Well, it certainly didn’t take Junior long to start messing with old friends.
This is an especially nice touch.
You know, there’s one possibility nobody’s mentioned in assuming that somebody’s lying here – that Baxter got punked by a third party falsely professing to represent those schools. I’m hoping that’s the case, in fact, because stupid is always funnier than falsehood.
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.