The Big XII, where the expansion smoke may mean there’s fire

I’ve tried to stay out of the conference expansion frenzy as best I can, because it’s been little more than rank speculation about which school goes where, but as it looks like we may have our first realignment story with some real legs to it, I guess I’ll break my silence and comment.

In case you missed it, a Texas site affiliated with Rivals came out with a blockbuster story yesterday about the Pac-10 being on the verge of offering to take in six Big XII schools – Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado – to create a big time sixteen-school conference that would dominate TV markets west of the Mississippi.  When I first read about it, I brushed the story off, mainly because it was loaded with info from unnamed sources, but Matt Hinton’s due diligence about the bona fides of the web site made me sit up and pay a little more attention to the report.

Today, I wake up to find that not only are none of the key players in the matter denying the report in response to direct questions about it…

Then, in a prepared statement released just a short time ago, Scott had another chance to at least attempt to jam the toothpaste back in the tube.  Instead of jamming, he ended up shooting even more Crest all over the bathroom mirror.
“We are aware of a story filed today by an Orangebloods.com columnist, speculating about possible expansion plans for the Pac-10 Conference. While many interesting scenarios have been suggested in numerous news reports, around the country, we remain focused on a thorough evaluation process that examines all of the options for increasing the value of the Conference for our member institutions, our student athletes and our fans. We have not developed any definitive plans. We have not extended any invitations for expansion and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term.”

… but the Colorado AD indicated that he was expecting such an invitation imminently.

… Reports that the Pacific-10 Conference would target six Big 12 teams started surfacing early Thursday afternoon. Later, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn said that he believed his school would be invited to join the Pac-10, along with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

“The longer that we were together in Kansas City, it appeared that the rumor of speculation did have some validity,” Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera.

I doubt it’s much fun being Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe this morning.

So if this is the real deal, what’s it likely to mean?

  • First of all, I can’t say I’m surprised about the target.  I’ve thought all along that the Big East and the Big XII were toast if significant realignment occurred.  If anything like this deal goes down, the Big XII is vaporized.
  • Texas is still the key.  It’s not going anywhere unless it’s convinced it’s squeezing the best deal for itself that it can get.  If the $20 million figure for the new TV deal is correct (and you’d better believe that’s already been vetted to some extent), that’s a significant bump over what Texas receives now, but that’s not the same thing as saying that it’s the best the Longhorns can do going forward.
  • It sucks to be Kansas right now, doesn’t it?
  • If this goes through, it’s hard to see where the SEC expands, if it’s so inclined.  Texas and Oklahoma will be off the table and the ACC’s new TV contract gives its members the financial stability that’s missing from the Big XII now.  The ACC will be a hunter and not one of the hunted.  None of the leftovers from either the Big XII or the Big East (assuming the Big Ten and ACC step in and cannibalize it) are financially attractive.  It’s hard to see any school out there that the SEC could realistically add that would improve the conference’s bottom line and I don’t see Slive bringing new schools into the conference without that.

53 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, College Football, Pac-12 Football

53 responses to “The Big XII, where the expansion smoke may mean there’s fire

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    The NBC guy got carried away with the toothpaste metaphor.

    I’ve wondered why the SEC has been taking such a wait and see attitude toward expansion. There are only so many attractive candidates out there, and we could be left looking at leftovers.

    The ACC TV contract is good, but still second or third best. I think Clemson and FSU are a good SEC fit; do you see them listening to overtures?

    Dr. Saturday carried a portion of this story that had Texas A&M saying it strongly prefers the SEC. A small town farm school is a natural for the SEC.

    Finally, and this may be a reason the SEC isn’t chomping at the bit, if the PAC-XX wants to come 1800 miles for members, let them. Their schools will be paying the airplane rides for their lacrosse and swimming teams. Mike Slive may realize he has nice geographic cohesiveness. The ACC is little more than a TV conference now, even if a few football teams come back to national prominence.

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    • Here’s the problem you’ve got with adding schools like Clemson, FSU and TAMU: they don’t add anything to the TV contracts. I can’t seeing any of them being strong enough to allow Slive to go back to CBS and ESPN with a demand to rewrite the deals. And without that, you’ve just cut the checks to the existing twelve members, because you’re spreading the wealth farther. I don’t think that flies.

