in their own likeness. How does this massive influx of money into the sport that is still ostensibly amateur? Affect how that money gets parsled out. And I should add, like, you know, we’re going through a conversation about student loan restructuring and forgiveness in this country. Of course, that’s not a connected issue, not that that matters in American politics. But you could see people saying, wait a second, didn’t I just see the colleges are making like $1,000,000,000 a year and all of a sudden, like we’re asking taxpayers to bail out students. Like there’s going to be a conversation about how much money these universities are making. How does that affect the structure of the sport?

 

Nicole Auerbach I think that there’s a lot of people who work in and around college sports who are ready to fight that battle to the to the dying breath. Right. Like they’re like this is what college sports is. One of the foundational pillars is that they’re not employees, that they’re not paid to play the sport. That’s what makes it different. That’s what makes it unique. And so they’re the ones saying, like, we will fight this until like a court forces us to do something about that. And also cynically, you could be like, well, why would anyone voluntarily like give up revenue or voluntarily share something else unless they have to. But.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach I do think there are a lot of people that are preparing for reality where there is revenue sharing or collective bargaining or employee employer. I mean, one of the lawsuits that’s working its way through the system right now, Johnson versus the NCAA, is basically just saying, well, why can’t they just at least the hourly wage employees if the student who is working in concessions at the game is paid that way and also is on a work study or a scholarship, yet they’re able to be paid an hourly wage. Why can’t the players? Right. So like there’s a couple of different ways that this is being challenged. And then obviously this has become teeing off on the NCAA, has become a bipartisan issue, which is very impressive in the current polarized environment.

 

Jason Concepcion Yes.

 

Nicole Auerbach These people can come together to to attack the NCAA. So there’s also like different ways, you know, some of the Democrat sponsored bills, you know, go far beyond just NIL and would address some of the stuff or unionization or revenue sharing or different pieces or health care, you know, for the rest of their lives. There’s a number of potential ways that this goes, but it just feels like the current situation with NIL is like a stopgap, like it doesn’t feel like this is where it’s going to end up. I don’t know how many years it will take, and I don’t know which Domino will be the one that falls, that actually changes the business model. But it definitely feels like the financial model is going to shift because it will have to. The question is, does anyone get in front of it proactively like they did not with NIL and propose some sort of, you know, revenue sharing arrangement or parameters or do we have to wait until a court mandates it? But it definitely doesn’t feel like this is going to be where we stay. And I think, you know, the openness and with which a lot of administrators and commissioners are talking about things like revenue sharing, to me that would have been just blasphemy. I mean, no one would have said these words five years ago, ten years ago. So I do think a lot of people are starting to talk about these things more as an inevitability. They just don’t know what the shape will be because you just don’t know which if it is a specific lawsuit, if it is Congress, if it is something specific, like what specifically shapes how they’re going to have to do it. But it does feel inevitable in a lot of ways.

 

Jason Concepcion This Big Ten TV deal has multiple networks sharing this content. You have FOX, CBS, NBC through their actual channel and of course, the Peacock platform. And it feels like the other shoe to drop is not just in college football, but in sports. Writ large is when Apple, Amazon, etc. make a big push for sports. And we’re seeing it happen in small ways. Of course, you know, Apple TV plus has MLB games. There’s going to be NFL games on Amazon, but do you expect that to happen in the near term with college football? And what do you think the effects might be?

 

Nicole Auerbach Well, it’s definitely clear that Amazon wants to be in these spaces and is bidding pretty aggressively on some of these sports products that they’re not landing. So I think everyone’s definitely watching the way that they dip their toe in and have now obviously built up around Thursday Night Football. The Apple Friday night baseball games has been a very interesting and totally different approach as well. So I think everyone’s sort of tracking on this. I think the Big Ten was probably intrigued by I think those partnerships, especially Amazon, I think would be very interesting. And but but there’s still so much pushback, especially with these, you know, older audiences, like a college football audience and baseball. I think specifically, like, you know, you’re just everyone can picture right there their grandpa trying to log in.

 

Jason Concepcion Where’s the game? Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach How do you do it? Like calling up the grandchild to log them in and just hope that they just leave it alone and can watch. Right. So I think there’s still resistance when you talk to like athletic directors and people on campuses about their audiences and about their fan bases. But I do think this is a smart way to do it. For the Big Ten standpoint, they picked one of the cheaper options and they picked one that already has a relationship with NBC. Notre Dame fans had to use it for a Peacock game last year when they nearly lost to Toledo. I also figured out that I had it as well at that point because scrambling to figure out how I could watch the Notre Dame game. So I think, you know, they’re watching to see if the behaviors change and then if you could have more packages on those types of partners, because, you know, as we think about potential future Big Ten expansion, if they go west and they add more West Coast teams and now they could sell a late night Saturday night package. I mean, yes, ESPN, that’s a valuable property for that. Those are the only games that are on in that window. Or does Amazon do some of these other partners want to go in? I think it’s still a question because even what the Big Ten did, even with the amount of basketball games that are going to be on Peacock, it’s still not the same as, you know, what MLS did or some of these other partners that are really going all in which again, I think soccer audiences are much more used to.

 

Jason Concepcion Yeah.

 

Nicole Auerbach Paying for what they value with the year round thing, whatever it is. But yeah, I think that’s going to be interesting to track on. And then obviously the PAC 12’s media deal is now being negotiated. They open up their window early and, you know, their tech companies are literally in their footprint. You’ve got to think that the PAC 12 would want to be innovative, would try something different. So I think as we wait to see, you know, when these trends are really going to change, we have to watch to see the success of something like Thursday Night Football, the success of Friday Night Baseball, and then again to see like who’s doing what in the college space, because it’s just traditionally older, you know, more rural type audiences that people are, I think are just a little bit too hesitant to go all in on streaming.

 

Jason Concepcion She’s Nicole Auerbach, senior college football writer for The Athletic. Nicole, thank you so much for joining Takeline. This was very informative.

 

Nicole Auerbach Yeah, thank you for having me. Any time.

 

Jason Concepcion That’s it for us. Follow. Subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show. Check out my pop culture and entertainment podcast, X-ray Vision, which comes out every Friday. Check it out, FYI. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and Sound Design by the Great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kellman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.