Friday, July 30, 2010

Big 12 Conference Raids

From True/Slant on June 13, 2010:

Big 12 Conference Going Down Like a 98 Pound Weakling.

I grew up on comic books. On the back page of most of these comics there was always a cheesy ad. I remember this ad because it dominated my early childhood. It was the Charles Atlas ad featuring a 98-pound weakling being bullied on a beach. Through the miraculous Charles Atlas system, that same 98-pound weakling is transformed into the “Hero of the Beach,” whereupon he vanquishes the bullies and, of course, gets the girls. (Okay, there were also the ubiquitous Sea Monkey ads on the backs of comics that nobody of a certain age can forget, for if you ordered them, what arrived via snail mail was a packet of dried up salted shrimps that never did anything. I viewed it as an early lesson in caveat emptor.)

But this week, I found myself thinking about because I was wondering just when the Big 12 Conference turned into a 98-pound weakling? The Big 10 and Pac-10 moseyed on into America’s breadbasket (and beef basket) like that bully on the beach and kicked sand in the eyes of the Big 12. They cherry-picked them at will, and these raids are likely just the opening salvo.

If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s what’s happened so far.

Colorado is leaving the Big 12 (reducing it to 11 teams) to join the Pac-10, which would make it, unofficially, the Pac-11 (although admittedly that doesn’t have the same sweet ring as the Pac-10.)

Meanwhile, Nebraska is leaving the Big 12 (which departure makes the Big 12 unofficially the big 10.) The Cornhuskers headed to the official Big 10 conference (comprised of 11 teams) which, with the addition of Big Red, would make it a 12 team conference, although not The Big 12. Got it? Great. Moving on, then.

Currently, the Big 12, the original one, now with 10 teams mostly in the square states, is treading water, trying to withstand these raids and not simply disappear into the diaspora. The teams which remain (and yes, we’re talking about teams here because the actual colleges ceased to factor in these types of equations quite a while ago) are: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Texas.) Nothing personal, but in this kind of power grab, many of those teams are at the mercy of the bigger, more powerful players. Kansas has one of the very best basketball programs in the country, but these maneuvers are about football and only football. And the revenue it generates, of course. Which means that Oklahoma, with it’s brand of Sooners football, is in a slightly better position than Kansas, but the prized jewel in all this, of course, is the University of Texas. Ever’thing’s bigger in Texas. Especially, and most importantly, television markets.

According to the Television Bureau of Advertising, Texas has four TV markets in the top 50, with two in the top 10 – Dallas (#5) and Houston (#10). With all those eyes watching the Texas Longhorns football games, Texas is the biggest prima donna in this little dance, so if Texas stays in the Big 12, the conference can make a go of it with 10 teams. Then, down the road, they can raid some other, weaker conference, of course. Or so the thinking goes. According to Sports Illustrated, the Texas Board of Regents meets this Tuesday, so the remaining nine Big 12 teams, including Oklahoma, will just have to wait.

But you didn’t seriously think the SEC was going to sit on the sidelines for this piracy party, did you? According to, which has been the go-to source on what they have cleverly dubbed “The Big 12 Missile Crisis,” Texas A & M doesn’t want to join the Pac-10, but is considering a move to the SEC. Which means that Texas might spurn the Pac-10’s advances and go to the SEC, too, because word is that Texas and Texas A & M want to keep their long-standing traditional rivalry in tact.

For the same reason, part of me almost hopes that Oklahoma follows Nebraska to the Big 10. What can I say? I’m a sucker for traditional rivalries. USC v. Notre Dame, Bama v. Auburn, Michigan v. Ohio State, Texas v. Texas A & M, and Oklahoma v. Nebraska. These games make college football vibrate with excitement.

Meanwhile, the Pac-10 still has their eyes on both Oklahoma teams, Texas and Texas Tech. Which would give them 15 teams. They likely want 16 total, so that they can have two divisions of eight teams each. Word via NBC’s College Football Talk is that if Texas A&M doesn’t accept the invite to the Pac-10, but Texas does, the Pac-10 may make overtures to Kansas. Of course, the state of Kansas doesn’t have much to offer in the way of television markets, but that would be a gem of a basketball program to add.