      If the SEC is going to expand, it’s got to grab Texas and Oklahoma. Those are the only two schools in the mix that give the conference sufficient leverage to get the networks to pay more for the broadcast rights.

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      • Hogbody Spradlin

        I see the point where the SEC already has those TV sets figured into in the contract. Wouldn’t there also be value added from Clemson and FSU to the ‘sets turned on’ computation? Market penetration?

        The PAC will get itself strung out for TV sets and its ‘production costs’ could exceed the extra revenues.

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        • I really don’t see much market penetration from the addition of Clemson and FSU.

          If the Pac-10 is really promising the kind of TV money numbers that are being bandied about ($20 million per team), that’ll cover a lot of production costs, especially if the new conference adapts a 7-2-3 scheduling format. That’s only one trip to the other side each year for a school. And no other sport racks up expenses like a football team.

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          • gernblanski

            I totally agree with Senator and I have been saying this for weeks regarding expansion.

            The inital boost or bump expansion will bring in $$ comes not from adding schools that are in the footprint but adding the schools in newer larger tv markets. The long-term $$$ will come from developing those markets and generating tv ratings.

            Of all the major conferences, the SEC has one of the weakest TV footprints. If Miami is not counted, then it has just one top 10 TV market (ATL) and just three in the Top 20 (Tampa #18, Orlando #19). Nashville is #29 and Greenville #36. All of the other “big” cities in SEC country are ranked between 40 and 100. The total # of tv HH is just 15.1 million.

            Yes the SEC gets great national ratings now on CBS and ESPN, but so did Notre Dame on NBC 10 years ago. If the top teams in the conference gradually became less relevant than I would expect the national tv ratings to decline.

            As much as some of us SEC folks might hate it, conference could ill-afford not at least asking Texas and Texas A&M if they would like to join. Short-term and long-term those schools make sense. If they go to the Pac-10 and/or the Big 10 without the SEC even asking, then the conference will be making mistake.

            On the Eastern side of things, I think that asking Va Tech, MD, UNC, NC State or Miami makes far more sense than Ga Tech, Clemson, and FSU.

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      • Ell

        Actually, Slive said last week that the contract with CBS/ESPN expands with the conference.

        Well, he didn’t say that, but he lawyered it up nicely. I can’t find the quote now, but I know I read it (I know, I know)…

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      • No One Knows You're a Dawg

        I think TAMU would have value for the SEC because they play in a large media market (the state of Texas) in which the SEC currently has no presence. Texans will watch TAMU games because they are football crazy and because they will like to either root for or against TAMU (sort of like Miami viewership in Florida).

        I also think this PAC 10 bid signals the end of the Big 12, whether the schools go to the PAC 10 or not. To use the language of 80’s era Wall Street, Texas, Oklahoma et. al. are now officially “in play” for the stronger conferences-conferences which, unlike the Big 12, have the financing to do an LBO for those programs.

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    • “The NBC guy got carried away with the toothpaste metaphor.”
      That’s the main thing that I took away from that article, for sure. Gross. 😉

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  2. Hogbody Spradlin

    The PAC-10’s desire to be like the Big Ten also assumes the long term stability of the TV advertising revenue business model. As long as copyright protection exists there should be some value in the images of our heroes, but the ground is already shifting.

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  3. The Realist

    Clemson and Florida State are both natural fits in the SEC… as is Texas A&M. The only problem would be finding that fourth dance partner. Texas would be the clear #1 pick, but they have such a grandiose picture of their national worth that I doubt they’d become “one of the guys” in the SEC. So who then?

    TCU? They are a portion of the Dallas market, but that’s like saying Georgia Tech would carry the Atlanta market.

    I, personally, would vote for Miami. They have a national presence/fan base like Texas or Notre Dame which would draw more national eyeballs to SEC games.

    Of course, I remember when the ACC expansion went down. They were supposed to be a super power conference that overtook the SEC. It turns out that they are just a collection of mediocre teams that can’t sell tickets. I’m not so sure this Big 16 is all it is cracked up to be.

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  4. 81Dog

    to use a metaphor that a judge once used in encouraging my client and our opposition to settle a case, sometimes the pie is only so big. You have to ask yourself whether expansion is going to allow you to make more pie, or whether your new schools are just going to eat pie.

