Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lessons Learned from Conference Expansion

Now that most of the dust has settled from conference expansion, let's see what we have learned.

1. Notre Dame is not the most powerful school in the country. That designation now belongs to Texas. Texas was able to turn college football on its head and then put it back on its feet, all in less than one week. The Longhorns had grown men fearing for their futures and desperately begging Texas to keep the status quo. Most importantly, Texas was able to leverage more money and control in the Big 12.

2. Expansion is all about money. Being good in football or basketball took a back row seat to other factors like the size of a school's local media market, the number of television sets that watch a school's games, and the impact on travel costs. Each conference did not hide that they would not expand if the current membership would not receive as much TV and other monies. Schools that have not fielded competitive teams in years (Colorado) were viewed more favorably than schools that win more than anyone else (Boise State). Schools that are very logical additions geographically (Pitt) are being rejected for schools that expand the conference footprint (Nebraska).

3. There are no loyalties. Each school will do what is best for it. While conferences were created to better the collective group, that won't stop one part of that group from leaving if a better offer comes along. Utah, with a BYU grad as school president and a former BYU player as its head football coach, had no concern about the impacts of its move on BYU and the rest of the Mountain West. Colorado couldn't accept the Pac-10's invite fast enough to throw Baylor to the curb. While doom and gloom was being forecasted for Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State, Nebraska happily jumped to the safety of the Big 10. The Boise State Broncos probably have not thought twice about how the WAC will be the Sun Belt of the West once they leave.

4. The Pac-10 is properly situation on the left coast. I, for one, was shocked to see the way certain schools in that conference openly opposed the addition of religious schools like Baylor and BYU. Come on, this is sports we are talking about. Why are you going to let liberal ideas get in the way of a good sports competition? Each conference has its own identity, but it is hard to find another conference that cares more about its identity than the Pac-10.

5. The power of the people. From the outset last December, all conferences proclaimed that this would be a 12 to 18 month process. That did not stop fans and media from talking about expansion and postulating expansion scenarios. Facts and data were being thrown out left and right arguing the merits of School A vs. School B. Demands for updates and leaks to the media fueled the fire. The people were heard and a mere six months later, the Big 10 and Pac 10 have made their moves (as well as the Mountain West, but that was more reactionary). The Big 12 is uncertain what it will do, but be assured that whatever timetable is set will be sped up by the people pushing for a resolve.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poll Results: What Should Texas Do?

The University of Texas must have seen this poll because 68% said Texas should stay in the Big 12. Going to the Big 10 got 19% of the votes, and go independent received 13%. Thank you to all who participated.

We will stick with the expansion theme for the next poll question: What was the best expansion move?

Monday, June 14, 2010

CU says see you later to Big XII

Thursday, June 10, 2010, the Pac-10 announced that Colorado University will become the conference's 11th member. This change will become official in the summer of 2011. While many new rumors about Pac-10 expansion errupted less than a week before this annoucement, the first offical move was the oldest rumor. Colorado and Utah were the two teams first mentioned for Pac-10 expansion, which was thought to be a simple and fairly painless process to get the Pac-10 to 12 teams with a football championship game and improved television contract.

Now conference expansion has turned into a soap opera, with the Pac-10 being right in the middle of it all. Colorado made this move before other members of the Big XII to cut off attempts by Baylor to force its way into the Pac-10 and leave Colorado as the odd team out.

This move does not surprise me in the least. Colorado football has been down for several years, and what better way to infuse some life into the program than changing conferences. There is finally something to be excited about, which might translate into 2 or 3 more wins, which would translate into more excitement and better recruiting, which ... . You get the point; it's the snowball effect. Colorado pretty much hit rock bottom, so there is very little risk in this move.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Big 12 Will Be Fine

Let's say Nebraska and Missouri leave the Big 12 for the Big 10. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado then follow suit and leave for the Pac-10. Now what? Well, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Baylor, first of all, I can assure you that the sun will rise the next day, and when it does rise here is the plan for you.

The Big 12 leftovers will be in a favorable situation, for being leftovers. Being positioned in the middle of the country, they have the option now of picking and choosing from the strong schools on the west and east of them. Take your time, because you will have time, and look at the following candidates.

