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Conference Realignment Chronicles :: The End Game

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We All Knew This Was Going to Happen, Right?  I'll be honest, I had my hopes up about the prospect of moving to a league where the rich didn't get richer and life in a conference was a little more equitable, but that wasn't going to happen and shame on us (Texas Tech fans) for thinking that it could.  I'll ask you to do a little required reading before going much further.

"Influential" People:  Please start with ESPN's Andy Katz's piece about how certain influential people saved the Big 12 Conference:

An NCAA source with direct knowledge of what occurred told ESPN.com that the aggressiveness of the Pac-10 caused various factions of the collegiate sports world to coalesce. They then worked to slow and try to stop the pace of moves that would have left a number of schools searching for a new conference home.

The source said the people involved were business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a "fair number of them without a dog in the hunt."

According to the source, this collection of interested and influential people made phone calls, visited in person and held conference calls with the Big 12 schools that were being pursued, including Texas, as well as Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. The influential group also helped broker the new television deal between Texas (and the other schools considering leaving the conference) and Beebe, who represented the remaining Big 12 schools.

According to the source, there was a growing sense that the Pac-10 was taking an approach inconsistent with the best interests and values of the schools impacted, both positively and negatively.

Yes, go ahead and read the whole thing.  And to answer your question, the reason why Andy Katz (and I really like Katz as an analyst and reporter) was able to report on these backroom dealings was because it was ESPN and Fox Sports that was the network that saved the Big 12.  In order to have a bidding war, you must have at least two bidders and the Big 12 apparently had at least these two.

No College Football Playoff:  Next, please take a look at Yahoo! Sports Dan Wetzel and why the Big 12 was saved. 

That chase for money is what started all the speculation of bigger conferences, bigger cuts of the television revenue and the forever division between haves and the have-nots. The last two months were about television markets and population trends, not touchdowns.

Until college football taps into the near bottomless revenue well of a real playoff – rather than the financially underperforming BCS – this will remain a fight over television sets. A 16-team playoff would’ve prevented this round of nerves, flooding college sports with enough cash to diversify revenue streams and pay almost everyone’s bills. It could stop the next one also.

Without a playoff though, this season of minor expansion is but the calm before the storm.

All About Texas and Cash:  Finally, please read SI.com's Andy Staples, who makes the obvious statement that this whole mess was about the Texas Longhorns, them having their own network and, getting more money than anyone else, but also of note is a confidential paper acquired by SI through a public records request from Colorado which was an outline by Beebe for keeping the Big 12.  Here's a bit from Staples and this confidential paper:

"Conversations with Fox indicate their bullishness about competing in the future for our rights, and they have already made overtures about their willingness to pay exponentially higher rights fees than those in our current agreements," Beebe wrote in the paper. "A primary driver of higher rights fees are competitors for the rights and all information is that there are more serious bidders about to enter the marketplace."

Beebe also warned that the move to superconferences in a blatant cash-grab would have invited "more governmental, legal and public scrutiny" and could have resulted in athletic programs losing their tax-exempt status and possibly the payment of athletes for their services.

"Pressure to compete may rise with resulting higher salaries and more churning of ADs and coaches," he wrote. "Clear identification of the highest level of intercollegiate athletics reduced to a smaller grouping of schools (e.g., four 16-member conferences) could cause eventual tax consequences and tremendous pressure to pay those student-athletes responsible in programs driving the most revenue and pressure, and whose coaches and administrators are receiving more and more financial rewards."

This is it in a nutshell and I mentioned this last night, that the whole reason why this happened is that someone wanted to keep the status quo.  Katz breaks down the idea that it wasn't necessarily university presidents, chancellors, athletic directors or legislators that may have had anything to do with the new television deal for the Big 12, but rather the very mysterious influential people.  Wetzel's comments ring especially true, especially when you consider that when you watch basketball, the fight for television sets is almost non-existent because of the huge revenue produced by March Madness.  The BCS and the potential for a college football playoff won't produce that sort of revenue and as a result, the fight is for television sets.

