A cynic looks at the new Big Ten/Pac-12 partnership.

First off, let me say that a bunch of power conference schools getting together to announce a plan that would increase the number of games they play against their peers is something to congratulate.  Nah, make that celebrate.  Unequivocably.  From a fan’s perspective, the fewer regular season games we have to watch against Directional Cupcake A&M, the better.  And for the two conferences involved, it’s brilliant marketing – “the benefits of conference expansion without adding members”, whatever the hell that means – that peeled some of the attention away from the SEC’s 2012 scheduling announcement.

But to read the immediate reaction of the punditerati, you’d think Larry Scott and Jim Delany had announced they’d found a cure for the common cold.  You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t join the wankfest.  Allow me to make a few points from my perspective.

  1. The devil’s in the details.  This sucker doesn’t kick in until 2017.  Skipping past the obvious point that nobody knows what the landscape of college football will look like in six seasons (hell, who knows what it’ll look like in six months?) such that it might render the deal irrelevant, you’ve got issues about which schools will play which schools and where the games will be played to work out.  As Michael Elkon noted, the concept of drawing Wisconsin away from the friendly confines of Camp Randall to play a non-conference opponent with a pulse on the road is certainly novel (Mike Leach in the past has been just as guilty of this scheduling mindset, so a Wazzou-Wisky matchup might be poetic justice).  And just ask the SEC how easy it is to arrange a schedule to accommodate new partners.  Bottom line:  they’ll need every bit of the six years to get ready.
  2. Say goodbye to the nine-game conference schedule.  Let’s get real here.  There’s always going to be a need for cupcakes in college football.  In the context of a twelve-team conference, an eight-game conference schedule is a decent balance and a nine-game conference schedule is basically a luxury.  Delany’s already indicated that the Big Ten won’t adopt a nine-game schedule.  My bet is that the Pac-12 follows suit.  Here’s a big tell:  the conferences kept Notre Dame, which plays five games against member schools, apprised of the developments.  In the end, this is really an admission that neither of these conferences has any immediate plans to expand beyond their current configurations.  But if that changes, all bets are off.
  3. The 800-pound gorilla in the room.  That talk about playing chess vs. playing checkers makes for some nice chest-thumping, but to some extent what’s going on here is in reaction to the SEC.  Start of the season kickoff event at a neutral site?  Sounds familiar.  Even the basic concept of regular matchups with OOC schools from the same conference isn’t an alien one – just ask Florida, Georgia and South Carolina how each has ended their respective seasons for the last couple of decades.  I don’t want to say there’s never nothing new under the sun, but these aren’t exactly virgin concepts either.
  4. At the end of the day, Jim Delany is still Jim Delany.  Funny how the same people lionizing Delany for coming up with this were predicting two weeks ago his eventual capitulation on the playoff front because of his supposed isolation from the other conference commissioners’ evolving position on the plus-one.  Hard to see how he and Scott are BFFs on this while rabid rivals on the other.  The reality is that all of this is of one piece for Delany.  It’s about maximizing the value of the most important asset the Big Ten owns, regular season football programming.  And Delany has Scott marching in lockstep with him on that front.  Any change to the postseason will be made in light of doing no harm to their golden goose.
  5. Tough shit, little guys.  Speaking of Jim Delany still being Jim Delany, is there any doubt the man enjoys sticking it to the mid-majors when the opportunity presents itself?  And make no mistake about it, this move hurts every mid-major and FCS program that offers itself up as a sacrificial lamb for a big check.  Two conferences just reduced demand by a total of 24 games a year.  Don’t think that won’t have an impact on what the small fry will be able to command.
  6. Your move, SEC.  If this is a move primarily about creating more broadcast product – and it seems safe to assume that it is – I suspect that this will hasten the inevitable for Mike Slive and his cohorts to move to a nine-game conference schedule.  (Greg McGarity is already making “you never say never” mouth noises about that.)  That’s a decision which makes a great deal of sense for a fourteen-team conference simply on the merits of balancing the schedules more fairly (think Georgia would be getting off as easy if the SEC required schools to play nine conference games in 2012?);  the added revenue from the networks makes it a virtual no-brainer.  And with a 2017 timetable in play, that should alleviate problems (cancellation penalties, you cheap bastards) the ADs have with the move.
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22 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, Pac-12 Football, SEC Football

22 responses to “A cynic looks at the new Big Ten/Pac-12 partnership.

