Realignment post-mortem

I’m not gonna do a winners/losers post on conference expansion – you can throw a rock in any direction this morning and hit eight bloggers doing that, and, besides, I sort of did that here – but I do have three questions/observations I thought I’d share now that we have an idea of how the landscape will look at least for the near future.

Leverage. That’s the big story.  Texas has it.  Georgia Tech doesn’t.  Jim Delany has it.  The Big East doesn’t.  Notre Dame still has it.  Five Big XII teams don’t.  Bill Connelly’s observation from a Missouri fan’s point of view is a good summary of this:

… while Mizzou was probably going to end up in a decent situation when the realignment all shook down, it obviously wasn’t guaranteed.  And no higher-up from a program like Missouri or Kansas State is going to want to be the one who was at the wheel when their program fell to mid-major status.  While a lot of us wanted Mizzou to say “Screw it” and roll the dice … it’s a lot harder to do that when you’re in charge.  When I’m playing Blackjack on my phone, I always know when to hit on 15 or 16 and when not to, when it’s smart to double and when it’s not … but when I’m playing with real money, it’s really tough to hit on 15 even when it’s the right play.  If I were in charge of Mizzou right now, there’s absolutely no way I could have even thought about saying no to this.  And you know you’re in the same boat.

No, it’s not quite this bad…

… but there are obviously better places to be if you’re a college football program this morning.  And I think that there’s one thing Bill’s gliding by (understandably) when he writes this:

  • Revenue sharing and inequality are eventually going to kill this conference. It is almost certainly going to happen one day.  As soon as this TV deal fails to suffice in comparison to that of other major conferences, the same issues are going to pop up.  This is only a band-aid, and it’s hard to see it as anything but that.  And part of the reason I felt so disappointed when this was announced was simply that … honestly, I wanted to be done with this.  I wanted this to be the Summer of Expansion, and I wanted to be done with the issue forever and ever (unless they ended up in a worse conference, ahem).  Instead, we stare at a future with another potential breakdown on the horizon.  Healthy conferences have members who feel like equals.  That has never been the case in the Big 12.
  • How are we determining who makes how much? Initial word is that Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas A&M will make $20 million per year under the current arrangement, with the apparent dregs of the conference everybody else making between $14-17 million.  I want to put this delicately, since it does sound like they went to bat for Mizzou in discussions with the SEC, but … Texas A&M?  Really?Conference records since 2005:
    Texas Tech 26-14
    Missouri 24-16
    Oklahoma State 19-21
    Texas A&M 17-23

    I’m not sure the best way to look up television appearances since then, but I’m willing to bet A&M is either third or fourth among these teams on that list.  (And if they’re not, then why aren’t they?  The idea with unequal revenue sharing is that it supposedly rewards you for succeeding … if that’s not the case, then that’s an entirely new issue.)

TAMU and Missouri find themselves in different spots in the pecking order of the new Big XII not because of records or because of TV appearances, but because TAMU had options this week (Pac-16 and SEC) that weren’t available to Mizzou.  And unless Missouri and other schools with which it shares the same boat can come up with some viable means of making themselves more attractive to other conferences, I’m not as certain as Bill is that the Big XII remains a dead man walking.  $14-17 million isn’t exactly chump change; I can’t think of very many places where Missouri could duplicate that sort of revenue stream today.  The challenge is to make the program into something that could do better down the road.

My prediction:  there will be enough schools in no man’s land like Missouri which will decide to be proactive about this and seek to upgrade their programs such that it will result in programs devoting even more money to upgrading facilities and coaches’ salaries.  Good thing those TV contracts keep going up.

Recruiting. I confess that I really don’t get the spin on this, best exemplified in this Dan Wetzel piece.

… More problematic about the Pac-16 is whether Texas A&M will join it. The unintended consequence of blowing up the Big 12 is that the Aggies are being courted by the SEC, which would love to get a foothold into the state’s fertile recruiting grounds. SEC schools signed just six of Texas’ top 100 recruits in 2010 according to Rivals.com (Big 12 schools signed 66 of them).

The SEC has the powerhouse programs – Alabama, Florida, etc. – that could beat UT head-to-head for some players. League schools would covet the chance to play games in College Station, gain local media coverage and be able to pitch to Texas kids that the SEC is their “home” conference.