But if it is more television revenue the Pac-10 is after (and why would we assume otherwise), and if the Aggies tell them to take a hike, they may offer that last spot to Utah, and not Kansas, per the Deseret News. Salt Lake City has the No. 31 television market, according to TVB and the Utes, despite not playing in a BCS conference, have a solid football program.

Lost in all of this is just how the Big 12, one of the best football conferences in the country and one of the best basketball conferences (both men’s and women’s) in the country, became such an easy target. It hasn’t been reported and the inside dope on that would be some very welcome reporting. So, for now the Big 12 exists and they hope to exist in some form when the dust settles, but they may not be able to. And until Texas and A&M make up their minds, they just have to wait and pray.

In the meantime, it is becoming more and more apparent that the SEC, the Big 10 and the PAC-10 are determined to become “power conferences” before this is all over and, if they cannot achieve that through further raids of the Big 12, surely they will turn their eyes elsewhere.

All of which leads me to believe that the Big East and the ACC should start making sweet, sweet love to each other if they don’t want to become the next 98 pound weakling on the beach. Or worse yet, like those dead on arrival Sea Monkeys.

The Follow-Up at True/Slant on June 15, 2010:

Big 12 Conference Not Dead Yet, Alternately titled, the BCS conference commissioners and the boosters who love them. This story changes every 15 minutes so it’s worth updating my last post about it. I’m exhausted just following the movements.

Looks like the Big 12, in the form of 10 teams, is going to survive. All this because the Texas Longhorns agreed to stay, and, thus, A&M and Oklahoma are staying. We’re not dead yet! says the Big 12. According to the USA Today, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe will speak about the new peace, but here’s how the television money appears to break down:

"He is expected to address reports by operators of Texas fans website, which cited people familiar with the decision, and other outlets that the schools were induced to stay by projections of increased TV revenue — $20 million a year for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma and $14 million-$17 million for the other seven Big 12 members, a substantial rise from the $8 million-$13 million distributed this year. Beebe did not return a request for comment."

Texas also is free to continue pursuing its own TV network.

Which they no doubt, will do. I wonder, if Texas does establish it’s own network – UTTV or something versus a Big 12 Network (modeled on the Big 10 Network) - how will that affect the balance of power within the Big 12?

But, for the foreseeable future (i.e., the next seven hours or so), the Big 12 conference looks like this: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri and Iowa State.

I don’t expect them to sit still. Once feeding time at the zoo was announced, all the conferences got ants in their pants.

In the rest of the midwest, the Big 10 now has a dozen teams and they have said that they’re going to remain that way For at least another dozen months.

Here’s the Big 10 lineup: Michigan, Michigan State, THE Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Nebraska.

Bear in mind that the Big 10 has never hidden the fact that they very much covet Notre Dame. Who knows how much longer the Golden Domers can hold out with power conferences gathering so much, well, power.

And, in the area of publicly declared lust, the Pac-10 made no secret of it’s desire to poach the Texas-Oklahoma axis from the Big 12 and has a bit of egg on it’s face now that the Big 12 retained the Texas-Oklahoma axis and has resolved to stand firm. But, with the addition Colorado (who they did manage to lure from the Big 12) the Pac-10 is sitting on 11 teams, but are probably not done maneuvering yet. For now, the Pac-10 looks like this: USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado.

It is speculated that the West Coasters will continue to try to put together at least a dozen teams, if not the super conference of 16 teams originally envisioned. Word is that the 12th potential team is Utah, currently of the Mountain West Conference, which conference just poached Boise State from the WAC conference. Of course, by the time I hit the “publish” button, no doubt there will have been even more changes.

Why the push for super conferences? Money. Championship game money. Which is to say, football championship game money. With enough teams, a conference can split into two divisions, a’la the SEC, and then have a conference championship game. That one game can mean kaboodely millions on TV revenue for a conference. The Detroit Free Press estimates that a Big 10 championship game could mean about $15 mil in revenue just for one game, which is a whole lot of motivation for ADs and conference commissioners everywhere.

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