  1. SouthGa Dawg

    I can see it now. The Rose Bowl Kickoff Classic in 2017. USC vs…….Indiana (insert Pac Man dying sound here). I can’t wait.

  2. Norm MacDonald

    By 2017 conferences will have expanded to sixteen teams, so the agreement will be rendered moot.

  3. JRod1229

    Personally I like the fact that it’s a big flat f you to Notre Dame.. thats the cream of the scheduling crop for ND and now they’ve all got 8 conference games, plus one OOC.. you think they’re gonna want to use another on a non cupcake? Not so fast my friends..

  4. reipar

    I just do not see a 9 game conference schedule in the SEC. You have UK, UGA, USCe, and UF who all play a rotating OOC team every season. Those teams are not going to drop their rival. Add in the fact UGA and UF play in Jax every year and that is another home game lost. Something has to give.

    • FisheriesDawg

      We’ve played home and homes with Colorado, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State in five of the last six years, so it isn’t like this would be any different. With 9 conference games, you’d be guaranteed four home games (I’m sure the SEC would work things out with us and Florida to where the cocktail party was always an “away” game in the years we had only four home games). Add in two directional schools and you’re already at six home games. With Georgia Tech, you’d have seven home games every other year.

      Yeah, there is some lost revenue from the lost home game, but I think you need to dig into that a little more. Season ticket holders would be more willing to pay for a schedule that only includes two paycheck games. Television revenue would increase across the board, further filling the UGA AA’s revenue gap from a lost home game every other year. And I know the businesses in Athens love having as many home games as possible, but I think trading a cupcake for a conference game (net loss of a half-game per year) would be worth it to them. A lot less folks get hotel rooms, buy lunch/dinner, or shop around Athens for the cupcakes than even a Vanderbilt or Ole Miss-type game. Think the downtown businesses would be happy to trade FAU for Alabama this season if it meant they lost the North Texas game next year?

      • reipar

        I am not following the logic of the UF game being a home v. away game depending on our schedule? It is always an away game for both teams. We would have 4 home conference games, 4 away conference games, GTU would rotate and that leaves 2 OCC home games. Every other year we would be assured of only having 6 home games.

        Sure we hav had some rotating OCC games recently, but that is not relevant to this discussion. Current management is clearly going away from that model. We are going to have as many home games as possible and as many cupcakes as possible. People can complain all they want, but hard to argue with the UF model as it produced two MNC. Win the cupcakes and win the SECC and you play for the MNC. Win against a difficult schedule and win the SECC you still play for the MNC. No upside in the more difficult schedule.

        As far as the downtown argument regardless of who we play the business is there. Is there more business for a Bama game? Sure, but how much more. I had the same wait to get into DePalma’s after the Kentucky game as I did for the Costal Carolina game. My hotel room is booked every weekend a year in advance regardless if I show up or not (with a mandatory two night stay). I really question if enough business is brought in by a single Bama game to lose a home game.

        I just do not see UF and UGA agreeing to lock themselves into only having 6 home games every other year (and that means no other OCC games that rotate or would be 6 home games in back to back years…or the dreaded 7 one year and 5 the next). If UF and UGA are opposed it is likely USCe and UK will follow due to their existing OCC rivals. 4 no votes as a given would seem hard to over come, but anything is possible.

        • Cojones

          Are you proposing an easy, cupcake-filled schedule to have more homefield money coming in versus scheduling tougher (offered by going to 9 SEC teams) teams to have a more easier road for an MNC? If so, I’d have to disagree from one standpoint. Copying FU’s method of better ensuring playing for a MNC is not worthy of appreciation. I thought that FU’s chickenshit schedule was demeaning to the posture of a NC conference and the end does not justify the means.

          We are a proud conference, not because we hoist a piece of chrystal, but rather because we take on all comers. To soften our schedule specifically to avoid any “L” on our record is something Delaney would do, not UGA. We don’t play games where we think we are beaten before stepping on the field. By not having a challenge you ask for complacency to be the watchword of the team. If they don’t have to work as hard to get a “W” why should they strive to be the best? I would be glad to give up an OOC cupcake to justify my sense of support for a team that has earned a rep as being tough because they play the game well and hard.

