This was one of my more prescient posts, typed back in December:
4. There are no good replacement schools in the mid-majors. None bring extra TV sets to a contract. If Missouri or Nebraska go to the Big 10, the Big 12 will die. Add TCU? It gives us nothing to improve the TV contracts. As soon as one team leaves the Big 12, UT, OU, and TAMU start actively looking for new homes.
Note - I am not an insider. I’m just a guy who understands that people and organizations typically make decisions in their best interests, especially if they are given the time to think them through. Forecasting an outcome is mainly a matter of understanding who has the authority to make decisions, and what their interests are.
Now that the end game is being set up (formal invitations to join the Big 10 or other conference will not be extended until informal assurances are made that they will be accepted), we can be more focused in our statements about what will and won’t happen. Hopefully, this will make future discussions smarter.
1. Arkansas will not leave the SEC for the Big 12. Why would they? Such a move would cost them $10 million/year in TV revenue. How would that be replaced? Even if the Big 12 were to get a better TV contract, and approach those numbers, there is still the very real risk that the Big 12 will go away or downgrade in status. Where would Arkansas go then?
The argument given for that move is to open up Texas recruiting. They already have a plan for that- playing in Jerryworld gainst the Ags every year. Besides, even when they were in the SWC they generally only got about 6 – 8 Texas recruits per year. There just isn’t a reason for them to make this move.
2. If Missouri, Nebraska, or Colorado leave, TCU or UH might be proposed as replacements. These schools will not preserve the Big 12’s stature, although they might keep the Big 12 in the BCS. This would be like when Cincinnatti and Louisville replaced Miami and VT in the Big East. In such a scenario, the Big 12 would approach the Big East in (lack of) stature, and the next TV contract would be worse, not better. This would increase the stresses currently tearing the conference apart. In other words, the Big 12 would become a zombie conference, shuffling along, dead but trying not to notice.
3. In any Pac-10 realignments, all of the current Pac-10 schools stay. None get dropped. Although the Pac-10 has a poor TV contract now, it has none of the dissension or resentment among members that the Big 12 has. Besides, the Pac-10 is a co-owner of the Rose Bowl game. Those schools are true partners in a real enterprise. Also, the Arizona schools aren’t jumping to the Big 12. Those schools waited decades to move from the (defunct) Border Conference to the PAC-10. They aren’t leaving.
4. If Texas joins the Pac-10, or there is an alliance of sorts, there will be no 10PM CST kickoffs. These ADs are not stupid. Texas games will be one of the big draws for the contract, and the games will be scheduled to maximize viewers and revenue. This is the real source of added TV revenue- adding Texas gives the alliance great games with broad appeal both early in the day and (with the California schools) late in the day.
5. Texas A&M. They are almost as desirable to other conferences as Texas. Their Athletic Department is badly in the red, and their Athletic Director hates Texas. They are a true wild card. They can force Texas to take them along to wherever the Horns go, or they can go their own direction. Texas A&M in the SEC is not as good of a cultural fit as many Ags think, but it would be a financial success (maybe not a competitive success), and would allow Byrne to thumb his nose at Austin. Which is what he really wants.
6. Oklahoma. They will follow their own best interest. They will not sacrifice future competitiveness to maintain conference unity. They are not as desirable to other conferences, because they don’t bring the TV sets and they will recruit their conference partners’ states. However, they will be pro-active. If teams start to leave the Big 12, OU will start actively looking for a new home. Hmmm. Do you think they have a contingency plan where they promise the SEC they will play three home games per year in Jerryworld?
7. Texas will be blamed for a Big 12 breakup, somewhat unfairly. Texas gets blamed for the inequity in TV money sharing in the Big 12, but if Missouri and Nebraska bolt, it will not be because they resent getting $2 million per year less than Texas. It will be because the Big 10 offers more than $10 million more per year, and the certainty of future stability. KSU, BU and OSU could get more money by not scheduling D-1AA teams that will never be televised. In other words, there are ways for them to increase revenue besides just having Texas share more with them.
Also, Texas will not be a first mover. If the conference loses members, and finds weaker replacements (TCU, UH) to stay together, things will get dicey for Texas, because it doesn’t want to be the official home wrecker. In such a situation, Texas will not be open to equal revenue sharing, nor the creation of a Big 12 network that supplants BEVO-D. UT knows from experience that the business strategy of BU, TCU, and UH athletics is to free ride. In such a situation, UT will wait for TAMU or OU to make the next move out that crashes the conference.
Still, Texas will get the blame. It’s like on the Ag boards, where Texas is blamed for the NCAA’s focus on Jackie Sherrill in the ‘80s. In fact (and there is a lot of archived news articles about this), it was bitter SMU boosters that funded the investigations that nailed Sherrill. The typical Ag fan just doesn’t hate SMU enough to remember this, and they enjoy blaming Texas more.
The Big 12 has had 14 years to knit together, to pursue common goals as institutions and explore synergies in marketing and promotion. Instead, schools have nursed grudges, formed cabals, and resented the schools that have geographic and financial advantages. Like a dissolving marriage, all parties share blame.
8. What will happen? I see three outcomes possible:
Scenario 1: Beebe convinces Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado to stay in the fold. The first domino doesn’t fall. The conference then works on getting a better TV contract. The ADs realize they need to stop sniping and backbiting. Perhaps there is even revenue sharing and a Big 12 network eventually, if Texas and TAMU can be convinced.
Scenario 2: Teams leave, and (less desirable) replacements are found. The Big 12 loses stature, but stays a BCS conference…for now. Eventually, more teams are sniped away, and the conference collapses.
Scenario 3: Teams leave, the Big 12 collapses, and UT makes its way to the PAC-10. TAMU may follow, or it may join the SEC.