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
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.