So, yeah, my first reaction to yesterday’s bombshell about UCLA and USC leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten’s greener pastures was amusement. My second? Well, I wouldn’t say it’s sympathy, exactly. But I do understand why the two decided to make the jump.
Think about it: two programs with history, branding (certainly in USC’s case, anyway… just ask Stewart Mandel) that sit in one of the biggest media markets in the country. They watched one conference commissioner, Tom Hansen, serve for better than a quarter-century without grasping the changing nature of college athletics revenue sources. He was replaced by Larry Scott, a master of self-enrichment and little else besides, who negotiated disastrous media deals and then sold his bosses on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow by letting those bad deals play out over a decade until they expired.
The conference finally worked up the stones to get rid of Scott. His replacement is another outside the box guy who comes from the gambling industry and whose first big move was to scuttle a CFP expansion plan in a fit of pique he’s tried to sell as some form of a 3-D chess move that’s cost his bosses their share of a half billion-dollar payout.
At some point, if you’re UCLA or USC, you have to ask yourself WTF are we doing here? Especially when you look up and see Iowa, gawdforsaken Iowa, about to pull in roughly $50 million more than you are, year over year, simply because of conference affiliation.
Yeah, that’s worked out well.
They can tell themselves that, but the reality is that George Kliavkoff woke up this morning less smug about his conference’s prospects than he was the morning before. The CFP expansion plan he was happy to piss on looks extremely attractive now, but why would Greg Sankey care what he thinks? There are plenty of rumors out there that other conference members want to join the gold rush to the Big Ten, which means he’s got to spend time shoring up his flanks.
You’ve also got to think the Pac-12 and the Big 12 are eyeing each other carefully right now, wondering who’s going to make the first move to cannibalize the other. ‘Cause you know that’s coming.
As I said yesterday, welcome to the real world, George. It’s not pretty when you’re not the lead dog.