Thoughts from the rubble: ten realignment observations

Assuming that the Texas delegation departs the Big XII next week, here’s a list of winners, losers and things yet to be determined (obviously if DeLoss Dodds changes his mind for some unknown reason, you can tear this post up and start over):

  1. Jim Delany. Going into this, it’s now apparent that he had two goals:  add a twelfth member to the Big Ten and add Notre Dame to the Big Ten.  The ideal scenario would have been to combine both in one move, but as it is, he’s achieved the first and still retains the possibility of attaining the second.  The Big East talk was nothing more than a smokescreen to leverage Notre Dame with; that’s why he continues to maintain the position that things stay in play over the next eighteen months.  In the meantime, he’s added real value to his conference, both with a championship game that should bring in around $15 million to the coffers and with the admission of one of college football’s marquee programs.  Plus, he lets the Pac-10 handle the exploratory dirty work of making a 16-member conference functional.  He’s a ruthless prick (nice move formally announcing the addition of Nebraska during Beebe’s press conference), but all you can say is well-played, sir.
  2. Dan Beebe. It’s not pretty watching somebody get whipsawed by the likes of Delany and Dodds.  Looking back on what transpired, it’s hard to see that anything will go down as dumber than issuing that ultimatum to Nebraska (or allowing it to be issued, if that’s the case).  All it did was give both Nebraska and Texas a final reason to leave the conference.  Look for he and Lew Perkins to open a consulting service after the dust has settled.
  3. Larry Scott. His place in college football history is assured, but it might be premature to start throwing a ticker tape parade for him just yet.  He’s now running a sprawling operation that has the potential to be a logistical nightmare, particularly for non-revenue sports.  He is faced with the unprecedented task of making a sixteen-school conference work.  He’s got to figure out a structure for his new baby – will there be a conference championship game?  will he lobby for two AQ slots in the BCS? – that satisfies his membership.  He’s got to put together a TV network, a task that may not be nearly as easy as it sounds.  And he’s got to do all of this facing the reality that he may not be the most powerful figure in his conference (if he doesn’t make the money work, you can take the word “may” out of this sentence).  Plus, the potential Kansas invite strikes me as a weak move driven more by ego than financial considerations.  The jury is going to be out on Scott for a while.
  4. Jack Swarbrick. He didn’t buy what Delany was selling and to this point has been successful in keeping Notre Dame where it wants to be – an independent with college football cachet.  If he continues to read Delany correctly, Notre Dame will be fine.  I wonder how things would have played out if he and Beebe swapped roles.
  5. Nebraska. Unlike Beebe, they saw the whipsaw coming and got out in front of it.  They’re going to get painted as the bad guys in the Big XII saga, but I doubt they care.  They’ve landed in a stable power conference and significantly enhanced their sports revenue.  Considering how much they faced losing if things broke the wrong way, they’re the biggest winners in all of this.
  6. Mike Slive. The Pac-10 going to sixteen doesn’t really matter.  The Big Ten going to sixteen would, but it hasn’t happened yet.  And may not.  As I’ve said before, he faces different considerations than Scott and Delany do, but I’m guessing he’s gamed out what he wants to do.  Which means that if he is in fact courting Texas A&M, he’s determined that enlarging the SEC to a fourteen-team league is a net gain.  We’ll see if and how he gets there.
  7. The Big East. At some point soon, relief at not being raided is going to give way to the realization that the only value it has now is as leverage for Notre Dame.  This isn’t a good time to be football-irrelevant.
  8. The ACC. They’ve got to be holding their breaths.  Do they go after some Big East schools?  What if that doesn’t make financial sense?  Do they let the SEC pick off FSU or Virginia Tech if that conference expands?
  9. The Big XII. I must be missing something here.  I understand that the entire free world assumes that the conference will cease to exist in the near future.  And Dan Beebe is certainly not a figure who inspires confidence.  But it seems to me that the conference still has three very strong cards left to play.  First, it’s going to receive millions of dollars in buy out fees from the seven schools which are departing.  Second, it still controls a contract for a conference championship game that generates significant revenue.  Third, and most important, it has an automatic qualifying berth in the BCS.  So why is it letting lesser conferences circle like vultures over the remaining five schools (assuming TAMU goes to the Pac-16)?  Beebe can go to schools like Utah, TCU and Boise State with a powerful sales pitch:  you don’t have to wait and see if the Mountain West comes through, we’ve got an AQ slot you can have access to now.  Take the five survivors, add the top five schools from the Mountain West, Houston and SMU and boom!, you’re back in business with a conference that is better balanced than its predecessor, has a presence in a number of major media markets and possesses a bunch of entertaining rivalries.  It would certainly be a stronger league than the Big East. Keeping things going would have the added benefit of screwing with the Pac-Whatever’s plan to ask for a second AQ slot in the BCS.  (Imagine the Congressional howling that would ensue if they tried to take it away from a reconstituted Big XII.)
  10. Craig Thompson. If Beebe’s too timid or dumb to grab the opportunity, maybe what’s left of the Big XII ought to go after this guy as a replacement.  Aside from the fact that he knows what he’s doing, he said something yesterday that resonated with me:  “It does bother me that we’re moving quickly. The appeal of college athletics is the passion, the emotion, I hate those guys, I hate red, I hate blue, I hate green. So I think it gets to a point now where some of those things, and maybe that’s a way life is in 2010, but we’ve given up some of those natural rivalries and histories for the sake of commercialism and making more money and branding ourselves to a wider audience. We’re going to have some odd combinations and some matchups that are going to take years to develop. You look at some of the natural rivalries that may go by the wayside, I could probably cite several that used to be huge national implication games not just for the conference or region but nationally. Those games aren’t going to be played anymore.” It saddens me that one of the things that came out of yesterday’s swap meet was the final nail in the coffin of one of the greatest rivalries of my generation, the Nebraska-Oklahoma game.  I like that Thompson appreciates that.
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24 Comments