Perhaps what makes me more sick is that someone did Beebe's job for him.  I despise incompetence and although Beebe will probably be hailed as some sort of savior for the conference, I think he reeks of incompetence.  If it wasn't for Texas' greed to have their own network and these outside influences that kept this thing afloat, then Beebe doesn't have a job.

Why Hasn't Texas Tech Made A Statement:  As of last night at 9:00 p.m., LAJ's Adam Zuvanich wrote that Texas Tech hasn't made a statement regarding their decision to stay within the Big 12:

President Guy Bailey told A-J reporter Matthew McGowan the school would have no comment until after a Board of Regents meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Other Tech officials, including Chancellor Kent Hance, weren't talking, either.

When I first heard that the Pac-16 was not going to happen I wanted to be angry at the Texas Tech administration, but after sleeping on it, what did they do?  I try to call it like I see it, but as I look at what apparently happened, Texas Tech didn't have an offer to the Pac-10 without Texas.  Texas Tech always had one option . . . follow Texas.  That's it.  Hopes were dashed when Texas decided it was best for them to receive a majority of the money from their conference and their own network. 

Is There Another Option:  It's strange that Texas Tech hasn't made an announcement and it appears that the Board of Regents meeting is still scheduled to happen today at 2:00 p.m.  Texas Tech is the only university that hasn't made a formal announcement.  The only thing that make sense to me is that the administration needs some time to vent.  As mentioned above, I'm not completely happy with the administration, but I will not doubt the administration's loyalty.  Hance, Bailey and Myers have their faults, but I firmly believe that they love Texas Tech as much as any passionate fan.  I would almost guarantee that they absolutely feel betrayed.  Betrayed by the fact that they might have received a fairer share of the television revenue pie or betrayed by the fact that Texas came in at the 11th hour to make the decision for the rest of the conference or betrayed by the fact that three teams, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, will receive a bigger share of the revenue pie than the remaining seven. 

The Red Raiders have few options.  Some have suggested that Texas Tech go off on their own.  I think it's clear that Texas Tech no longer has an invite to the Pac-10 and some have suggested that perhaps Texas Tech should consider other conference options.  If you at all think that the Mountain West is an option, Boise St. just accepted an invitation to the Mountain West and here is the football revenue details:

The Mountain West has a 10-year, $120 million contract with Versus and CBS College Sports. That would be $1.2 million per team per year in a 10-team league.

The WAC gets $4 million per year from ESPN. Teams that play non-Saturday games get a larger share, so Boise State's share for 2010-11 is about $500,000.

Not.  Going.  To.  Happen.

If I'm incorrect about the television deal, please let me know.  I hastily found the linked article this morning, but really, Texas Tech has few options.  The only other option, which I don't think is much of an option at all, is for Hance to negotiate a better deal for Texas Tech and the other seven universities.  Just think of this hypothetical, if Kansas St. wins the national championship and goes to a BCS game while Texas has a down year and doesn't go to a bowl at all, Texas will still make more money than Kansas St.  In order for Hance to negotiate a better deal, the remaining seven have to take a stand and that's not going to happen either.  The remaining seven wouldn't have a conference without Texas.  I still don't get how Nebraska can play this game of high stakes poker while the remaining seven don't have the gall to do so. And to cap all of this, I'm not blaming Texas.  There's no doubt that they always controlled the destiny of the Big 12 and I always understood / understand that.

And this is Texas Tech.  Of the Texas universities,  I would garner that no one does more with less than Texas Tech and there's a certain part of me that takes pride in that thought.  Perhaps it's the fact that by the time you leave Lubbock, if you leave Lubbock, that you take a part of West Texas with you, which means that you take with you that "pick yourself up" attitude and even though you may have less than everyone else, you manage.  It's not always fun, and perhaps this is why it can be so satisfying to be the spoiler because Red Raiders know the disadvantages that they face when it comes to athletic budgets of other state schools.

Open Thread:  Consider this your open thread for the day.  Once news breaks about the scheduled Board of Regents meeting for this afternoon, please feel free post any additional links or comments below.  Also, I'm aware that Texas Tech received two commitments yesterday.  I'm still catching up from last week's commitments.  Feel free to post info about any news re. the first or second commitment yesterday.