Third-party influence may soon shake foundation of college football impacting conferences, programs

The conversation — a notably preliminary one — took place in December 2022. Around a table were venture capitalists and private equity types. The super-rich don’t get that way sitting on their assets. They plan. They innovate. They create change; they don’t wait for it.

So, at some point in the conversation, the question was posed: What would it take to “buy” a conference, invest at the base level of college athletics itself?

After some noodling, they agreed: $1 billion.

There’s even a conference out there that would be available. You haven’t heard of it. Nobody has.

It resides in the mind of media consultant Patrick Crakes. He was the one speaking with those investors who are beginning to see great potential in reshaping college athletics.

“Take $1 billion and roll up all the best teams into a new conference,” said Crakes, who spent a quarter century as an executive at Fox Sports. “The best ones you can find who will go. Four or five from the Pac-12. Four or five Big 12 schools. Four or five from the ACC. Maybe there’s a Big Ten or two that comes. You’ve got a conference.”

All of it is brainstorm residue for now, the stuff pipe dreams are made of. Perhaps not actionable for 3-5 years but a glimpse at the biggest problem in the ongoing realignment discussion: how to stay relevant.

Crakes says there are only handful of persons in the country with the means and interest to strike such a deal. Not because they’re the richest. This would be a unique investment with a million working parts. There would have to be a motivation as well: unique, unprecedented ownership.

The mere fact that it’s being discussed — even in a precursory manner — offers a peek into the future. College athletics has always been a closed loop. Sure, there…


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