Mountain West (MWC)
Air Force, BYU, TCU, and Utah

Big East
Cincinnati, Louisville

Conference USA
Houston, SMU, Southern Mississippi, and Tulsa

These schools provide two key ingredients: 1) An expanded conference footprint, while maintaining the traditional Big 12 footprint, and 2) A conference that could still be an automatic qualifyier in the BCS. You can pick your size, anywhere from 9 to 12 teams (5-8 in addition to the four leftovers). Here are some scenarios:

Kansas State
Iowa State
BYU or Utah
Air Force
As long as you take TCU over SMU, this conference should be stong enough for a BCS AQ. The only problem is that long term, SMU might be better at getting attention in Dallas/Ft. Worth and Texas in general. :

Kansas State
Iowa State
Air Force
Southern Mississippi
This will give you 12 teams to hold a championship game. You are taking a chance on BCS AQ status with Louisville, but the basketball showdowns with Kansas could be too irresistable. Hopefully with both BYU and Utah, the conference will be strong enough to get AQ status.

The moral of this post is to keep your heads high Jayhawks, Wildcats, Bears, and Cyclones. The Big 12 has a future, and it might not be all that bad.

Big XII Ultimatum--Is this a joke?

The Big 12 has given Nebraska and Missouri an ultimatum for conference membership. The two schools have until Friday, June 11, 2010, to declare whether they are staying in the Big 12 or leaving for another conference. Really? This is the ultimate sign of desperation by the Big 12 conference officials. I find it hard to believe that the schools actually voted to issue this ultimatum. Six of the other 10 schools in the Big 12 have nothing to worry about if Nebraska and Missouri leave. Anyways, what good does this ultimatum do?

If I were Nebraska or Missouri, I would not respond. Go ahead, Big 12, kick me out. The worst thing that I see happening is the Big 10 does not extend an invite, so I have to go back to the Big 12 and say, "Sorry, will you let me back in?" I feel confident the Big 12 will say yes. The ultimatum makes it clear that the Big 12 has no "slam dunk" replacement schools, so when I come back as a known commodity, they will let me back in.

If Nebraska and Missouri do pledge loyalty to the Big 12, that is a slap in the face to the Big 10. This conference expansion carousel is still moving. The Big 10 might not be ready to extend an invite now, but maybe six months down the road will be. If you send the wrong message to the Big 10 you could kill your chances for the future. This is important because even with your commitment, Texas, Oklahoma, et al. can still bolt for the Pac-10, SEC, or something else. One thing we have learned already is that conference alignment is done on a school by school basis (with maybe the state of Texas being the one exception). Schools are making a decision based on themselves, not on how they may hurt/help the other teams in the conference by leaving or staying.

Yes, the ultimatum is a joke. The joke is the Big 12 officials, who are so scared of losing their job that they think they can use scare tactics to keep the conference from dissolving.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conference Expansion Craziness

Sorry I have not posted a real article or anything for such a long time. Thank you to those who still frequented the site and have been participating in the opinion polls.

We are in the middle of what is supposed to be the quiet time for college football. Letter of Intent day is long passed and the spring football practice sessions wrapped up weeks ago. Classes are out and the coaches can't have contact with the players. Yet, the conference expansion craze is generating enough headlines and discussion to make this as busy as the regular season. Let's quickly run down the popular possibilities for each conference in expansion.

Big 10
We will start with the one that is responsible for this mess.
Plan A is to add Notre Dame to reach 12 and hold a championship game.
Plan B seems to be to take teams from the Big 12 and Big East to reach 14. Top candidates include the Big 12's Nebraska and Missouri and the Big East's Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pitt.

Plan A is to change the rule for championship games to conferences with 10 teams, as opposed to the current minimum of 12.
Plan A-1 emerged just last weekend to add six Big 12 schools that would include Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and either Colorado or Baylor.
Plan B Add Colorado and Utah to reach 12 and get a championship game to leverage a better TV deal and start a Pac-12 Network.

Big 12
Plan A is to weather the storm by keeping the nucleus of Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. They would prefer not to lose any team, but if Missouri goes they will survive.
Plan B add BYU, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Arkansas, or another team NOT IN THE CURRENT BIG 12 FOOTPRINT to replace Missouri.

Plan A is to wait and see what happens knowing most likely they won't have to do anything.
Plan B is to expand to 16 teams by attacking the ACC and/or Big 12. Popular candidates include Texas, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.

