Friday, June 11, 2010

College conference earthquake

Bits of tid on the college conference shakeup, the likes we have never seen before:

* College athletics, above all, is a multi-billion dollar business. TV contracts with the Big Ten and SEC net those schools around $20 million annually. A Pac 16 would so the same thing when major TV markets are factored. That will balance a lot of college budgets. College administrators could not care less about tradition and rivalries when millions of dollars are at stake. And the Big 12's current TV contracts are poor in relation to others.

* The Big 12 never quite jelled. The old Big 8 resented the powerful new kids -- or kid -- on the block. Read: Texas. Nebraska, in particular, didn't like the way Texas seemed to get its way on taking no partial qualifiers, which NU profitted from. The North didn't like the way many of the championships were held in south venues. The North thought the newcomers acted like they owned the place. They didn't like the uneven revenue sharing that favored Texas.

But other than Nebraska football in the first five years of the conference, Kansas basketball, and on occasion, K-State football in the early part of the decade, what exactly did the North bring to the table in the revenue-producing sports?

* Nebraska leaving to join the Big 10 today means the dominoes really start to fall. The Big 12 is dead. But something tells me the addition of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to join Colorado in the Pac 10 is not quite a done deal. A&M is flirting with the SEC, and the Big 10 still loves Texas. Don't be shocked if some backroom deal lands both in the SEC or even Big 10, or just one. Nothing should surprise anyone.

* Reports are that A&M is seriously considering going to the SEC without Texas. A&M regent Gene Stallings is pushing it. He's the former coach at Alabama and a loyalist to that conference. Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne, former AD at Oregon, is not enamored with the travel of the PAC 10/16. Can you imagine Texas and A&M in difference conferences? Unthinkable in the old days, but now, who knows?

* Football drives the bus. I feel sorry for Baylor. The Bears have done about everything they can to establish a very solid athletic program with one major exception and the one that really counts -- football. Look at Kansas. Top five basketball program of all time. But the Jayhawks may be without a major conference.

* Colorado, which is heading to the Pac 10, has the worst athletic program in the late great Big 12. Football has gone in the tank. Basketball is a joke. The Buffs don't even field baseball and softball teams. About the only thing they're decent at is skiing and cross country. Oh, but they have the Denver TV market. Yeah, right. Denver is about as crazy about CU football as Dallas is about SMU.

* Tech alums, of which I am one, need to send a thank-you note or at least a pat on the back to big in-state brother, Texas, if the Red Raiders head to the Pac 10. Tech wasn't going to that conference without some subtle hints from Texas to the Pac 10 to include them. Same with Oklahoma State in regard to Oklahoma. Tech generally doesn't get the credit in football they deserve, particularly when the last 15 years are factored in, but at the same time, they and the Lubbock market do not have the cachet to go out on their own like this.

* What's going to happen to Missouri? The Tigers more or less pushed the agenda of leaving the Big 12 and would have crawled on broken glass to go. But they may be on the outside looking in.

* Those Big 12 schools left behind are going to do all right for themselves. Imagine a conference, a reconfigured 14-team Mountain West that would look something like this:

East Division: TCU, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Air Force, New Mexico.

West Division: Boise State, Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State.

But stay tuned. The next week is only going to get curiouser and curiouser.

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