I do understand that if you’re a program that faced getting left in the dust after conference dissolution, it’s a disaster from a recruiting standpoint.  Going from being a member of a Big Six conference to a mid-major kills your chances with a number of highly rated kids.  But it’s the other side of this I don’t get.  Is Texas really that worried about what SEC schools could do on the recruiting trail if Texas A&M became a member?

It’s not like SEC schools can’t recruit in Texas now.  If it’s a proximity issue, Arkansas and LSU sit right on Texas’ doorstep.  Wetzel notes that the latter only signed two kids in its last class who are Texans.  How would TAMU’s admission change that?  And as for schools like Alabama and Florida, they’re likely going into the state to cherry pick, not to chase in large numbers (especially the Gators, who do just fine at home, thank you).

If recruiting matters as much in the realignment picture as Wetzel suggests,

… This is a week that can deliver massive change to the landscape of college football, not just in the middle of the country but from coast to coast. The ADs and the commissioners and the politicians will be talking about money and television and market shares.

The real impact of expansion is what the coaches are talking about – recruiting.

you’d think Slive would have paid the price to reel Texas A&M in.

And speaking of TAMU, this strikes me as a stretch.

… With the recruiting hotbed that is the state of Texas as its backyard, A&M had a chance to follow the University of Florida’s lead. Like A&M in this hypothetical, Florida shares a major recruiting state with two powerful schools — Florida State and Miami. The Gators also the only Florida team in the SEC. They have now hoisted two national football titles in the last five years. I bet those look nice next to their two national basketball titles they collected in the same timeframe.

With a move to the SEC, away from two schools that have dominated the Texas recruiting ranks — Texas and Oklahoma — A&M could have begun to create a nationally recognized brand name.

TAMU will make more money staying in the reconstituted Big XII.  If recruiting were truly as significant as Wetzel argues, it doesn’t seem to have factored into the equation.

Twelve as the sweet spot. For all the “visionary” praise being showered on Larry Scott, I never saw a convincing explanation about what made a sixteen-team conference such a great thing.  Outside of football, the Pac-16 would have been a nightmare to administer.  And even for football, some of the compromises being floated (it’s been a great week for rumors, hasn’t it?), such as the no-playoff, two AQ BCS berths proposal, were absurd.

Right now, the largest model that’s had success is the twelve-team, two-division, championship game one.  Until somebody proves there’s a better way to go, I have a hard time seeing guys like Delany and Slive jump out and take a chance on going bigger.

By “better way to go”, I mean increasing the size of the pie so that every conference member benefits.  Nebraska got Delany his twelfth school and a $15 million championship game.  How many schools besides Notre Dame are left out there that are slam dunks for the Big Ten?  I don’t know if the Irish are the great white whale to Delany’s Ahab, but I expect him to keep chasing, because I don’t see another school out there now that’s nearly as attractive.

As for the SEC, Slive did some talking, so there must have been an expansion scenario he believed would benefit the conference.  I don’t profess to know the TV math here, but since the CBS deal involves a national broadcast, I’d be curious to know how much adding the Texas market would be worth to it (ESPN, however, I’m sure would have been willing to pony up more).  I didn’t get the impression from some of Slive’s remarks early on that there was that much more TV money to be had with expansion (at least if Texas wasn’t involved).  So, without even a Notre Dame to tempt it, why should the SEC take on new partners?

**********************************************************************

UPDATE: Speaking of the Big XII’s pecking order, check out this tweet from Andy Staples.

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Realignment post-mortem

  1. Dog in Fla

    “For all the ‘visionary’ praise being showered on Larry Scott,” after getting thrown out trying to steal Texas and its remora schools in what he hoped would be the Summer of Love for his conference, the PAC 11 commissioner decides to visit Cal Berkeley and Boulder for some rest and relaxation knowing that tomorrow is another day…

  2. baltimore dawg

    the sec’s overtures to tamu struck me as odd. do we know that there was a genuine, binding offer on the table to tamu? is it possible that sec interest in tamu was calculated to provoke ut to spurn the pac-10, maintain the big 12 (and the status quo), block the formation of a 16-team league, and deny the pac-10 from posing a threat to the sec in the only real way it can: pressing for greater access to eastern tv markets with a “super league”?

    or am i giving too much credit to slive for reading machiavelli (and understanding it)?