Big East
Plan A is to give Notre Dame an ultimatum to join the conference for football or lose membership for its other sports. This is viewed as the best hope for survival, regardless of Notre Dame's response. The idea is to stop radical changes by forcing Notre Dame to join the Big 10 or, in their dreams, to stabilize the Big East by having Notre Dame as a football school.
Plan B die.
Plan C reach into the mid-majors again and repopulate the conference after the dust settles.

Plan A is to wait and see. The Mountain West Conference (MWC) made this clear yesterday in a press conference announcing that Boise State would not be added. The ACC will only add teams if it loses teams or 16 becomes the new 12. The rest of the mid-majors won't expand unless one of the major conferences disbands and they feel they can capitalize with one of the once privileged "BCS schools."

With all these options on the table, which make the most sense and are the most likely?
Big 10 Plan A. Probably not going to happen. Notre Dame is being very vocal about wanting to stay independent, which means that is probably the message the boosters are sending. Notre Dame will listen to its boosters more than the Big 10.
Big 10 Plan B. Rumors are that Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10 is immenent and could be annouced very soon. I think this has a high probability of happening, but not this month. Expansion is as big of a decision for these conferences as marraige is to an individual. The conferences will take the time that they need. These two teams would bring the total to 13 for the Big 10, which means one Big East team needs to come along. Pitt has the best football program, but offers the least new market. Rutgers has shown promise and the head coach is committed to the school, but how much market do the Scarlet Knights really bring? Syracuse has been putrid in football, but is great in basketball. However, the Orangemen seem to have the potential of delivering the most TV sets. I would rank the likelihood of these teams joining the Big 10 as 1-Rutgers, 2-Pitt, 3-Syracuse.
Pac-10 Plan A and A-1. Until the news broke about the 6 Big 12 schools I thought changing the championship game rule was going to happen and the Pac-10 would not change. If the numbers add up for Texas, I think the six Big 12 teams will end up joining the Pac. I have no expertise in projecting TV revenues, but I think there is a good chance that Texas would stand to profit with this arrangement with the Pac-10. If not, I think this opens a new can of worms for the top teams from the Pac and the top teams from the Big 12 to form a new 12-16 team conference hand picking the teams that would make the $$$ numbers work.
Pac-10 Plan B. What was once the most likely and reasonable scenario is as good as dead, I think. If this was such a great idea, the Pac-10 would not be bending over backwards to try and make other scenarios work.
Big 12 Plan A. Your guess is as good as mine about keeping the Big 12 nucleus together. It is hard to imagine that the Big 12 could cease to exist, but at this point we have to accept that it just might.
Big 12 Plan B. If Missouri is the only school to replace you can rule out Arkansas and Memphis as candidates. It won't happen. Cincinnati is very unlikely as well. I think it will come down to Louisville or BYU. Anyone who knows me will know that BYU would be my preference, but my gut feeling tells me that the Big 12 would prefer to expand east, not west. A presence east of the Mississippi could be very valuable.
SEC Plan A. This is the plan I envision the SEC following. Even if conferences expand to 16 teams now, the SEC is in a position to wait and see if these expansions really work. If they do, the SEC is strong enough to rip teams away from almost anyone.
Big East Plan A. I don't see the ultimatum happening. I really think the Big East will go down (Plan B) without much of a fight if two or more teams are taken. Raiding other conferences will prove fruitless because the Big East will be so weakened that BCS automatic qualifying status will be lost.

To summarize, the biggest players in the conference expansion game are: Notre Dame, Texas, and the NCAA rule for minimum teams required for a championship game. Notre Dame is capable of keeping the structure of eastern college football largely in tact by joining the Big East. Texas is capable of exploding the structure of college football nationwide by breaking up the Big 12. An NCAA rule change could keep everything status quo. Not only would it satisfy the Pac 10, it could satisfy the Big 10, or keep the Big 12 from expanding if one or two teams leave.

Poll Results: Should the academics of a university be a deciding factor in expansion?

Thank you to everyone who voted in the lastes poll, "Should the academics of a university be a deciding factor in expansion?" Sixty (60) percent said that academics should not be a deciding factor in conference expansion. I have to say I agree. If you have visited the Conferences page of this blog you have found a link to each conference's official web site. If you click through those you will find that these web sites are dedicated to college athletics. The conferences were established because of sports, not academics.

A new poll is posted, don't forget to voice your opinion on "What should Texas do?"