I put up a Sporting Blog post on the latest in conference reconfiguration that covers the main news of the day, which is that the awkward moment in nomenclature we're experiencing where the Big 12 has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve is a surprisingly stable college football isotope.
Whether its half-life is two days, two years, or two decades we don't know yet, but reports that the Big 12 lives have spread beyond Chip Brown, who is by this point basically the earthly avatar of DeLoss Dodds, to Joe Schad and Pete Thamel, and have reached the point the Nebraska rumors did last week where the sheer quantity of independent confirmation outweighs everyone's natural skepticism towards anything Anonymous Athletic Director would like to leak. The Big… er… Twelve lives.
Why? Because if they're going to rename it they might as well dub it The Texas Conference. The major sticking point with Texas's move to the Big Ten was not distance or tradition or even money but the Longhorn's refusal to share and share alike, which is fine as far as it goes. Anyone who approaches college football from an angle other than realpolitik is willfully naive. Expecting Texas to sign off on a change where they go from the king of everything to just another shiny happy Big Ten (or Pac-10) school was extremely wishful thinking in retrospect.
This is despite a ton of huge advantages moving would bring. For one, I don't believe Brown for a second when he claims Texas "stands to make between $20 mil and $25 mil per yr under a proposed new TV pkg presented by Dan Beebe" before we even get to the coming Longhorn Network. Allow myself to quote myself:
Big Ten teams are currently raking in 15 million per year with a fully-functional network spread across eight states with a ton of people. The Big 12 Texas's entire conference distribution was 10 million in 2007 and as of May 31st conference distributions were ranging between "7 and 12 million" according to the KC Star; Big Ten teams each brought in 20 million. The Big 12's current television contract with ABC goes to the 2015 season and the conference has just lost its third most attractive television draw (Nebraska) and third biggest media market (Denver). The average value of the Big Twelve's TV inventory has gone down considerably this summer.
Texas would make more money moving to the Big Ten. They'd get to join the CIC. They'd have a more competitive environment than one game against Oklahoma every year. Iowa State would no longer be on the schedule. In all absolute ways, moving makes sense. Relatively? Not so much. Now that the Big 10 door is swinging shut—Missouri's scrabbling at the lock but can't get in—and the Pac-10 seems set on adding Utah and calling it a day, the Big 12 leftovers desperately need Texas and will sign up for any lopsided revenue sharing plan they have to as long as they don't have to consider whether they should join the Mountain West or Conference USA. If Texas won't enter as an equal partner, the Big Ten won't take them, and that's as it should be.
But no one should mistake the reason the Big 12 has shed two of its best schools: it's because of Texas. If the Big 12 does end up imploding, it will be because of Texas. Realpolitik has its costs.
The Big Ten's Next Move
This guy on the message board has a bunch of scuttlebutt about Texas that reflects the above and suggests where the Big Ten will look next: the ACC. Take it for what it's worth—not much given how fast these things change—but I've gotten a couple notes that suggest the same thing. The current plan appears to be wait to see what happens with Notre Dame and the rumored get-in-or-get-out ultimatum from the Big East and then possibly look to move to 14. 16 is not regarded as a viable setup without a compelling reason.
One man's guess as to the future direction of the conference, listed from most probable to least:
- The Big Ten sticks at 12 teams.
- ND gets the boot from the Big East, sucks it up, and joins the Big Ten sometime around when their NBC contract expires. The league would then look for a 14th team (Maryland, BC, GT, Rutgers, Syracuse the most commonly mentioned targets) at that point.
- ND stays in the Big East as they are now and the Big Ten picks off a couple of the above-mentioned targets to go to 14.
- Some crazy thing happens and the league goes to 16.
If I had to guess, the Big Ten will stand pat until such time as Notre Dame gets the boot from the Big East, which may or may not ever actually happen.