Filed under ACC Football, Big 12 Football, Big East Football, Big Ten Football, Pac-12 Football, SEC Football

24 responses to “Thoughts from the rubble: ten realignment observations

  1. ConnGator

    Regarding point #8, how does the ACC stop the FSU and VaTech from leaving? Issue an ultimatum? If we have to go to 16, those two plus Texas A&M and Mizzou makes a pretty tasty conference.

    Totally agree with point #9. Seventy million dollars plus the AQ spot means it is more valuable than the WAC/MWC. The Big 12 is dead, long live the Big 12!

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      As to item #9, as was posted a couple of days ago, Conference USA West actually is a viable option, too. Blow off UTEP and extend an offer to SMU (Dallas/Ft. Worth), Rice (Houston), University of Houston (also Houston), Tulsa (Tulsa and Oklahoma City) and Tulane (New Orleans) and you pick up a whole lot of media markets, maybe even more eyes than before. Add TCU (Dallas/Ft. Worth) to Baylor (Waco) which still remains and you have at least as big a TV draw in the state of Texas as University of Texas and Texas A&M. If you can’t get TCU keep UTEP. As a great American once said: “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” John Blutarsky, 1962

  2. Ben Rockwell

    This is a nice list, but I’m wondering where Texas comes in here. You say that Nebraska will come off as the bad guy, but I can’t see why no one is calling Texas to the mat here. They are the reason for the unequal distribution of wealth in the conference; they’re the one who the Pac-10 was after; and they’re the one holds sway over the whole South division (I respect rivalries and all, but if I were an OU fan I’d be livid that my AD was waiting to see what Texas did; grow a pair, Sooners, and stop relying on Texas to tell you where you can and can’t go).

    In my mind Texas is really the bad guy in all of this Big XII stuff. All they had to say was, “No. we’re good”, and it would all be over. Beebe couldn’t stand up to them, so he postured against the team that’s had moderate success the past few yrs (Mizzou) and the team that’s been all but irrelevant this decade (Nebraska).

  3. Castleberry

    I haven’t read anything about the scheduling impact of all these moves. Can someone please explain? Does Nebraska play a Big 10 schedule in 2010? What about Colorado? The Pac 10 teams have to play 9 conference games right? Do they still have a slot for us on the schedule???

    • MT

      The only dates that I have seen have been concerning Nebraska, which would not formally transfer over until July 2011

  4. rbubp

    Lost in all this is the very messy, soft-boiled egg all over the whole state of Missouri when its university outed themselves as complete fools. THEY are the real villains in the Big 12 mess and may even have a hard time getting themselves included in any post-Big 12 remnants assembled by the Kansas schools and Iowa State.

    • rbubp

      (Of course, Missouri are only villains for this recent mess, as the real Big 12 villain is Texas and the conference leadership itself, which p*ssed off the rest of the conference by demanding, and giving, everything UT wanted–champ game in Dallas, conf HQ in Dallas–such that Nebraska and Colorado were continually hacked off since day 1 in 1996, basically).

  5. THE ACC like the SEC is in good shape right now. I hope the SEC does Not expand. Do we really know that any ACC team will jump on the SEC bandwagon? The ACC may attempt to get some SEC teams to join them. IF necessary, I consider TA&M the best candidate. BUT VT? Do we really want Beamer recruiting for his SEC team in Ga. & Fla? Geography is still the key point for me.