  3. Connor

    I don’t think this is over. The process is a slow one, but we’re not at the finish line. ND is still independent, the PAC 11 still doesn’t have a championship, and the Big East and Big 12 are still going to be appealing prey, with more individual parts more valuable than the whole.
    I agree with Connelly that the new Big 12 has basically the same problems as the old Big 12, and that eventually that is going to be it’s undoing. Texas and ND are in similar situations, trying desperately to hang on to their fiefdoms. They’ll be able to, for a while, they are two of the most powerful programs in the country, but at some point the ground is going to give way beneath them, and some conference will make them an offer they can’t refuse. It could be years, but the dream/nightmare of 16 teams conferences is still alive.

    • Phocion

      Texas, I think, is in a less tenable situation than ND. ND is without a conference, doesn’t need a conference for the foreseeable future, and knows they are the apple of the BigTen’s eye. If there is a move to 16-team conferences ND knows exactly where they will go.

      Texas, on the otherhand, only has a fiefdom as long as they can keep a weaker gathering of teams in a conference that they head. If a significant number of the other teams bolt Texas could be twisting in the wind. With no Big12 to gather around them as an independent option they would be forced to take what the Pac10, SEC, or BigTen offers them.

      Also, ND going to a 16-team conference is just one team…Texas likely goes as a package deal. 4 teams at least. UT, TAMU, OU, and OSU. That means they go to the Pac-10 or the SEC…and who is to say that in the future the SEC wants them all instead of 4 ACC teams.

      Play all the realignment scenarios that you want and Texas could end up as head of the weakest of the mega conferences in a Big12/MWC hybrid. Good for shots at the playoffs…not so good for TV money and the much talked about research dollars that Texas covets.

      Given the choice, I’d still rather be ND than Texas.

      • Texas, on the other hand, only has a fiefdom as long as they can keep a weaker gathering of teams in a conference that they head. If a significant number of the other teams bolt Texas could be twisting in the wind.

        There isn’t a major conference in the country that wouldn’t welcome Texas with open arms. Indeed, Texas is the only school from the Big XII South to which the Big Ten made overtures this go ’round.

        Not saying that Texas has the same national platform that Notre Dame boasts, but when you’re the richest program in the country by a wide margin you’ve got something more going for you than having Oklahoma State trailing in your wake.

  4. rbubp

    Now the Big 12 (10) doesn’t have a championship game any longer, but the Big 10 (12) will. (I love symmetry. So neat, so clean…)

    I’m inclined to agree that the Big 12 (10) will not go that long before these issues come up again. I don’t understand how it is making more money than before, and I don’t understand how Texas and Oklahoma want to stick around with the little kiddies. As far as Texas and that stuff about similar institutional profiles, once again we see how much that mattered at all: they can live with being in the same conference as Baylor and Kansas State after all.

    Even if Texas gets its own tv network out of this, I have to believe they know that they’ll raise these same issues again in a few years, maybe even next year. The other schools better be looking around like Nebraska and Colorado were.

  5. Macallanlover

    Agree, this is a temporary respite. Significant changes are inevitable but at least there will be some time spent evaluating decisions and consequences. The past week and a half was much too reactionary and would have led to chaos and possible failure. The Super Conference idea is a good one if it is done with geographical rivalries and pride included in the thinking. Austin and Norman to Pullman just made no sense, and Berkely to anywhere in Texas is culturally explosive.

    I don’t think the Senator’s idea that Mizzou and the other ugly sisters can get a makeover and find happiness is viable. There will always be have and have-nots and degrees thereof. I also think recruiting Texas will always be difficult for the SEC simply due to the mass that is Texas geography. It’s over ten hours from the middle of Texas to just get to the state borders, much less traversing 2-3 more states. SEC success recruiting in Texas might improve a little, but UT is holding a strong hand there, and always will. The gain for the SEC would be a huge, passionate TV market that will only get bigger.

    • I don’t think the Senator’s idea that Mizzou and the other ugly sisters can get a makeover and find happiness is viable.