          We should go to a 9-10 game SEC schedule asap, else we should drop the proud conference label. Since when wouldn’t we want to test ourselves against an SEC team because we need more home and home money? It’s a nonvalid bullshit reason for playing good college football. Go buy yourself a piece of chrystal if that’s all it signifies. I thought FU’s schedule was chickenshit then and remains so when you don’t want to play the best. Don’t misplace team and traditional pride with a piece of glass that’s empty of challenge. That sucks as a philosophy.

          We are Georgia. We don’t need to adopt some easy ass path like other teams that have no pride and only want to brag about something that wasn’t fully earned in the eyes of others. They can now wallow in the shit they created while all their fans get a life lesson in recruiting “stars” and easy scheduling. Auburn and FU are paying their price. I say it’s not worth it. It just makes the “M” in MNC loom larger.

        • FisheriesDawg

          One team in the Georgia-Florida game is always designated the home team. As the schedule currently stands, we technically have four home games and four away games every year, but every other year we only get three conference games in Athens because we’re the “home” team in Athens. Under a 9-game scenario, we’d have four true home games every season.

          On the business argument, remember, we’re only talking about a half a home game per year, and we’re really not talking about adding another Kentucky. Mississippi State (and sometimes Arkansas, though not currently) is the only opponent that you can put in the Vandy/Kentucky category of boring, early start conference games. LSU, Alabama, and Texas A&M will be marquee games on any schedule, and they’re highly likely to kick off later than noon or 1 PM, which a game against North Texas is virtually guaranteed to do. If you don’t think kickoff time makes an enormous difference for the Athens business community, I suggest you attend the next Athens Chamber of Commerce meeting and ask around. One of my friends is a small business owner that caters to the football crowd and his business for a 7:45 conference game is probably worth three noon cupcake games. Yeah, maybe the Georgia Center and Hilton are sold out anyway, but there are plenty of rooms to be had in Athens for a 1:00 Coastal Carolina kick in the other hotels because the Atlanta contingent sees very little reason to spend either Friday or Saturday night away from home.

          • FisheriesDawg

            d’oh:

            “but every other year we only get three conference games in Athens because we’re the “home” team in *Jacksonville*.”

  5. Nate Dawg

    I’ve never been involved in a wankfest, but I must say it sounds kinda interesting and kinda not…
    Can’t wait for all those Indiana vs Arizona or Northwestern vs Wash St primetime Thursday night thrillers! And 2017?!? Geez, hard to believe this EVER makes it to the light of day…

  6. Hogbody Spradlin

    This thing is 5 years out. There’s plenty of time for coaches and school presidents to muck it up when it sinks in that they may lose a cupcake.

  7. FisheriesDawg

    Not that I was counting on it to begin with, but this likely rules out our actually playing the Ohio State series in 20/21. That would only leave the Buckeyes room to play two of the other Ohio schools in those two years, and Lord knows they’ve got enough of them to spread the wealth around each season. Akron, Ohio, Toledo, Bowling Green, Toledo, and Cincy ain’t gonna be happy when they figure this out.

    Plus, if the SEC goes to a 9-game conference schedule by then (which I expect), it just won’t be feasible.

  8. Macallanlover

    Delany being Delany indeed. He is attempting to limit all the Big 10/11/12 games to ND, MAC, and PAC 12, no real change there. Count on tosu home and home being cancelled soon. On the plus side, the more interaction between conferences the better for the fans. I am hoping the SEC goes to a nine game conference schedule this Spring when they meet, but the chances our boys will man up with more challenging games are pretty slim.

    What a pathetic home schedule for UGA this coming fall: Vandy, TN, and Ol Miss. Throw in two in-state mid-majors, Buffalo and a Florida newbie and you will have fans lined up to throw a few grand at the AA. All this a result of fans settling for a faux NC decided by geeks and voters of questionable integrity/bias. Sheep…..that is all.

    • Cojones

      Great. Right on target, sir. We think alike and proudly about our Dawgs. I don’t usually read through all the postings and will answer others as I read them. Posted above before reading your post. We approached the same philosophy from two differing directions.

      • Macallanlover

        Seems like the ADs and coaches are not in favor of a nine game SEC slate based on comments I have heard. Perhaps by Spring they will hear that fans want more interaction with the other Division. Something has to change and I hope it isn’t losing the designated, annual rival.

    • FisheriesDawg

      “Throw in two in-state mid-majors”

      +100. Awesome.

