College football is exciting, but nothing kicks up the excitement factor more than when conference expansion talk and rumors infiltrate the Internet.
Sporting News reporter Bob Bender ostensibly kicked up some dust when he suggested that both Texas and Oklahoma should join the Big Ten. Really.
Bender's argument for how having Texas and Oklahoma in the Big Ten is a win-win for the conference is legit. He lays out the Big Ten's bowl woes succinctly, saying "the conference's reputation continues to take a beating in the aftermath, especially in bowls played on or after Jan. 1."
But if you argue that a conference has a lousy bowl reputation and that the addition of the Big 12's two powerhouses will help that conference's reputation, shouldn't you address how it could possibly hurt those two teams' reputations as well?
Bender alludes that the Big 12 is somewhat teetering and dependent on Texas and Oklahoma for respect.
Oklahoma and Texas can't carry the Big 12 for long. There's no conference championship game. Northern Illinois edged the 10-win Sooners out of the BCS. That's why it's time to move on. Texas is 22-16 the last three seasons. Oklahoma, meanwhile, enters the Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl as an undercard to Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. This despite the fact Bob Stoops went 11-2 against the Aggies in the Big 12 from 1999-2011. It's amazing what that SEC detail does for a program.
It is here where Bender starts to lose his way. True, the Big 12 has no conference championship game, but neither did the Big Ten two years ago—that conference seemed to be humming along quite nicely without it.
Moreover, the Big 12 added two quality teams—TCU and West Virginia—when it lost Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. Both TCU and West Virginia went bowling this year, but both lost in their respective Buffalo Wild Wings and Pinstripe Bowls.
The Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland. Rutgers lost 13-10 to Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl, while Maryland finished bowl ineligible at 4-8. Rutgers going to the Big Ten from the Big East and Maryland going from the ACC to the Big Ten are both upgrades—Big East and ACC football have been mediocre at best.
But would Oklahoma and Texas going to the Big Ten really be an upgrade for the two teams? No disrespect to the Big Ten—the conference can print its own money—but the Big 12 was ranked No. 1 among all BCS conferences this season by Sagarin's ratings. Above the SEC. Above the Pac-12.
And above the Big Ten, which came in at No. 4.
Nine Big 12 teams went bowling this year, with only Kansas left out of postseason play. So far, the Big 12 is 4-3 in bowls—it has two more bowls (Cotton and Fiesta) to play. The Big Ten, on the other hand, sent seven teams bowling and went 2-5.
CBS Sports blogger Tom Fornelli spelled out the Big Ten's postseason like an obituary.
The conference is 28-47 in bowl games the last 10 seasons. In the major bowl games on New Year's Day or later the Big Ten has gone 17-28 in that span.
The Big Ten has won the Rose Bowl, the game it has fought to keep at every step along the way to college football's new playoff system, only twice since the turn of the century. The Big 12 has won three Rose Bowls over the span.
Granted, two of the Big Ten's best teams, Ohio State and Penn State, were bowl ineligible this season due to NCAA sanctions, but the Pac-12 still managed to send two teams to four BCS bowls while USC was serving out its two-year postseason ban—both Stanford and Oregon combined for a 2-2 record in their BCS bowls. This season will have also seen two Pac-12 teams in BCS bowls when all is said and done: Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and Oregon plays Kansas State Thursday in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Pac-12 did come close to adding both Texas and Oklahoma to its conference, according to multiple reports, including one from ESPN, but in the end Texas and Oklahoma remained in the Big 12.
To ensure the league's stability, all Big 12 members signed a a 13-year contract with ABC/ESPN and FOX last September. According to BIG12.com, that media package could be worth over two billion dollars.
That contract also has one item—something that Bob Bender failed to mention in his column—that will strongly discourage any Big 12 member from leaving the conference in the near future: the grant of rights.
Simply put, if any Big 12 member leaves the conference before the 2024-25 school year, that member's media rights (including revenue) stay within the Big 12 until the grant of rights expires in 2025. ESPN/ABC and FOX hold the TV rights and all revenue collected from those games' broadcasts stay in the Big 12.
According to an ESPN report, the "Big 12's $20 million per school average is slightly behind the Pac-12's $21 million per school media rights deal and on par with the Big Ten's per school average."
Texas and Oklahoma to the Big Ten would be a lateral move without that grant of rights agreement, but with it in place, the two teams' potential move to the Big Ten is off limits. Off the table.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cannot get around that albatross and neither can Bender.
In short, there's nothing to see here, folks.
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