      To be clear, I only said the effort would be made. I didn’t say it would necessarily be successful.

  6. Did the Fat Lady sing? If she did I missed it. Anyway I am satisfied with the status quo today.

  7. DawgPhan

    I dont understand where the money is coming from. It seems to me that a new team must be able to bring in their share of revenue and a little something extra to make it worth while. So with Nebraska heading to the Big 10, they need to generate $20mil/year to cover their slice of the pie, plus a little extra juice for the current members…say
    $1mil/year extra for each team…so Nebraska needs to be worth $32mil/year by themselves…they need to bring that to the table so the money works…how on earth is Nebraska worth $32mil/year to the Big 10? And if they are worth that why were they only getting $8mil/year or so from the Big 12? Seems like the math gets real fuzzy when folks start talking about expanding, playoffs, and realignment.

    • Keep in mind that the conference championship game pulls in another $15 million the Big Ten didn’t have before the move.

    • kevin

      They only need to bring in $5 mil to break even (conf champ will be $15). anything else is gravy

      • DawgPhan

        But just like Delaney does want to leave money on the table, he also doesnt seem like someone to mess with tradition for a couple of extra nickels. A championship game also presents a couple of challenges…Split Michigan and OSU up into different divisions and have a rematch of the last game of the season a week later? Or put them in the same division and sometimes have their game be meaningless w/r/t championship game?

        Because the SEC makes championships look easy, dont think that they are without risk…ask the ACC.

  8. DawgPhan

    That still leaves Nebraska being worth more than double what they were getting from the Big 12. Either the Big 12 was getting hosed on their deal or the Big 10 will be making some thinner slices in that BTN pie.

  9. DawgPhan

    and I doubt you will sell me on the thriving TV markets in Nebraska…
    http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=uspopulation&met=population&idim=state:31000&dl=en&hl=en&q=nebraska+population#met=population&idim=state:31000

    Ouch…1.7mil people in Nebraska. I guess if everyone one of them ponies up $10 to buy the BTN then it is worth it. I would have never thought that Nebraska was south of 2mil in total population.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Averaging 4 people per household there are only a little over 400,000 households. Even if every household bought the BTN that’s still only about $4 Million.

  10. Dog in Fla

    “UPDATE: Speaking of the Big XII’s pecking order, check out this tweet from Andy Staples.”

    Now that’s funny. If Nebraska and Colorado can come up with some basis for relief from paying the bailout money, such as economic duress or anything else that would avoid the contractual bailout obligations, it would be even funnier.

  11. Basically I was intentionally glossing over the “they had options” logic because I wanted some fan of one of those schools to have to answer with that. Just an insane/embarrassing way to run a conference. SEC schools are proud to be SEC schools. Big Ten schools are proud to be Big Ten schools. Big 12 schools just couldn’t find any better options. Good times.

    • rbubp

      That’s to be expected when you make a patchwork quilt of a conference out of two traditional ones that couldn’t keep their names–and that, my friends, is why the Pac-10, the Big 10, and the current Big 12 will NEVER update their monikers to reflect the present. Everyone forevermore will only expand.

    • Dog in Fla

      Had it come down, I would have been happy to see Missouri join aTm in the SEC. Even though a map is not the territory it represents, Missouri looks like a bigger mirror image of Arkansas sitting on top of Arkansas like a Mississippi and an Alabama rotated ninety degrees except that Missouri has more people and more things to do than the other three combined. That would satisfy the theory of contiguity element in Bob Davies’ complicated requirements for geographical rivals.

      Plus Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City seem to be good expansion markets. And last, but not least, Missouri was a border state with some bushwackers for the South in the Civil War so that may be close enough to satisfy the cultural test. Besides America’s two most electrifying actors, Nicholson, Quaid and Brando crawling like a snail on the edge of a razor blade is in and of itself enough for an invite…

  12. Pingback: Meet Big Tex, the New Commish « Vols in the Fall

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      If I’m a team other than Texas in the Big-12(10) after what I just experienced I am feeling very uncomfortable and will be looking (on the QT) to find another place to light before this happens again–only the next time for real. Screw the conference money. That will be all gone when Texas moves, anyway.