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ATHLETICS

Nebraska athletics proposing $300 million multimedia deal, beer at basketball and more

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Nebraska athletics is set to sign a massive multimedia rights deal, start serving alcohol at PBA and begin the conversation of overhauling Memorial Stadium.

LINCOLN — Nebraska's athletic department has been busy making changes inside the football program — and is now making bold moves off the field, too. 

With three different proposals set for vote at Nebraska's Sept. 30 Board of Regents meeting, NU intends to sign a 15-year, $301 million multimedia deal that starts Oct. 1, begin serving alcohol at Nebraska men's and women's basketball games and engage a program management service as it begins perhaps the largest project of all: Overhauling Memorial Stadium. 

Husker Athletic Director Trev Alberts, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and system president Ted Carter convened with reporters Thursday inside North Stadium to discuss the changes since the Sept. 30 meeting will be held at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. 

"This stuff is transformational to us and for us," Alberts said. 

The multimedia deal, made with PlayFly Sports, includes $273.6 million in guaranteed payments over the life of the contract, which runs through June 2038. The average annual value, Alberts said, is $18.2 million.  The deal which has a "look in" provision in the ninth year, also includes $2.25 million in an NIL fund, which PlayFly can distribute to Husker athletes through brand sponsorships or, in theory, appearances on NU-related shows.

"I would assume it would be one of the most lucrative deals in the MMR space that is out there," said Alberts, who noted the value of NU's MMR deal increased thanks to UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten. "...I think it's just really reflective of our fans." 

When Nebraska took, for 15 months, its multimedia services in house, it could not, by NCAA rule, supply athletes with NIL monies. PlayFly, founded by former Comcast executive Michael Schreiber, is a third-party administrator of NU's media rights. 

"When you think about it as a college administrator, we are finding a whole new leg to the stool that we never had before," Schreiber said on the Athletic Director U podcast this summer. 

Based in suburban Philadelphia PlayFly — which sells ads for the Pac-12 Networks — has recently signed deals with Central Florida, East Carolina, Wichita State and Villanova. Nebraska is one of PlayFly's biggest whale in the multimedia rights market. 

Pinnacle Bank Arena will be the first venue where Nebraska athletics effectively tests, for a two-year period, alcohol sales at NU sporting events. The City of Lincoln, which owns PBA, will keep a proposed 90% of booze revenue, while NU keeps 10%. PBA successfully served alcohol without known incident at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships this spring. Haymarket Park, Devaney Sports Center and Memorial Stadium are not part of the alcohol proposal, nor are any other NU facilities, although Green and Alberts said it's possible, if the PBA pilot goes well and a thorny Haymarket Park contract can be figured out, that alcohol sales could be possible there, as well. 

"We feel the time is right to move forward with this now," Green said of the PBA pilot program. 

Memorial Stadium likely lacks the current infrastructure to easily manage volume alcohol sales - "we'd be an abject failure" - and it's one item NU has considered in its yearlong examination of the stadium's strengths and weaknesses. Husker Athletic Director Trev Alberts commissioned a survey, filled out by thousands, to help guide what comes next: A step-by-step process to reimagine the stadium and the creation of a fundraising plan, mostly through private donors, that fits the vision. NU's proposal to the Board of Regents gives Nebraska a chance begin the planning process. 

"The complexity and magnitude of this project requires the coordination of many moving parts, including fundraising, programming, design and construction," the proposal reads. "Due to the success of the University’s deferred maintenance program and the multitude of capital projects system­wide, a project of this size would put strain on an already busy University facilities team. Therefore, Nebraska Athletics recommends the engagement of a third party to provide Program Management Services through a qualification based selection process, selected by an internal evaluation team comprised of members of Nebraska Athletics, UNL, and Office of the President."

The program manager would then act in NU's interest. 

While Alberts has been broad in unpacking his vision for the stadium, NU's fan survey indicated interest in more comfortable seats and alcohol sales, among other items. NU's capacity would likely go down and the south end zone may be reconfigured as a more premium experience than the biggest, widest swath of the red sea. 

The stadium project is likely to occur in waves, with lots of changes to stadium seating, and be very complex, Carter said. 

"We are literally going to be repairing and rebuilding an airplane while we're flying it," Carter said. 

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