Conference Expansion, Contraction, Realignment and Texas Tech

I've struggled how to start this little dissertation about my thoughts regarding the possibility of Big 10 realignment, which will seemingly have an affect, should it happen, on the Big 12. I mentioned yesterday morning that my thoughts were seemingly all over the place and today it's no different. My thoughts continue to be all over the place and as I write this, I'm writing entirely from the perspective from a Texas Tech fan, wanting nothing but the best for my university. I don't think there's really any other way to write this.

Our Hero and Villain: I discussed this a bit this yesterday, which is is the thought that the man who could be leading Texas Tech on this trek is the same man that you blame for the debacle regarding Leach . . . Chancellor Kent Hance. This is as tough for me as it probably is you and there's a part of me that doesn't trust the guy as far as I can throw him. Despite my misgivings about Hance's ability to terminate a head coach, there may not be a more important man in Texas Tech's corner than Hance. I wrote this earlier in the week:

I've seen enough episodes of The Wire to know that the political game is very, very real. If there was every a person who might be ideally suited, despite the stories and claims of micro-management of Texas Tech University, to be the guy that gets things done for Texas Tech . . . it's Kent Hance. Again, it's not a pretty reality, but if you were to pick one person to play the political game with the politicians in Austin, is there a person better suited to do this other than Hance? He may not be your favorite person, but he knows how to the play the game and in the world of "getting shit done" and having the opportunity to potentially save your university, Hance isn't a bad guy to have in your corner.

I still believe this and I'm probably more resolute in that thought than I was the other day. Hance serves a purpose, and although I think my comment about The Wire is appropriate (especially if you've seen the show).  I'll just add that whether you're dealing with a city government or the Texas Legislature, playing that political game is not for the faint of heart. Hance doesn't strike me as a man who knows fear when it comes to the political game. This gives me solace.

Trying to Piece it Together: Just like the rest of you, I've been consumed for the last few days about how this would all work out. I'm guessing that we'll know some sort of answer within a couple of months. The Big Ten meetings are scheduled for the summer and if the Big Ten is going to make an offer, it's going to be at that time. What happens after that is purely speculation on the part of anyone writing about this. Sure, there are certainly educated guesses, and some of those educated guesses are better than others, but there's so much speculation, it's almost comical to consider the possibilities. The rest of this is just my opinion and has as much weight and authority as any of your opinions.

How the Dominoes Fall:  I do believe that where there's smoke there's at least a spark.  The Big Ten sent emails to the Big Ten universities that no offers were ever made.  I still think that of the teams that are being targeted, it's Missouri and Nebraska.  I won't even try and talk about the potential success that they might have and there have been questions about whether or not either program would have the same type of recruiting success without the Texas pipeline and the Big 12.  I would guess that the recruiting part of the equation is relatively small, it's all about the money.  When and if the dominoes fall, I think it starts with Nebraska and Missouri. 

Why They Leave:  I'm fairly ignorant on the television contract situation between the Big Ten and the Big 12 except that the Big Ten television contract seems to be the biggest draw for teams that are looking to make the jump to the Big Ten.  At TB said on Monday, Northwestern earns more television money that Texas.  That's significant for a teams like Missouri and Nebraska to the overall health of the universities.  The Big Ten television contract is more about revenue sharing between the universities rather than universities that make the most appearances make the most money. 

As an example, last year, Texas received $10.2 million of a total of $103.1 million pot.  The Big 10 generated $154.1 million last year alone and I assume that this figure was split evenly between all eleven Big 10 schools.  There have been reports that the Big 12 has no interest in any sort of revenue sharing program and that Missouri and Nebraska's interest in the Big Ten is an attempt to force those Big 12 universities into a more equitable revenue sharing plan.  So there's two issues at hand here:  the Big Ten television contract and the revenue sharing.  For whatever reason, a Big 12 network has never gotten off the ground and for the life of me I can't understand why.  I don't know if its due to the leadership at the top of the Big 12 or not having all twelve teams agree to how it would be implemented.

The sticking point has apparently always been that Texas wants nothing to do with a revenue sharing plan and the Longhorns already have some sort of television agreement which broadcasts quite a bit of Longhorn athletics.  Right now, Texas has no reason to make a move.  In fact, I think the consensus of those at Burnt Orange Nation and Barking Carnival is that Texas waits until a move is made.  I would agree with that sentiment as there's really no reason why Texas would make a premature move as their holding most of the cards.  Texas moving to the Big Ten doesn't make sense to me.  Although geography seems to be a minor argument, it just doesn't feel right, although in just about every other category, I think that Texas is the type of school that the Big Ten would prefer to add over Missouri and Nebraska.

Two Distinct Possibilities:  There's two distinct possibilities regarding conference realignment:  1) Texas Tech stays in a BCS conference OR; 2) Texas Tech is no longer in a BCS conference. There's really no middle ground with me, it's either a situation where Texas Tech continues to play with the big boys or Texas Tech is left out in the cold.

