In an unprecedented move, a number of influential people inside and outside of college athletics mobilized over the past week to save the Big 12 Conference, stave off the Pac-10's move to expand to 16 schools and prevent a massive reorganization of college athletics.
An NCAA source with direct knowledge of what occurred told ESPN.com that the aggressiveness of the Pac-10 caused various factions of the collegiate sports world to coalesce. They then worked to slow and try to stop the pace of moves that would have left a number of schools searching for a new conference home.
The source said the people involved were business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a "fair number of them without a dog in the hunt."
According to the source, this collection of interested and influential people made phone calls, visited in person and held conference calls with the Big 12 schools that were being pursued, including Texas, as well as Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. The influential group also helped broker the new television deal between Texas (and the other schools considering leaving the conference) and Beebe, who represented the remaining Big 12 schools.
I love it.
Look, the PAC 10 had some built in travel bennies and the Big 10 Superconference including Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Texas had some sex appeal. But sometimes the status quo after some serious posturing and some Amarillo Slim-style poker, is ultimately the best thing.
Especially when a confluence of college football's most influencial power brokers get together behind the scenes to create a package so Texas couldn't leave the Big 12 and use their influence -- read big swingin' dick -- to muck up the party.
Yes, that was T. Boone Pickens hastily selling off some of his wind farms to keep Texas at home, with the help of ESPN and a TV package that includes nearly $30 million per year and the private Longhorn network that Texas covets. Rumor has it that the Longhorn Network should eclipse the $10 million that Florida made off the Gator Network last season. Rumor also has it that Urban Meyer is still a total prick.
But that's a crap ton of money and some built in PR protection from ESPN. The World Wide Leader now truly has a vested interest to protect the dollars invested in Texas, especially after the crippling sanctions USC has to endure the next few years. Perfect storm, perhaps?
On the flipside, yes, the football played in the 10 team version of the Big 12 is going to suck. So what? Destinations aside, the football would have sucked in the Pac 16, especially with an impotent USC program and an Oregon squad heavily compromised by the unfair task of simply staying out of jail.
But with the influx of new TV dollars, teams like Kansas, TAMU, Mizzou, and even Iowa State will be able to raise their level of competitiveness, assuming those funds are allocated properly.
As for our reputation in conference, we're the heroes while Nebraska and Colorado are the zeroes. Both the Huskers and Buffs will be writing checks to the Big 12 League Office with plenty of zeroes behind them for jumping ship early and CU's could very well bounce.
More than likely, the conference will end up withholding these $10 million penalties against revenue the two schools earn in the 2010 season and then disperse these dollars to the ten teams that remain in the League. For a school like ISU that was looking Conference USA square in the eye a few days ago, that's serious money and a serious change of fortune.
If you're a Longhorn fan, that means free beer in Ames, Manhattan, and Columbia. Hell those programs can afford handing out cold ones as the new TV deal means twice as much revenue to these schools. According to Andy Katz of ESPN, try somewhere between $14 to $17 million for the cash strapped schools.
As for Texas A&M, like Nebraska and Colorado before them, they did the best they could with the hand they were dealt but never did receive the firm offer from the SEC if you believe ESPN. Welcome back Ags. Happy Thanksgiving.
There was a lot of "doing your best" going around in what amounted to a perfect case-study in game theory.
At the end of the day, however, schools like Nebraska, CU, and tamu failed to broker a significantly better deal for their programs because Texas was driving the bus.
Sure, Nebraska got away from the big bad Longhorns, but did so by trading mediocrity in the Big 12 to mediocrity in the Big 10.
Colorado? You can't blame their hasty departure, because they had to get the hell out of the Big 12 before the music stopped and they were left without a seat. They probably should have just left in 1994 when they still had some credibility.
At the end of the day, the University of Texas proved to be the winner in all of this by getting a mega-TV deal and their own network which is what the school wanted all along. The bonus is that they'll continue running the conference and setting agendas from their lofty League Office perch in Dallas which is something they couldn't have done in any superconference.
Once again, it's good to be the king.