Here We Go Again (or not): Conference Expansion News and Notes

Written August 13th, 2011 by MaliBuckeye

You will be assimilated

Update: Well… huh.  The SEC has stated that they’re not extending an offer to aTm at this time, bringing this whole shebang to a screeching halt.

Sources say that the argument over who might be the 14th team and Aggy counterpart was partially responsible for the decision.

No word yet on whether or not the Big 12-2 will just preemptively break up with aTm in response to their looking around at other suitors.

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After last summer’s exciting adventures in conference expansion, it seems as there might be a nice refractory period for at least a couple of years.

Ah, but like an addict jonesing for the next hit, university administration, conference leadership, and sports fans across the nation couldn’t stay away from the possibility of becoming bigger and better, particularly where money and egos are involved.

Yup, I referred to Freud… since much of what is going on seems to also be impacted by a sense of fear and frustration; schools not getting the respect they deserve, so leaving for greener pastures becomes a bright, shiny option.

The major factor, as before, is TV money. Just like the BTN started this gunfight last year with it’s ability to pay programs more than they might have been getting from other conference revenue sharing agreements, network exposure and cash are also at the heart of this wave of rumors.

Two things stand out in this- first, the University of Texas’ agreement with ESPN to form the Longhorn Network is not sitting well with their friends in College Station and much of the rest of the Big 12-2. Particularly given some of the contractual agreements that exist to televise high school athletics; many people see this as an improper and unfair advantage for the Longhorns… as would be a requirement for other teams to have their home games against UT broadcast on the LHN. The NCAA’s presidents have said that the HS situation is not currently within the guidelines for the Association, but there’s no reason to think that might change.

Second is the Pac-12′s (still odd to type) great television contract with both ESPN and Fox, which also allows for the formation of their own conference affiliated network.  Given that the SEC has just recently renegotiated a deal with ESPN (I’m sure it doesn’t impact their coverage at all)  that is dwarfed by the new Pac-12 deal, it’s not beyond reason to see that they might ask “Wait… why can’t we have that?” in this whole process.

Particularly in a climate where state and federal funding for schools is being cut, and schools themselves are looking for ways to get leaner, it only makes sense for large athletic programs to look for ways to help maintain and grow their product.  Not everyone can have a shoe empire or energy baron sugar daddy.

Given that TV money is driving this, some of the decisions of the four letter network shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Oh, and OTL is covering Ohio State memorabilia for the second straight Sunday tomorrow… be sure to set your DVRs!

Expansion rumors are swirling fast and furious for the past few weeks, so any attempt to posit “expert” analysis would be really stupid on our part. Plus, at this point, our friend Jason at Men of the Scarlet and Gray has a really good update that we encourage you to check out.

Instead, we’ll give you the “quick and dirty” on what is out there at this point, including links so you can follow this as best as is possible. We’ll keep this updated as things develop, or until movement becomes great enough to warrant another reflection.

Onward:

