Let's be honest. There's some pretty interesting media items that will need to be sorted out this year with the coverage of college football. Here's my items that come to mind.
1) Expansion - Big Ten and PAC-10 are talking about it. PAC-10 is using it like the ACC used it, to get a substantial increase in rights fees from someone and to get better coverage of their conference. Big Ten is already king and because of the academic stature of those schools, plenty of schools around the country would love to be in that mix.
I'm not naive to think that it won't happen, but the schools being courted have many things to consider. Is the move going to be a step up in revenue? What will our travel costs be? What are the politics in state going to be regarding keeping a school in its current place?
2) Contract negotiation - Both the ACC and Conference USA enter the final year of their deals with their rightsholders.
In the ACC they have several decisions to make since their football and basketball rightsholders are two different entities. ABC/ESPN owns the primary FB rights, but because of the new SEC deal, the ACC saw 16 of their games, specifically conference games and games vs. other FBS teams, moved to the ESPN360 service which is not available in all ACC areas. That number is one more than the previous four seasons combined. The conference saw the fewest number of ACC controllled games televised on all ABC/ESPN networks. Its conference championship game was moved to ESPN after four years on ABC in the hopes of strengthening the attendance at the game, which has been less than ideal.
Meanwhile, ACC basketball has been viewed at times as underachieving as a conference despite UNC winning a pair of national titles recently as the conference has had a pair of recent season where it only sent four teams to the tournament. It is also spread out over several networks with Raycom owing the telecast rights, then selling off the majority of games to other entities.
FOX has been the entity that has been rumored to be kicking the tires of the ACC rights and with the ACC's performance and recent economic trends, FOX might be the only entity that could give them a substantial increase in rights fees.
As for C-USA, my opinion is that the contracts they signed starting with 2005 were based more on speculation since half the conference members turned over. No one new what to expect. Come this season and C-USA has not had a team finish in the top 25 of either football poll in the current configuration and has only had one multi-bid season for the men's basketball championship. The conference has more national coverage than any other non-AQ in football, but have they deserved that? CBS College overpaid for the rights, but they still cede the best games to ESPN. Do they attempt to go for the whole package or does the conference decide that's its exposure on ESPN, weeknight FB games and as many conference games as the Horizon League and CAA, is still worth it? And will either entity provide an offer that is close to what C-USA wants?
Timeline for game announcements
And most of these dates are not hard-and-fast dates
Late-February through early March - the five non-AQ conferences should finalize their schedules. ESPN is likely playing a hand in picking games from each of these conferences except the Mountain West where they are working with Versus and CBS College to schedule their games.
April 1st - Around this time, schedules are completely finalized as ESPN will move a couple games/opponents around to get some made for TV matchups.
Mid-April - Big Ten tends to finalize its schedule of night games. This is done so far in advance because several stadiums within the conference do not have permanent lighting and arragements must be made to bring in temporary lights.
May 1st - ABC/ESPN selects several games for telecast from the PAC-10 and finalizes their telecast windows.
Late May/early June - Big Ten schools set their homecoming dates and kickoff times. They may also set the TV arragements for those games.
June 1st - The PAC-10 has their FSN and Versus telecast windows set and another set of games may be preselected for telecast.
Mid-June - All networks generally set their 1st three weeks of telecasts.
As the summer moves on, regional TV packages may be set and often the conference media days in July and August will release this information.