Realignmentality

Take the title of this post however you want. The reality of realignment, the mentality of it, a ridiculous portmanteau intended to give me somewhere to start this post, whatever. The point is that I have gotten tired of reading all of the ridiculous takes on this realignment saga available from standard media sources and so I'm going to walk us through what has really happened between relevant parties in the past couple of years. I will also refer back to events from before that time when those events are relevant to either a subject's behavior or others' interpretation thereof. Now that this ridiculous episode is winding down for this year, I think it's a decent time to take a look back at how we got here.

Before getting into it, let me say that I realize everyone knows they are reading this on a Texas blog. That's fine, I obviously come to this situation with my own biases. The difference is that I'm admitting it up front and that I'm going to try to be as objective as possible. Sure there may be some shots taken, but I don't for a second believe the University of Texas is some sort of white knight. Just know that I'm not motivated merely by some desire to distract people from the fact that my alma mater started this whole mess. Speaking of...

The Firestarter

While alumnus Pat Forde is busy vilifying Oklahoma and moreso Texas for the current lunacy in college athletics, we shouldn't allow him to distract us from this simple fact: the University of Missouri started this mess by lifting their skirt for the Big Ten.

This was the first time that the Big 12's instability was broadcast to the public. There had been dustups before on conference matters, but Missouri leaked the information that they'd had enough and would move to the Big Ten if asked. Conference expansion had been discussed here and there for a while, and conventional wisdom had always been that the Big 12, a hodgepodge of two old conferences, could be ripe for the picking in such an event. That was only logical because it was the newest of the power conferences and the unhappiness of some members over the conference's structure was well-known within collegiate circles. But being well-known and being leaked to the media in what would turn out to be an embarrassing plea for an invitation are two very different things.

Obviously this strategy backfired in a huge way on the Missouri administration when that invitation never came. No, that invitation instead went to one of the very schools that Missouri was whining about.

The Hypocritical Windbag

Like I said, there may be some shots taken, but this one is pretty deserved. It doesn't apply to Nebraska or its alumni as a whole (although there are certainly some just like with any large group) but more specifically to Tom Osborne. Because this piece is already going to be long enough, I will offer an abbreviated history of Nebraska versus Texas.

There were and are those in Big 8 country, Tom Osborne clearly being one of them, that think the Big 8 rescued the SWC. The reality of the matter is that the Big 8 was dying, too, a conference falling victim to the television age locked into a region without enough desirable markets. The Big 12 was a merger and as such there was a lot to be voted on at the outset, and the idea that the Big 8 was rescuing some schools from the SWC is clearly debunked by the way the voting went. If the Big 8 schools did not need the Texas media market as badly as they did then they wouldn't have compromised with the Texas schools.

The biggest point of discontent that Osborne had with Texas was on the issue of partial and non-qualifiers. The old Big 8 did not limit the number of these studentish-athletes each school could enroll. Texas, however, did not approve of admitting such recruits and won out so that only two male and two female athletes in such a situation could enroll each year and no more than one in any single sport. This badly affected the Nebraska system and was basically the beginning of the end for the Nebraska/Texas relationship. Worth noting, again, is that this change passed the Big 12 at the time of the conference's creation which means that enough old Big 8 schools accepted this change in order to get the Texas schools to join. And a very important point for the purposes of the current realignment situation is that the Big Ten does not limit such enrollees. As Cole Manbeck of The Manhattan Mercury pointed out last year, this was a major reason the Cornhuskers wanted the Big Ten. Obviously money was the other major issue.

So non-qualifiers were the major point of discontent. One thing that Nebraska agreed with Texas on all along, though, was unequal TV revenue sharing. During the creation of the conference Nebraska made sure that television revenue would be divided up based on the number of appearances each team made. This is something that seems to be known by most media sources but rarely mentioned. The Big 12 TV revenue model was set up exactly the way Nebraska wanted and in fact was the only possible configuration that would maximize Nebraska's revenue at the expense of their conference partners. Clearly equal sharing wouldn't help Nebraska get a leg up on everyone else, and just as clearly dividing the revenue by market share would be disastrous for the Cornhuskers. So Nebraska voted for unequal TV revenue sharing every single time until a sham vote just before they left the conference. This will be a recurring theme during this discussion, public proclamations of a need for fairness, equality, and honesty from schools whose actions were all in the name of inequality while they worked to abandon the conference behind their partners' back. Nebraska voted for unequal TV revenue during their Big 12 tenure, they voted for school retention of third tier media rights, and they were researching a Cornhusker Network while they were here.

The bottom line is that Nebraska left the conference because they saw a better situation for themselves and they took it. I don't blame them for their decision, just the hypocritical spin they put on things. They wanted to go to a conference where they could immediately make more money and allow partial and non-qualifiers to enroll. Anything else they try to sell to the media and college sports fans is a 100 Couric load of crap.

Heading West Take 1

Shortly after Missouri lit the fuse, the rumor mill started up about conference expansion moving beyond the Big Ten to other conferences. Colorado was almost immediately mentioned in various places as the most logical Pac-10 target after Larry Scott first mentioned that the conference was actively considering expansion. In something that didn't get much play over here in Big 12 country, around the same time Utah was already being mentioned as the 12th team with Colorado. This would be important later.

So after Nebraska left the Big 12 was ripe for the picking. It seems that at this time Larry Scott dreamed big and considered the possibility of poaching six Big 12 teams and going straight to 16 and the first superconference instead of just Utah and Colorado taking the Pac-10 to 12. But the six teams Scott identified "We are who we are. People say what they say. The outcome is the outcome. We’re proud of ourselves. We’re proud of how we do business." And as far as I'm concerned, Texas should be.

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