    Clemson and FSU are basically pie eaters. Texas and Oklahoma are pie makers. Can you imagine Mike Adams, or the brain trust at Florida, agreeing to any deal that cuts the overall tv revenue of the current SEC schools? I could see Tennessee agreeing, but then the Czar would probably offer to help them with the math, and even they would object.

    If the SEC can’t add significant tv markets, which would allow them to squeeze CBS and ESPN for more money, I can’t see it expanding.

    I could care less if the Big Ten or Pac-10 expands. It’s not going to make the Clydesdales in the midwest any stronger or faster, or the the surfers on the west coast any tougher. The one place the money probably won’t be able to help them is on the field.

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  5. Doug

    The problem, as the Senator alluded to, is that the bigwigs at ESPN, CBS, and the other networks care sod-all about whether FSU or A&M would add interesting new rivalries to the SEC. They only care whether those schools would add major new DMAs, and neither of those schools would. Waco/Killeen/College Station is the 95th-largest market in the country, Tallahassee the 108th; Austin and Oklahoma City, by comparison, are 45th and 51st, respectively, and both carry considerably more cachet than FSU at the moment.

    By that metric, Miami would be a good get, but that area’s notoriously apathetic sports fans (except for Uncle Luke, obviously) would make both Slive and the networks think twice about adding the ‘Canes. Greenville/Spartanburg, I was surprised to learn, is actually the 36th biggest market in the U.S., but Clemson itself is such a small part of that area that I don’t know if it’d make a difference. Georgia Tech would obviously add nothing, as the SEC already has as many viewers in the Atlanta area as it needs.

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    • JasonC

      A couple of additional points:
      1. The Greenville/Spartanburg market also includes Asheville, NC & Anderson, SC. The bigger concern is that there are probably only 3 million people in all of South Carolina, whereas Texas and Florida are much larger.
      2. One thing to remember when looking at a market like Tallahassee is that it’s not the only place with FSU fans. I’m sure Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa have their fair share of ‘Noles and without having done any market research in 5+ years, I would bet Jax is around 35-45, Orlando is around 20 and Tampa is around 15 in households.

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      • gernblanski

        Jacksonville is #47, Tampa is #14, and Orlando is #19.

        While I would agree that there are a significant # of FSU fans in those markets, I would bet that there are just as many if not more UF fans. For business analysis purposes, most would agree those markets are already counted in the SEC #’s.

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  6. The Realist

    I understand how shallow some of the markets are that are being discussed, but I’ve got to wonder if market saturation isn’t as important as market penetration.

    For example, Austin may be the 45th market in terms of number of sets, but I guarantee the raw number of sets tuned in to a Texas game is far more than the number of LA sets tuned in to a USC game. If you want to advertise to the college football demographic, will you have more success advertising in LA or Austin? In the same way, how many sets does a Clemson game turn on in upstate South Carolina? It’s less the number of sets in a given region that is important, but the number of sets tuned in to your specific program.

    If the ACC is a television conference, and the SEC poaches three of the four football-crazed programs in the conference, then you have certainly saturated the market in the southeast. The SEC would not be competing with the reasonably successful ACC anymore (in football, at least).

    I dunno. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong.

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    • gernblanski

      That is part of it. But from the Big 10 network and the possible Pac-10 network, ratings do not mean as much as # of subscribers for the cable systems.

      If the network can get on one of the standard cable tiers, then they get $$ based on the subscriber base. Ratings then become the bonus.

      This is one of the reasons that the Yankees and the Red Sox have so much money in baseball. The Yankee network is rolling in the $$$ as is the Red Sox cable deal.

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      • Sanford222View

        I am pretty sure the Big 10 Network is a premium type service just about everywhere it is offered. Cable/Dish companies don’t offer it in the basic offerings.

        The networks change the per subscriber fee to these companies based upon what tier the network is shown anyway. If a cable company places a channel in a digital tier they pay more per sub for it. Most cable companies don’t put channels in “Basic” or “Expanded” tiers anymore not because of having to pay for more subs getting but because analog channels require more bandwidth to air and bandwidth space is precious with the need to add more HD channels to meet that demand.

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        • gernblanski

          I think you are right about that. I have satellite. But still, are there not sports tiers that are less expensive than others?

          Is not the goal of the Big 10 network to get into one of the suscriber sports tiers but not be so expensive that no one orders it?

