Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thoughts on Conference Realignment

The Great Conference Realignment of 2010, which many people (but not me) thought would result in four 16-team superconferences, came to a halt (for now) on Monday when Texas decided to stay in the Big 12. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech—The News to UT's Huey Lewis—also stayed put, as did Texas A&M, who had been flirting with the SEC. Because Texas and friends decided that they weren't too good for the Big 12, the Pac 10 will not expand to 16 teams across three time zones, the leftover Big 12 teams will not have to join the Mountain West or rebuild their conference with Conference USA teams, and none of the other power conferences will be scrambling to keep up with the Pac 16.

Some other thoughts:

  • I'm mostly indifferent about Nebraska's move to the Big Ten. While I'm mildly interested in seeing the Cornhuskers play Iowa and Wisconsin and Ohio State in football, I was raised on Big Ten basketball. Nebraska never has won a men's NCAA tournament game and hasn't been invited to the Big Dance since 1998. Big-money sports aside, I'm looking forward to some epic Nebraska-Penn State women's volleyball contests.

  • According to CNBC's Darren Rovell, the cost of getting a women's soccer team from Lincoln, Nebraska to State College, Pennsylvania is $20,000. Imagine how much money it would have cost for Washington State to get its golf and track teams from Pullman, Washington to Austin or Norman. I wonder how many of the millions of new college football TV dollars would have been lost covering travel costs for non-money sports.

  • Texas envy, resentment toward the Big 12's unequal revenue-sharing arrangement that allows Texas to pocket several million more TV dollars than Iowa State or Missouri, nearly destroyed the Big 12. Appeasing Texas with another lopsided TV arrangement saved the conference.

  • I doubt that the Big 12 will add two more teams. Any additional teams would have to bring in enough revenue so that all of the schools would benefit more from splitting the money 12 ways than they already would from splitting the money 10 ways. (The reinstatement of the conference championship football game would account for some of this revenue.) If the conference were to expand, I would look for the Big 12 to add BYU and Memphis. BYU brings with it a national following and the large and rapidly growing Salt Lake City market. It also has a strong academic reputation. Memphis brings with it Fred Smith, the FedEx CEO who has offered $10 million per year to any BCS-affiliated conference that takes Memphis. (Smith's son is the quarterback for the Memphis football team.) Two Memphis-Kansas basketball games a year would also be enticing (but, as we all know, basketball money is negligible when compared to football money). I'd love to see the Big 12 add TCU and SMU, reuniting these universities with their old Southwest Conference brethren. But neither of these schools brings any real money to the table.

  • As I mentioned above, Fred Smith of FedEx will pay $10 million annually to any BCS conference that takes Memphis. Not to be outdone, I will pay $10 per year to any power conference that takes Evansville as a non-football school.

  • I expect the Pac 10 to invite Utah in the next couple weeks, and I think that Utah will be a better pick-up than Colorado. Utah has a perennial top 25 football team that is capable of bringing in big-time bowl dollars. While Denver is a bigger market than Salt Lake City, people in SLC care about Utah a lot more than people in Denver care about Colorado. Unlike Colorado and seven other current Pac 10 teams, Utah is not a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities, but UU has a good academic reputation (a Tier 1 National University according to US News and World Report) and (unlike Colorado) did not lose scholarships this year due to a poor Academic Performance Rating. Utah also has a better men's basketball program.

  • Last week, the Mountain West looked like a lock to get a BCS automatic bid in the next couple years. The dissolution of the Big 12 would have made the MWC a top-six conference, especially if it were to add the Big 12 leftovers. But, with the addition of Boise State, the Mountain West is still in pretty good shape—unless the Pac 10 takes Utah. Without Utah, the MWC has little chance of becoming a BCS automatic qualifier. Replacing Utah with Houston or Fresno State (both of which have football teams that do pretty well against tough non-conference schedules) and bringing in someone like Howard Schnellenberger to fix New Mexico's football program would slow the bleeding.


Blogger Andrea said...

All I can say about that is you're right - the volleyball matches will be fantastic. LOVED when Nebraska came to K-State back in the day.

9:04 AM  

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