  • First the almost certain- Texas A&M is going to the SEC, beginning in 2012. This weekend is a meeting with the SEC to confirm it, and there’s an aTm board meeting to discuss as well. This was on the table last year, but has been renewed allegedly due to frustrations about the LHN (which I believe aTm was invited to be a part of and declined).
  • That puts the SEC at 13, so you have to think they’d work for balance.  Adding one team to the east would even things out, and Florida State has been rumored to be that team (against Florida’s protests). However, today’s whispers were that Clemson (South Carolina’s natural rival) and Missouri (Spurned by the B1G last summer and an access point to a midwestern market for the SEC) would be also involved to make the conference a 16 team juggernaut.  That being said, though, SEC brass have shot this down at this time. That that FWIW.
  • That also means that, in addition to Arkansas (you cant’ vacate my memories), Ohio State will have beaten two SEC schools in bowl games. Woot!
  • So… where does that leave the Big 12-3/4? Well, some folks are postulating that they add Houston to make up for the loss of aTm… but that doesn’t seem like an answer anyone should be excited about.
  • Obviously the big fish in this is Texas… their contract with the LHN would allow them to be independent, but there are also two other possibilities closer to home. First, they could move to the Pac-12 which was in discussions last year. In this scenario, they’d probably be joined by Texas Tech due to legislative pressures and the desire to expand in a balanced fashion.  It’s also possible that they could be joined by Oklahoma, who would need to bring Oklahoma State along because that’s what they do. That would bump the conference up to 16, and would match the SEC (if they expanded beyond aTm).
  • The other possibility is that UT would head to the B1G… another thing that was discussed last year (this source seems to have good connections into the conference office). As an AAU member, they’d be a pretty good fit, if not for that pesky “having our cake and eating it too” thing with the LHN. Ah, but many of the rumors around this say that UT would get LHN revenue in exchange for BTN revenue, and that all UT home games would be on LHN and away games on BTN.  Again, just speculation- I wonder how Nebraska fans feel about this?
  • Would Texas come alone, or would the “Tech problem” (E. Gordon’s phrase from last summer) require the B1G to take TTU as well? What then about OU and TBPU? Could the B1G get to 16 and not either a) move east or b) include Notre Dame?  According to Delany, the conference actually is not going anywhere.
  • Ah, Notre Dame… once the belle of the ball, now it seems as if they are being left out of the discussions. Either that, or their media sources are better at keeping quiet. It’s possible that they are being left out due to previous dialogues and their passion for independence (read, not having a challenging schedule or recruiting in a conference). But, given the fact that the BTN paid B1G schools more than ND made from NBC last year, you’ve got to think that a conference connection would be enticing. It’s also possible that no one is talking with them to force their hand- once the 16 team conferences start to form, ND will have to see that they are about to become even less relevant and join in.
  • But where? The B1G seems the most logical given their schedule and footprint, but there’s a possibility that they could jump to a re-constituted Big 12-3. Or, they could remain independent, and recent whispers of Notre Dame and Texas talking might merely be consulting between what could be the last two major hold outs.
  • I said “major”, since no one is also talking to/about BYU. In many ways, they’re similar to Baylor (who only make it to the Big-12 because Texas’ governor during conference formation was a Baylor alum)… their religious background seems to put others off.  I guess if you can’t bring beer to the tailgate, you’re not going to be invited.  Fear not, though, as BYU has found a conference home for everything else.
  • RE: B1G- If Delany is being less than honest (although “defensive” realignment is not “active” realignment), then it should be noted that the conference has always been rumored to want to move east to the NYC media market.  ND would accomplish this, but who else? Maryland, Syracuse, Virginia, Rutgers, Pitt (to appease JoPa), Georgia Tech have all been listed in the past- What do you think?
  • One other factor- there may be an NCAA playoff coming. This past weekend, word surfaced that the Pac-12 and B1G have agreed in principal to support a +1 option for a championship. In this, the top four teams would be seeded and play in two of the current BCS games (on a rotating basis) with the winner playing in an additional game… a four team playoff, as it were.  One more game (Cotton bowl in Dallas’ new stadium?) would be added to host this championship.  The Rose Bowl would return to an automatic PAC/B1G game- could be part of the “playoff”, or could just host the top “non-playoff” teams from the conference.
  • If other conferences get behind this idea, it’s easy to see the impact on mega-conferences. Four 16 team conferences with bowl tie ins would automatically send their champions to the first round, with winners to play in the new game.  Sounds familiar to something I posited a couple of years ago- if I have time, I’ll dig that back up and post it again.  Other schools would be left out… both of the “playoff” and perhaps of the new division of college football. Although, Paragon had interesting thoughts on this in Friday’s podcast.
  • So last week’s president’s meetings may have indeed been proactive, or they may have been an “Oh, crap… we’re going to lose any control that we might have over the biggest institutions in the country”.  We’ll see.

That’s where we are for now…

12 Comments

  1. CentralMoBuckNo Gravatar
    August 13th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Why in the hell would Missouri want to go to the SEC? Their chances of ever making it to a BCS bowl would be even more slim than before.

