Some reactions to the latest developments in conference realignment:
Nebraska – More than doubling your TV money, raising the academic profile of the university overall and not having the Austin bogey-man anymore in the shotgun reconciliation of the Big 12-ish? Not bad.
Big Ten – A week ago, we were wondering if Jim Delany might have gotten played by Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and Delany protege Kevin Weiberg. As it stands now, though, the Big Ten is the only conference that is clearly stronger than before by adding one of the top 10 programs of all-time and the formation of a lucrative conference championship game. With the apparent new TV money getting thrown at the Big 12, one could only imagine the type of increase that the Big Ten is going to garner with another marquee school in the fold. Now, I do believe that it’s going to be necessary for the Big Ten to address shifting population trends in the long-term (whether it’s going to the East Coast or after some Southern-based schools), but if we stay at 12 with just Nebraska for awhile, I believe most Big Ten partisans are going to be perfectly fine with that.
Texas – I’ll be honest: I severely underestimated the need for Texas to have control as opposed to sheer money (although they go hand-in-hand). Sure, lots of Big 12 partisans have complained about the Texas control for years, but I always thought it was overstated and that the “control” really came in the form of simply TV revenue. Well, it appears that they really do love control over everything else since they just turned down a spectacular opportunity to effectively bring all of its rivals to a more stable and prestigious conference with larger markets in the Pac-10 in order to save the Big 12-ish. As I noted in the “Underrated Players in Conference Realignment” post a few weeks ago, the Longhorn Sports Network turned out to be critical. Why the heck Texas still believes that a solo sports network will be better off in the long-term compared to a share in the Big Ten Network or what would’ve been created in the Pac-10 is beyond me, but DeLoss Dodds is going to get his chance to create his baby. Regardless, Texas got what it wanted: more control over its own conference and expanded local TV rights, which translates into more revenue across-the-board. Like the Big Ten, though, this is only a temporary win for Texas. The way that the Big 12-ish got a reprieve isn’t exactly a harbinger of conference stability, so we might be going through this process again with the Longhorns in 5 years or so.
II. LOTS OF HOPE
Utah – Within the span of a couple of days, the Utes went from thinking that they’d never have a chance to move in with their Pac-10 brethren if the Pac-16 came to fruition to now being at the top of the list for a natural pairing with Utah in the new Pac-12.
III. GLAD TO BE ALIVE
Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri, Baylor – Wow, these guys were fucked up until today. Especially Mizzou, whose fans were trying to figure out the best routes to Laramie after dreaming of Ann Arbor and Madison road trips for several months. From the very beginning in the Big Ten Expansion Index post, I believed that Missouri’s role would more likely be that of a stalking horse for other schools that the Big Ten was targeting and it ended up being completely true. I know that I’ve been accused by some Missouri alums of supposedly having some type of Illini bias (which is ridiculous since Illinois would’ve been the school that could’ve benefited the most by adding Mizzou), but I honestly didn’t want to see that school or any of the others in the Big 12 North get shut out without a home. So, these schools will live on in a BCS home, yet it’s going to be an even more tenuous relationship with its fellow conference-mates for a long time.
Colorado – It got into its long-time natural home of the Pac-10 after being threatened to have it taken away by Ken Starr’s Right Wing Conspiracy. With the Big 12-ish surviving, though, CU is looking at a lone move to a conference that may not really pay more TV revenue compared to its old situation… and this is an athletic department whose checks bounce off of the ground like Super Balls. Still, if you had to bet you entire life savings on which conference would be more likely to exist 10 years from now, would you put it on the Big 12-ish or the Pac Televen? Call me crazy, but I’ll take the odds on the latter. With that being the case, this was a good long-term move for CU even if it might be a short-term hit to the budget.
Dan Beebe – The Big 12-ish commissioner gets a ton of credit for slapping together a better TV deal for theconference in such a short period of time (although it looks like he got by with a little help from his friends), but fans have a right to ask where the bloody hell was that TV deal before it lost a marquee school (Nebraska) and its largest market outside of the state of Texas (Denver). At least the @DanBeebe Twitter feed has been awesome through all of this.
IV. TO BE DETERMINED
Pac-10 – As I’ve explained before, the Pac-10 could never compete with the Big Ten and SEC financially in order to lure a school like Texas, so it leveraged its main asset of flexibility to make a massive power play to annex half of the Big 12. For the Pac-10 to have had a chance to move into the same financial tier as the Big ten and SEC, it absolutely had to throw down its best and most aggressive offer. With the gamble not working, the Pac-10 is now stuck at 11 with a decent school with a decent market in Colorado (essentially the equivalent of what Missouri was looked at by the Big Ten). It’s expected that the Pac-10 will move in on Utah as opposed to staying as the Pac Televen, but it’s clear that the West Coast league is going to be stuck in the second financial tier for the foreseeable future. I’ve got to give Larry Scott and Kevin Weiberg a ton of credit, though – they had the cajones to put it all on the line these past two weeks and pushed the timetable for realignment forward.
Big Ten Hopefuls Elsewhere – Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, maybe Maryland? The latest rumored candidates of Boston College or Georgia Tech? What the Big Ten is going to do over the next 12-18 months is still up in the air. It is clear from all of the information that I’ve seen that Texas was the #1 target for the league, so it’s going to take some time to re-assess if and where it wants to expand to next. Rutgers may still become a Big Ten member eventually, but the fact that a superconference wasn’t formed on the West Coast and Texas isn’t part of Big Ten expansion is going to slow down the timeline drastically.
General BCS Hopefuls – Schools like BYU, TCU, Memphis, East Carolina and UCF all have been harboring BCS conference dreams and were even banking on a massive fallout, but with not much of an upheaval at this time, the waiting continues. I believe that the Big 12-ish would be well-served to add BYU for sure, yet it appears the financial argument for that conference to bring in replacements is fairly weak. (Note that I love TCU yet understand that the Horned Frogs don’t bring a new market to the Big 12-ish.)
So, out all of the speculation and millions of hours of productivity lost in offices across the nation this past week refreshing Orangebloods, we have the Big Ten adding Nebraska, the Pac-10 adding Colorado and the Mountain West adding Boise State. The college sports world won’t be experiencing a massive upheaval this week, but with the Big 12-ish progressing on shaky ground (similar to the Big East after the 2003 ACC raid) and Notre Dame always out there as a paradigm-shifting free agent, the rumors will undoubtedly continue to percolate. Don’t worry about me not having things to write about for the next few weeks – I’m on every LeBron-to-the-Bulls rumor like white on rice.
(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)
(Image from Big 12 Conference)