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  7. Ron

    Virginia Tech sure seems like an ideal candidate for the SEC. You get the D.C. TV market along with a competitive team. Add West Virginia to the mix & I think the same thing applies. Outside of those two teams, I can’t think of any school that will enhance our competitive level and revenue generation.

    I doubt any Carolina school will leave the ACC, but NC State or Wake Forest may be a possible target. To balance the conference geographically, the state of Texas is the only viable place to grab a team or two.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Forget North Carolina. None of those schools would ever leave the ACC because of basketball. UVa, too.

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  8. hassan

    What we need is a 120 team mega uber super duper conference. We’ll then need to divide that group into 11 sub groups for scheduling purposes. The winners of each of those sub groups can have automatic bowl berths to certain bowls. The rest can earn their way in by their record.

    Oh, wait…that sounds familiar in a strange way.

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  9. Chuck

    Okay, deep breaths.

    I am sure TV markets are an important factor to consider, but they are only one. The conference with the best TV contract right now? Why, that would be the SEC. Atlanta is surely the biggest TV market in the geographic area of the conference, but it doesn’t even have a team in its metro area that belongs to to the SEC, and while the ATL market is a major market, it is probably no better than 10th in the country. So why is the SEC getting the big TV deals? My opinion: product. Passion, intensity, tradition, rivalries, players; product.

    If you take nine fairly good teams (and one good team that is in danger of being hammered by the NCAA), and add two good teams and four up-and-down teams you don’t really add very much to the overall product that the PAC-?? can offer.

    Then, assuming an offer is made, what is the attraction for Oklahoma and Texas? Will the Pac-?? create an alignment that will put them in different divisions so they can annually play for the PAC-?? championship?

    Think it sucks to be Kansas? What about Nebraska or Missouri? Missouri has played pretty good ball the last few years in that conference. Oh, and I don’t think Jim Delaney can be very happy right now, either.

    I guess having a story with legs is interesting, but I don’t see a reason for the SEC to just start adding teams as a response. For one thing, we already have the big TV contract, and that gives us a few years of breathing room. I am not saying that we should not be watching the developments, but there is no rush, either.

    As for pie metaphors, my experience with judges is that they are as good at selling settlements as Billy Mays ever was selling Oxiclean if it means they don’t have to sit and hear the case. But that doesn’t mean that they are right, and it frequently means that you are each giving up something just to have it over with. When you get right down to it, every team in the SEC except UGA, Florida, UT, and Bama is a pie eater. But we have to be able to play some pie eaters in order to have a conference. By your logic, we should just go and get the best teams (for now) in the biggest markets, and rename ourselves the ESPN conference. 😉

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    • 1. In terms of revenue, the Big Ten’s TV deal is more lucrative than the SEC’s.
      2. Texas and Oklahoma would be a huge get for any conference that nabs them.
      3. The attraction for Texas and Oklahoma in the Pac-10 offer is the $20 million/year TV money. That even doubles what Texas is getting as a member of the Big XII. The question for Texas is if there’s a better deal to pursue than even that.
      4. At least Nebraska and Missouri are possible options for the Big Ten. Kansas has nothing.
      5. Your last two paragraphs are contradictory. I agree with you that the SEC has no compelling reason to rush into expansion. But if the right deal shows up, it would be foolish to ignore it. As for adding on more pie eaters, as you put it, no SEC president is going to agree to a move that puts less money in his school’s pocket, not in this economic climate. So the only way to add an FSU or a Clemson would be to combine it with the addition of a Texas, so that the conference can split up a bigger pie.

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      • ConnGator

        Actually, as Mr. SEC shows here:

        http://www.mrsec.com/2010/05/expounding-on-expansion-the-teams-that-fit-by-the-numbers/

        adding Texas A&M and Virginia _would_ bring quite a bit to the table.

        But I don’t see TAM joining without Texas, and Virginia is too Vandy-like for my tastes.

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        • Doug

          The problem with adding Virginia is that UVA and VT would have to be a package deal — when the ACC was planning its expansion back in ’03, then-Gov. Warner raised a stink (at the behest of Hokie fans) that Tech wasn’t part of their original vision. Only after that did the ACC swap out Syracuse for VT. It’d be hard to see UVA invited to share in the SEC’s luchre without Tech being shoehorned into the deal (or vice versa — personally I think VT would be the better addition from an athletics standpoint, but don’t tell my UVA-alum parents I said that).