If certain teams leave the Big 12, namely Nebraska and Missouri, then I'd prefer that the conference take a step back and think about their options.  The easy solution is to add a lower tier team like Houston, SMU, Boise St., Utah, BYU, TCU, Colorado St., Air Force, New Mexico, etc.  And yes, I understand that calling a a BYU or Boise St. or Utah a lower tier team is not necessarily fair, but I'm speaking from a television standpoint.  None of those teams will add huge television markets.  I know what you're going to say, that SMU could add to a top 10 media market in DFW, but I think that the SMU contingent is relatively small in comparison to the OU, UT, TAMU and TT alumni base.  Take a look at this list of television media markets (I know, it's from 2004, but it's all I could find relatively quickly).  Houston is a huge market, but I have to question whether or not UH has a huge television following.  The next best option would be the Salt Lake City market, in the 30's, and I'm just wondering, if the Big Ten did poach both Nebraska and Missouri, what if the Big 12 did nothing?

Do nothing? 

More after the jump.

That's right, what if the Big 12 and Pac-10 didn't dilute their product but truly joined forces.  It's about time for the Big 12 to get off their rear and get something done with the Pac-10 with some sort of alliance.  The two conferences met last week to discuss some opportunities.  I subscribe to the official Big 12 RSS feed and this crossed my Google Reader, "Early Football Television Selections Versus Pac-10 Announced".  I'm sure this wasn't some sort of coincidence and obviously, these games have been in place for quite some time so it's really not much of an announcement.  Nevertheless, an announcement was made.

TV's and Televisions:  Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo (an excellent Colorado beat-writer) had an impressive in-depth interview with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott about those meetings last week between the Pac-10 and Big 12 (why is no one doing an interview with Big 12 Commish Dan Beebe?): 

 When you say “concepts and ideas” to what are you specifically referring?

“I guess the very concrete area of cooperation through such a strategic alliance would be television rights. First and foremost, any alliance between our two conferences would be centered around the pooling of television rights from the Big 12 schools and the Pac-10 schools so that we could go to market together. If you take all the Big 12 markets and the Pac-10 markets, you've got 33 percent of all U.S. TV households. It would be a very significant and formidable alliance from a media value perspective. So that would be the concrete underpinning of any alliance between us. There are other things that have been talked about, but in fairness, those are still at a conceptual stage, like scheduling, collaborating between us for more Big 12-Pac-10 matchups. And cooperation on officiating and governance. So those ideas are less developed, but the concrete underpinning would be TV.”

TV's. 

Televisions. 

TV's. 

Televisions. 

That's what this is all about.  The Pac-10's television contract with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports runs through 2012.  The Big 12's Fox Sports deal runs through 2012 and the ABC/ESPN partnership runs through 2016.  The key for both conferences is that Fox Sports deal.  Both conferences want to be on ABC/ESPN as much as possible, but a deal with a major network isn't going to preclude these two conferences from working together.  It's all of the other other games and sports that don't get on with the big network.  Perhaps its a coincidence that the Big 12 and Pac-10 television deals are ending at the same time, but this is a relationship that fits.

Again, it's about the televisions increasing television revenue and making more money (again from Commissioner Scott):

You're obviously looking to expand television revenue. Can you do that without expanding into the Mountain and possibly Central time zones?

“Certainly. College sports has been significantly undervalued. The recent deals that the SEC has done with ESPN and that the Big Ten has done with the formation of their network have raised the bar, and other conferences that are going to sell their TV rights are certainly going to see an uplift. The ACC is in the market right now to negotiate their rights, and while I'm not privy to any of those discussions, I suspect you're going to see them get a significant increase in their television rights without any expansion. I think the Pac-10 is in the same situation. College football, in particular, has never been more successful in terms of TV ratings, attendance. And this is a very robust media market. So there is a lot of dynamics out there that give me confidence that without any changes in our current form as Pac-10, with some of the changes that we're making in our current framework, in terms of how we're branding, marketing and positioning the conference, we're going to see a significant uplift in our media value in our current form. That's what makes the media analysis regarding expansion a little bit more complicated. We've got to look at it from the perspective of how much improvement are we going to see with the measures that we're implementing in our current footprint versus the added value other schools might potentially bring to the conference and what new media markets might potentially bring to the conference.”

If I bring this rambling set of thoughts full circle, if Nebraska and Missouri take off to the Big Ten for their television deal, wouldn't it make complete sense for the Big 12 to keep it's remaining 10 schools, join forces with the Pac-10 starting the 2012 season with a huge television deal and have, in essence, a 20 team conference that has their own schedule, but then also has two "out of conference" games?  I probably have my head in the sand regarding some of the finer points of how this would work, but it just seems logical. 

Thoughts, comments and critiques welcomed.

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