We're now in day three of the Pac-16 football Armageddon rumor, and its becoming obvious that realignment, in some form, is going down, and going down soon. The Big XII appears to be crumbling as we speak. I've been thinking about this from all angles for the bulk of two days, and wanted to share my thoughs. Some of this is review, but get through it, I promise there are a lot of interesting issues to be explored:
I've been hiding under a rock for the last two days, what's going down?:
The Pac-10 becomes the Pac-16, or some variation thereof. Invited to join the conference: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. Those schools plus the Arizona schools form the east division of the conference, while the old Pac-8 forms the western division of the conference. Most play is division centric, presumably featuring a round robin in football and double round robin in other sports, plus a few games from the other division.
Money. This leads to the creation of a Pac-16 television network. Pac-10 schools make a paltry $7 million in TV revenue per year. Rumor has it that this will push it closer to $20 million. That's a ton of dough. Why so much? Look at the TV markets such a network would command a premium in (ranking in parenthesis)
2. Los Angeles, 5. Dallas-Fort Worth, 6. San Francisco Bay Area, 10. Houston, 12. Phoenix, 13. Seattle-Tacoma, 18. Denver, 20. Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, 22. Portland, 28. San Diego
That's four of the top ten, seven of the top twenty, and eleven of the top thirty markets in the country. That's a lot of TV sets, and a lot of dollars. Sure, I'd rather have a Kansas or a Utah and pick up the KC or SLC market instead of Texas Tech, but without Tech, we don't get Texas.
What are the potential snags:
There are a number being talked about-
Rumor has it that Texas A&M is freaking out over travel. With divisional play being such a predominant factor in the new conference, I'm not sure travel will really be that big an issue. A&M likely won't have a choice but to do what Texas does. But if A&M wanted to be bold and move to, say, the SEC instead? We just call up Kansas and its no sweat. Texas does not want to join the academically inferior SEC. A&M is included to give Texas its traditional rivals. But if Texas wanted to play and A&M doesn't, A&M is insignificant and won't prevent this from going down.
You'll hear that the decision to expand has to be unanimous, and that Stanford, due to academic snobbery, will scoff at schools like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech being invited. Things have changed since last time this subject was seriously broached. Stanford has about twelve million reasons to have changed their minds. That won't be an issue.
No, the issue is Texas, and Texas will drive this thing. Texas says its first priority is to stay in the Big XII, and I believe that-but Texas only wants to do it on its own terms. Basically, Texas wants the most money from the Big XII TV deal, then wants to make its own regional TV network and not share any of that money, either. Schools like Missouri and Nebraska are upset that they're not getting an equal share of the pot, and that's why they want to bolt to the Big 10. If Missouri and Nebraska swear their allegiance to the Big XII and let Texas do whatever, then the league will stay together. But those schools, tired of Texas' oppression on the rest of the conference, will bolt if invited. Meanwhile, Texas sees an opportunity to make a lot of money, and is tired of pulling what it perceives as dead weight
The only way that the Big XII stays together is if the Big Ten makes it known that they will take no schools from the Big XII, and they're not going to do that. In my opinion, Missouri is gone, and Nebraska is likely gone with them. Texas could move to the Big Ten, but the Big Ten won't likely want to take other Texas schools. So they can stick around in the Big XII, adding BYU and Utah or something, or they can double their TV revenue and bolt. And it they go, everyone else will follow. Here is the key. Texas has to be all in. They can't try and bully us around about uneven revenue and their own regional TV network. This isn't Omaha and Des Moines we're talking about. We deliver LA, San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle. There is a ton of money to be made by everyone. Texas isn't having to pull any dead weight (maybe OSU and WSU, but no more so that Okie State and Texas Tech, besides, those schools help deliver Portland and Seattle, and there's no mechanism for kicking them out anyway, not that I'd support that).
Everyone. Schools like Oregon and Washington go from moderately self sufficient to cash cows for the Universities. The deficits and Washington State and Oregon State magically disappear. Everyone is rolling in cash, and we get on TV at ton in lots of sports
Kansas. Kansas State. Iowa State. Baylor. Maybe Nebraska, if the Big Ten doesn't want them. Welcome to the Mountain West, fellas.
I think its better than even money at this point that this scenario happens. It makes the most sense of anything that has come out so far. And there is obviously some fire to it. What happens to the college football landscape? How does everyone respond?
The Big Ten obviously is the first to follow. They pick up Mizzou and Nebraska. Notre Dame sees the writing on the wall and joins, then they get Rutgers and Syracuse in a desperate ploy at New York TV sets.
The SEC follows and raids four schools from the ACC. The ACC, in turn, picks up what's left of the Big East, plus UCF and Memphis.
The Mountain West, after picking up Boise, takes the scraps from the Big 12 and adds Houston and SMU. We have superconferences. The only question is, does the Mountain West get a spot at the table (and, football wise, it could very easily be better than the ACC depending on who the SEC raids. In fact, if the SEC were to go Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and West Virginia or Miami, the new MWC would kick their ass in football). I've heard people ask me "why would the MWC want ISU and Baylor? Because they're good at the non-revenue sports, both are academically very good, and ISU is a big state school with lots of alumni. The MWC would actually have a lot of good markets (Dallas, Houston, Denver, San Diego, Kansas City, Salt Lake, Las Vegas) but would have the second rate school in almost all of those markets, and therefore could only command second rate dollars for their already existing TV network).
I also find it interesting that this represents college football sort of coming full circle. Schools and conferences worked so long to deconsolidate TV rights from the NCAA, now, in a crunch for markets, consolidation has become desirable again.
There is a good likelihood of this happening. If it happens were are all going to get rich. Be glad we're not in a position to be left behind (especially OSU and WSU). And be glad we finally have a commissioner who appears to be proactive rather than reactive.