      “All this a result of fans settling for a faux NC decided by geeks and voters of questionable integrity/bias. Sheep…..that is all.”

      -99 for a very sheepish talking point.

      I’ll leave you with a net of +1 for this post.

      • Macallanlover

        Glad I led with my best shot. I will take a one point win though. I just feel we get what we are willing to settle for and a weak schedule is just unacceptable to me. And specifically because sane people wouldn’t allow that except they are cow-towing to a poor system for determining a faux champion. Take that away, and we would see significantly better match-ups. Respect your right to disagree; I seem to be in the majority of CFB fans, but you are definitely in the majority on this board.

  9. “Funny how the same people lionizing Delany for coming up with this were predicting two weeks ago his eventual capitulation on the playoff front because of his supposed isolation from the other conference commissioners’ evolving position on the plus-one.”

    “Same people”? By all means, Senator, feel free to name names here, haha.

    As to your point, I really don’t see how Delany and Scott’s unified front as regards noncon scheduling automatically applies to the plus-one as well; hell, they aren’t even agreeing on whether their conferences will still play nine-game league skeds. (Delany says no, Scott yes.) When the Pac-12’s own ADs are calling a plus-one “inevitable,” I’m assuming they know a little something about where their commissioner stands. Besides, Scott’s no dummy; anyone who looks at this year’s polling results and thinks anyone outside the SEC is getting the benefit of the BCS doubt anytime soon is a fool. Delany’s not, but he just doesn’t care; I don’t get that same vibe from Scott, do you?

    As for the larger point of your post, for the record, I never said the P12/B1G Challenge was some sort of mind-blowing, brilliant masterstroke; as you point out, it’s an idea obvious enough that it’s kind of surprising it hasn’t happened before. But I’ll stand by my point that it illustrates how badly Slive botched the TV situation and how many steps ahead Delany and Scott are. Not getting the SEC’s own TV network (and making we wouldn’t get one until 2023!) painted Slive into an awful corner–he had to expand to try and get the new TV contract and network, but an 8-game schedule with a 14-team conference doesn’t really work, so he has to go to nine games, but (as pointed out elsewhere in the thread) there’s a lot of SEC teams that want nothing to do with nine games for both home revenue and noncon rivalry reasons. It’s a total catch-22.

    Meanwhile, the B1G and the P12 now have the cake of a functional eight-game league schedule, valuable nonconference inventory for their respective networks, and just enough scheduling flexibility that Michigan/USC can still play ND if they want … and they get to eat it, too, to the tune of still only dividing their profits 12 ways instead of 14. A few years ago the SEC was in the best scheduling/TV/revenues position of any conference in the country, and now it’s unquestionably third. That’s a pretty damn big deal in my book, and it’s 100 percent on Slive.

    • Jerry… I wasn’t talking about you. That was some other pundit I was thinking of. ;) Sorry ’bout that.

      On to your serious points – I’m not saying Delany and Scott see eye to eye on every last detail. What they do agree on, though, is regular season TV money uber alles. I don’t see Scott throwing Delany under the bus regarding a playoff if there’s a legitimate concern that such would put the regular season money at risk. And I seriously doubt there’s much separation between the two as to what that would be.

      I agree with you that Slive didn’t think things out when he signed the last TV deal and was forced to accept expansion in order to redress some of the flaws he created. But it’s not like the conference hasn’t been well-compensated; such is what happens when you’re the first kid on the block to cut the landmark deal. The next guy learns from your experience, good points and bad.

      I do think you’re ignoring the fact that Scott, now almost universally acclaimed as college football’s biggest genius, was seriously chasing expansion to 14 or 16, which would have negated all of the wonderful benefits from this alliance you mention. What does that tell you about Scott’s financial priorities? This move has come in response to his being rebuffed, but you can bet your bottom dollar if circumstances arise that make Pac-12 expansion viable again, Scott will ditch this arrangement with the Big Ten if that’s what it takes.

      None of this really has any meaning until 2017 anyway, which is why I think the breathless pronouncements about how big a deal this is are way, way premature.

      The only present thing I take away from it is that it confirms if you run a major conference, you know that the most important matter in your world is football’s regular season TV money. Screw that up, and you’ll be in big trouble. Jim Delany’s mission is to make sure his peers never lose sight of that.

  10. On point one: why not adopt a “lottery” for match-ups akin to the FIFA World Cup draw?

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