    • Rival

      Why would any SEC school go to the ACC?

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Not that I think it would ever happen but Vanderbilt would be a great fit for the ACC. Academically Vandy is right there with Duke, UVa, Chapel Hill, etc. Vandy would be more competitive in football in the ACC and might even win that conference championship. Vandy is primarily a basketball school and the ACC is the primo basketball conference in college meaning that Vandy would be able to turn up their basketball recruiting even further. Plus, Vandy is competitive in baseball and the ACC is a good baseball conference. The ACC would get into a new TV market, Nashville, which is kinda sexy with the country music business and all that. From the ACC side it would be very desirable. From the Vanderbilt side it would be awfully hard to give up the SEC revenue, though.

    • ConnGator

      I think VaTech would be a good fit if we have to expand. Yes, the recruiting could be affected but that’s the price to pay for expanding the SEC market.

  6. shane#1

    An Aggie fan posted on another blog yesterday about the SEC’s wooing of Texas that the SEC should be careful what it wished for. In his words “Texas is too big, too rich, and too arrogant.” The SEC has Velociraptors enough with Saban, Meyer, and Petrino, no need to invite T.Rex to join the party.

    • rbubp

      I absolutely agree with this. The big difference here, however, is that the SEC has some traction to balance the Texas athletic money/power/success formula in Florida, Alabama, and all the second-tier contenders like Tn and UGA. The bully might act a little differently when there are folks his size hanging out in the same neighborhood.

      • The Realist

        The thing is, Texas is the big bad bully only in their own minds. They have significant revenue potential, but for a league that is doing okay for itself despite not being in too many major media markets, Texas would just be icing on the cake… the school that cemented the league as the dominant revenue-producing conference in the nation.

        The SEC doesn’t need Texas, and Texas doesn’t need the SEC.

  7. Left to Right

    Great observations. One thing, somewhere this week I thought I read that for a BCS conference to retain its berth, six teams in the conference have to have tohave been in the conference for the previous five years. This is why people are saying that NU leaving kills the Big 12, because they are the seventh team (presumeably) to go.

  8. Brandon

    On Item 10, I hear what Thompson is saying in regards to the Oklahoma-Nebraska game but in reality the bloom came off that rose when the Big 8 became the Big 12 and they quit playing every year.

    • rbubp

      One of the factors that had NU unhappy from the very inception of the conference.

      • Brandon

        And I don’t blame them for that, I know I’ll be pissed if any expansion of the SEC results in Georgia and Auburn not playing every year.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          We have to be extra careful about expansion for that very reason. The pursuit of the almighty dollar wrecked the traditions of the Big-8 which ultimately lead the Big-12 to where it is today. Don’t think the same cannot happen to the SEC. Rivalries are what make college football. If you destroy that you have destroyed its essence. I wonder how much Arizona State and Arizona fans are going to like playing the TTUs and A&Ms of the world while giving up playing in Corvallis, Eugene, Palo Alto and LA every year. The seeds of destruction for the PAC-16 might be sown already.

  9. Mike

    I’ve thought about #9 in the same way too. So, why did Boise St choose to join the MTN West so quickly? Why not wait and see how things shake out and then join the MW if it doesn’t play out the way you like it?

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Like the girl who got asked to the prom by a cute guy but backed out when a cuter guy asked her later, they can always change their collective mind.

  10. shane#1

    I posted on an AJC blog yesterday (sorry) that I thought the real loser in the Pac 16 would be SoCal. Talk about being kicked when you are down, nothing like losing thirty schollys, post season play for two years, and some of your blue chip recruits, then inviting OK and TX to join in the butt kicking. When this whole mess is over the death penalty may look like blessed relief to the Trojans.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      You forgot to mention having a dope for a coach which surely cannot bode well for the Trojans in their time of need. The saving grace for USC is that with the conference split into halves USC probably will not be in the same half as Texas and Oklahoma so they would not play them every year. The conference schedule regarding playing teams from the other half can be massaged so that USC would never have to play both of them in the same year, too. Personally, I would like to see Texas AND Oklahoma in the same half as USC but it ain’t gonna happen.

  11. James

    Re: #9 – There’s a provision, and I’m forgetting the details, but something to the effect that a certain number of schools in your conference have to have been playing together for a certain number of years. The number of teams is at least six, maybe more, I can’t remember and don’t care to search right now.

    The point was to prevent exactly what you are talking about, mostly because the BCS becomes way less profitable if second-tier schools (from a tv ratings perspective) hijack a current BCS member.