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    BrianNo Gravatar
    August 13th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    No kidding. They can forget about ever having a shot at even winning their division ever again if they went to the SEC. Nebraska will likely find themselves missing annual games at k state, IA State, Colorado and Kansas. I think division titles will not come quite so easily from now on. For the past 5 years it was the winner of the Nebraska and MIssouri game playing for the conference title. Now Nebraska has to worry about a lot more teams.

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  2. BrianNo Gravatar
    August 13th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    No way Texas goes to the Big Ten. They wouldnt play the other Texas schools or Oklahoma and it would be an expensive logistical nightmare for all other sports outside football. Do you think their alumni are thrilled about the prospect of no games being in easy driving distance? My guess is they go independent or to the PAC Ten with Oklahoma and OK State. Speaking as a Nebraska fan…I would not be thrilled to have Texas in the same conference again. Although Austin is one fun place to spend a weekend. Missouri or a Big East team makes more sense if the Big 10 expands again.

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    JimNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 9:03 am

    PAC 10 road trips would be at least as far away as BIG 10 road trips for Texas. It’s not like they will be taking a bus to these places regardless of their conference affiliation or even if they are independent.

    Once the teams jump on a plane, a few extra miles aren’t going to make a huge difference price wise.

    Austin to State College, which would be one of the longer road trips for Texas in the Big 10, is about 1,500 miles.

    Austin to LA, which would be one of the shorter trips for Texas in the Pac 10 is about 1,300 miles.

    If travel distances would prohibit Texas from joining the Big 10, it doesn’t make any sense to say that the Pac 10 is a better option.

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  3. FrankNo Gravatar
    August 13th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Your ND logic makes sense. A four superconference scenario that leaves them left out in the cold would be more than they could accept. Don’t think they’ll be able to say no again, and we’ll see them in the Legends division. The B1G just needs to wait until the others move and create the pressure. As for #14, my money is on a NY market team (Syracuse is my guess), with a Washington market team (Maryland or VT) as a second option to join the Leaders division. Once again, Pitt will be passed by, since they really bring nothing to the conference table.

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  4. silverbuckNo Gravatar
    August 13th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Something no one seems to be talking about is the awkwardness of scheduling for regular season conference play. Sure, a 16-team superconference sounds impressive, but how impressive it winning that conference if one only plays half the teams in any given season. It would be a lot like the NFL, I suppose, with divisional play being mandated, and maybe one or two games cross-divisionally. I suppose I am enough of an old fart that I much prefer the idea of playing as many conference foes as possible during the regular season. Otherwise, why even have conferences? Just divide the country up in regions, say eight of them, and have a wild rumpus within each region, with a few inter-region games thrown in for interest and revenue. The best team from each region goes into an eight team playoff, and, voila! national champion! Or something like that. I still prefer a full conference schedule, but I know I am about to get run over by a bus called progress.

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    JimNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I believe the generally accepted solution to this problem is the creation of 4 team “pods” within the 16 team mega conference. The winners of the “pods” would then play in a four team playoff amongst the other winners of the pods in the conference to determine a conference champ. Winners of the four mega-conferences would then play in another four team playoff to determine the national champ. Bam, 16 team playoff for the national champ and everyone can stop their bitching about the BCS.

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    silverbuckNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I fully understand the logic of your scenario, and in many ways it is an attractive one. If, in fact, it comes down to 4 16-team super conferences, does that leave perennially weak teams, like Indiana, or Washington State, or Vanderbilt, or Iowa State out in the cold? Those are schools with long and honorable histories within their respective conferences, but their inability to sustain any kind of excellence in their football programs might override any other consideration. While I see the logic in that, it still saddens me, and brings college football ever so much closer to the professional model.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Well, one bright side is that professional athletes have really awesome deals on tattoos…

    (Too soon?)

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    silverbuckNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    LOfL!

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    JimNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    There is absolutely no way that current Big 10 teams are going to get the boot in favor of an outsider. It will be hard enough adding 4 quality teams to get to 16 as it is… among numerous other reasons why that will never happen.

    Other conferences may be different, but I honestly don’t really care about other conferences.

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  5. CentralMoBuckNo Gravatar
    August 14th, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Sounds like Aggie might have pulled an Missouri and started hyping up their move without getting a confirmation that the SEC even wanted them.

    [Reply]

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