by Matt Corder
You’ve probably heard by now the news that the college sports landscape is on the brink of huge change. The news comes on the word that the Pac 10 officially approved a measure to look into the expansion of the conference through the assimilation of six schools, likely from the Big 12. There are a lot of questions out there. Here’s everything you need to know.
Myth: Texas wants to move.
The University of Texas holds all the cards in this conference expansion. They are pushing to create a TV network of their own that will undoubtedly yield huge profits for the University. This negates any reason for them to move to a conference with their own TV network (the Big 10). It is also the most profitable university in the country based on merchandise and ticket sales. Additionally, UT currently owns the Big 12. The conference knows it needs the Longhorns, and the University takes full advantage. Why would they want to leave a conference that bends to their every whim, unless it fails to remain competitive? The only reason you will see UT move is if it is a last option.
Fact: Everything hinges on the Big 10 extending an invite to the University of Nebraska.
For all the talk about conference expansion, nothing of substance has taken place…yet. There have been flirtations (Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10), courtships (the Big 10 to Notre Dame), talk of expansion (the Pac 10), and even ultimatums (the Big 12 to Nebraska and Missouri), and yet nothing has happened thus far. Everyone is waiting to see who will make the first move and if big time expansion is going to occur, it all hinges on the Cornhuskers.
Why is that?
The Big 10 has not been secretive in their desire to absorb Notre Dame’s football program into their conference. It’s easy to understand why, given the Irish’s huge national fan base. Don’t make the mistake that this is what everything depends on though. The addition of only one school would actually signal that huge expansion is not likely as the Big 10 would be content with a twelve team conference in the event Notre Dame signs on. The real tipping point would come with Nebraska.
Take a look at the Big 12 conference right now. All the power is in the south, most especially with the Behemoth University of Texas. The only competition that Texas faces in the Big 12 North comes from the Cornhuskers and UT made it known that their decision for the future depends on what Nebraska chooses to do. If the Huskers were to make the move to the Big 10, the north division of the Big 12 would collapse and leave the Longhorns with no choice but to bolt for greener pastures. On the flip side, let’s say Nebraska chooses to stay. This situation would leave the conference with championship caliber squads in both the North and South (yes, Nebraska is back). That gives Texas no incentive to leave because there isn’t a scenario that would leave the school better off than it was before. They already have a lucrative TV network of their own, the travel of a Pac 10 schedule would be extremely difficult on all the sports programs, and the only thing the Pac 10 could offer is academic prestige.
What’s interesting about all this is that Nebraska and Texas have a huge rivalry between the athletic departments. It all stems back to the formation of the Big 12 conference, a time when Nebraska was the preeminent program in all of college football. Tom Osborne, then the coach at Nebraska, now the athletic director, allegedly has yet to forgive UT for events that transpired during the expansion. What we know is that the Big 8 bent over backwards to a number of ridiculous demands by UT in order to get them to join the conference including: who the commissioner would be, where the offices of the conference would be located, and elimination of partial-qualifier players. Osborne feels that the partial treatment continues to this day, given that the Big 12 entered into negotiations to hold the conference championship at the new Cowboys Stadium for the next three years (there was an understanding that the venue would change from the North to the South in alternating years). Many have speculated that Osborne has long wanted to take his revenge on UT and the move to the Big 10 seems to be his best opportunity.
Pay attention to what Nebraska decides to do.
Myth: Kansas will get a raw deal if they’re left behind
I know this sounds naïve, but it’s the truth. Kansas is awesome at men’s basketball. I know this. But the Jayhawks don’t offer anything else to the conference. Nothing. If you take a look at any sport, both men’s and women’s, you’ll find that KU is among the conference’s worst in everything. The only other success they’ve ever achieved was in football during the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska. It turns out that Mangino was a horrible human being who constantly mocked and degraded his players though. It’s tough to stomach, given the incredible tradition of the basketball program, but Kansas is no different than school like Memphis or Gonzaga, only with tangible results. They’d better serve the landscape of college sports by embracing this identity.
Fact: Dan Beebe (Big 12 commissioner) has no idea what he’s doing
To get the lowdown on all this I suggest you read this article by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. To sum up his premise, here’s what you need to know:
-Beebe assumed the Pac 10 and Big 10 commissioners were his friends and voted against the four-team playoff. He cited “tradition” as his reason for doing it, just like the other two conferences did, but as it turns out the Pac 10 and Big 10 were actually looking to consolidate their power and earn more money for themselves (using the guise of “tradition” to trick idiots like Beebe and the mainstream media). It turns out the playoff would have made more money for everybody (nearly four times as much as the current BCS), but the Pac 10 and Big 10 wanted it all for themselves. They have successfully used pawns like Beebe to make this goal on the cusp of being attained. Savvy? Yes. Horrible for college football fans? An even bigger Yes.
-Beebe is standing idly by as the Pac 10 and Big 10 now look to poach his member schools. Beebe is not being proactive in protecting his conference’s interests by also looking to expand the conference and take in new teams. He has become extremely defensive to criticism and shown to everyone paying attention that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s pathetic to watch and painful for any Big 12 fans hoping the conference stays intact.
-His hope for salvation may, ironically, lie in a college football playoff. If Beebe were to endorse the college football playoff, it might end up saving the Big 12 conference. The appeal of nearly four times the money is something that all the schools not in the Pac 10/Big 10 could not resist. The Big 12 was the conference that broke the tie back when the conferences last voted on the issue, and an indication by Beebe that the Big 12 would now endorse the idea could end up salvaging everything. Cool to think about? Yes. Likely to happen? No.
Myth: The Mountain West Conference made a mistake by choosing not to add schools (see: Boise St.)to the conference
The realignment that is about to occur is going to be messy. There are going to be a lot of hurt feelings from the schools that are left out and the MWC has now put itself in a position to take full advantage of the situation. Sure, they could have invited Boise State and added a dominant college football team to its roster. But that’s only thinking in terms of short-term success. The MWC commissioner, Craig Thompson, is wise to stand pat and let the other conferences make the mistakes here with the realignment. What the MWC is doing is working to ensure long-term success. Who do you think is going to be waiting with open arms when the Kansas Jayhawks and their legendary basketball program are left out of the party? Who do you think is waiting to absorb Baylor and its excellent baseball and track programs? Who do you think is going to take in Kansas State and Dan Snyder’s football program? Who do you think is going to extend the offer to Boise State, when the time is right? That’s the MWC folks. They are going to clean up fast on the mess that is going to happen and the Mountain West is going to emerge as a powerful conference, one that the BCS will have to recognize.
We are about to witness something spectacular, the likes of which we’ve never seen. I’m intrigued to see what happens, most especially with Nebraska. I’m rooting for the Big 12 to stay together because I’ve grown up as a fan of the Huskers and the tradition of the old Big 8. However, I understand why Osborne would leave, the least of his reasons being that membership in the Big 10 will likely yield an extra $6+ million dollars a year for the school (because of the Big 10 network). If there’s anything to take from this, it’s that the Pac 10 and Big 10 are preventing what everyone wants (the college football playoff), unfortunately they are being run by the smartest men in the room. Don’t discount the SEC in all of this though. Although seemingly uninvolved up to this point, I doubt their commissioner will sit back and let the Pac 10 and Big 10 think they rule everything.
It’s going to break hearts, it’s going to break tradition, but in the end, it will be fascinating to watch this thing unfold.