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          • gernblanski

            I would prefer taking VA Tech and MD rather than VA Tech & UVA, but either combination of those three accomplishes the goal of expanding into another Top 10 TV market.

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      • Chuck

        Assuming it is all about money, there is a difference between short term gain and long term gain. Short term, the PAC-?? can offer money and TV to Texas and Oklahoma. But, if nothing else makes sense, it is long term losing deal for Texas and Oklahoma. GaTech went for for short term money (and put itself, in its mind, in the category of ND) and left the SEC to go independent. Where are they today? Money is nice, TV markets are an important consideration, but first you have to have fundamentals or it is just another Big East/ACC clusterf*&k. I think Texas and Oklahoma have a little more pride than that. And my last two paragraphs are not contradictory. 🙂

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  10. Otto

    Kansas could still go to the Big10. Neb., Mizzou, Kansas, K State and Iowa St. to the Big 10 for 16 with the teams mentioned in the article to the PAC10 would make it much easier to split the Big12.

    Baylor would be out in the cold at which point I could see them joining the MWC with TCU or dropping football completely.

    The PAC10 and Big10 have a long history together w/ a common enemy in the SEC and could make this work

    If the Big12 does breake up and the Kansas teams along with Iowa St do not find a home in the Big10, the MWC likely expands and becomes a BCS conf. Assuming there is still a BCS and the NCAA is still involved.

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  11. 69Dawg

    I think the PAC – ?? scheme is perfect. They are forming a super conference by adding a whole division. As the Senator said the 7-2-3 schedule could be economically done. As long as the 3 cream puffs were not too expensive. Kudos to the PAC – ?? for putting the screws to the Big 10’s grand scheme.

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  12. Otto

    69 Dawg, who says the PAC is putting the screws to the Big10?

    They maybe helping the Big10 raid the Big12 by offering more than half the Big12 teams a new home with more cash. The PAC of course gets a big money grab too.

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  13. I read that the big ten is looking at GT & the Atlanta TV market. Is that True ? .

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  14. Dawgaholic

    Don’t be shocked if the first SEC news to surface is a news conference announcing new members.

    No inside info, just a hunch.

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    • Hell, man, the Washington AD was quoted today as saying that a total merger of the Pac-10 and Big XII is on the table for discussion at the Pac-10 spring meetings, so nothing would shock me at this point.

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    • Chuck

      Copy and Paste (with minor edit) from David Hale’s blog:

      At yesterday’s meeting of school presidents, there was no expansion talk, but there was plenty of discussion about TV — all of it good, according to Michael Adams.

      “The (numbers) aren’t good – they’re phenomenal,” Adams said. “Ratings are good, ESPN’s happy, we’re happy, and obviously the money is good.”

      That TV deal is one of the reasons Mike Slive isn’t talking up expansion, he said. With the ESPN and CBS contracts, the SEC already reaches more than 100 million homes, Slive said, so distribution isn’t a worry. And with the additional revenue teams can generate by individually selling their local TV rights, the SEC is in a position where its own TV network isn’t a potential payday the way it would be for, say, the Pac-10….(emphasis supplied)

      … But Slive and the rest of the presidents will at least indulge in some of that speculation at today’s final session. Given all the rumblings coming out of the Big 12, that makes sense. The SEC isn’t going to make the first move, most likely, but it needs to be prepared when the blocks start tumbling.

      “We’re not complacent,” Slive said. “There’s never a moment when you don’t want to get better.”

      The beauty of being on top is that you can be patient. But the price of being on top is that everyone is always gunning for you, and you have to be ready. (more emphasis supplied)

      I am just saying that the first SEC news to surface won’t be the announcement of new members.

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  15. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The SEC should go west. Texas is the 2nd most populated state in the nation. Sew up the whole state by getting the University of Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor, with the University of Houston or Rice as the 4th, if you cannot get Oklahoma without Okie State as a tag along. Okie State adds nothing and the OK legislature probably will tie the 2 together.

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  16. I still would like to sew up the Atlanta TV market & make the ACC irrelevant In Atlanta by adding Tech & Clemson to the SEC. That works for me.

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