Big 12's Best Case Scenario: The Death of the Big 12 Conference

Tobi WritesAnalyst IJune 7, 2010

If the rumors of Big 12 invites from Big Ten and Pac-10 are true, the best case scenario for the member schools of the Big 12 would be the death of the Big 12.

Consider the likely future of the members of the Big 12.

Nebraska and Missouri

Both schools seem poised to gain at least $12M per year in TV revenue by joining the big Ten.  Their football schedule would be upgraded (in terms of revenue generation) by playing larger draw schools in division while being able to still play schools like Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas  (and maybe Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State) in out of conference games.

Nebraska football would again be a national brand with exposure over multiple timezones, not a regional brand like they are in the single timezone Big 12.  They would be the football power in the Big Ten's western half, and would likely carry the TV load out west.

Missouri would lose Texas recruting (1/3 of their roster is from Texas) which would probably crush football, at least in the short term, but that seems to be a trade-off the administrators at Mizzou wisely consider worthwhile for the academic and research gains the Big Ten would deliver both schools. 

Degrees from both schools would be widely valued by the general public as being "Big Ten" caliber degrees from Nebraska to New York.

The Big 12 Six

The six schools reportedly close to being invited by the Pac-10 (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado) would likely see essentially identical benefits in terms of TV revenue (assuming a Pac/SW 16 TV Network), academic reputation upgrades, research budget gains, and improved degree valuation in a conference that would stretch from College Station to Washington state.

The Big 12 South—the financial engine that drives A&M, UT, and OU's ticket sales, merchandise sales, and donations—would effectively remain intact, with Colorado replacing Baylor.

Recruiting for the Texas/Oklahoma Five would get a big boost as the new conference would act as a de facto firewall against SEC recruiting incursions into Texas.  Today the SEC profits from a reputation of playing the best football in the antion.  With essentially the old Pac-8 replacing the weaker Big 12 north, this new conference would buck that argument.

As the "new hotness," kids in Texas will watch the new conference more, to the detriment of the SEC.  When those kids graduate, the best of that lot will be far more inclined to go to a Pac/SW 16 school in general and specifically one of those five schools due to proximity.

With the proximity of six of the eight schools in the likely southwest division, there would be very little "outlier bloodletting."  A&M, technically the conference outlier, would have a very similar travel burden to UT, OU, and OSU. 

They would not be the traditional outlier at a ridiculous disadvantage to their conference mates due to geography (like Arkansas in the SEC, Central Florida, Marshall, and East Carolina in Conference USA, or Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State in the WAC).

Plus the two schools of the six at a financial disadvantage in the current Big 12 would find themselves in the stronger position of being in the center of the division footprint.

Finally the Big 12 championship game has been a bit of a dud most years.  The Pac/SW 16 championship game would likely pit what would likely be at least a top-seven team from the Pac-8 division against the champ of the Southwest division.   That would dramatically increase the odds of the Pac/SW 16 conference champ making the BCS championship game vs. the Big 12 champ.

Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State

Public perception is these teams would be "the losers" if the Big 12 crumbled.  I think that is likely to be totally inaccurate.  The worst that could be safely said for them is that they won't "win" as much as the other big 12 schools in terms of gains.

If KU, KSU, and ISU are left out through no fault of their own (just bad geography), they would likely be afforded the same courtesy West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers were afforded when the ACC raided the Big East—ie. "chose your new conference mates and the BCS powers will ensure that (for now) that conference will be a BCS conference."

That could be the CUSA West with TCU as a new Southwest Conference, but for a lot of reasons it is more likely their new conference would be the MWC.

Probably having that leverage and the perception of being BCS level porgrams would allow them to come in to the MWC as a trio—making it the fifth "permanent" BCS Auto Qualifier conference.

Last year Kansas had an athletic budget of $70.6 million (sixth in the big 12), KSU was at $47.3 million (10th), and ISU was at $45.8 million (12th).  Even if you assume they lose $5 Million each in TV revenue, those budgets would still make them the first, third, and fourth largest budgets in the MWC.  There is no reason those three schools should not be able to compete very well in that conference.

Additionally, some of that money might actually be made up.  None of the members of the former Big 8 like the idea of their conference being ripped apart even if they may quietly acknowledge the financial neccessity of it. 

It is very likely these schools would still be able to line up annual OOC games against Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Playing in a conference against schools with lesser depth would allow these schools to win  more frequently which does equate into more tickets sold and more donations received.

Financially this could be a winner for all three schools.  At worst it allows these three schools to stop "chasing the BCS dragon"—selling their souls to try to match facilities and finances with UT, OU, and Nebraska.  This allows all three to be BCS schools with financial responsibility in their athletic departments.

The MWC draws pretty well for basketball.  It is entirely possible that the three schools could end up in a conference that ends up being almost as good as the old CUSA in basketball and where they would be regular bowl teams in football, if not BCS bowl contenders. 

Remember, there are some football-playing junior colleges in Kansas that produce a lot of talent that could suppliment the high school talent available in the area.   In a conference with teams with less depth, those schools should be very competitive.

Kansas would enter the conference as the league's undisputed basketball power.  Their presence would likely drag a few more teams over the bubble and into the tourney.  With BYU, Utah, UNM, San Diego State, KSU, and ISU along with Kansas, you can see where they could be pretty good.

KSU would likely become TCU's rival as the football power in an eastern division of the MWC.  With their budget, ISU would probably be capable of competing at a playoff level in both revenue sports.



Baylor has frankly been living a bit of a blessed life and would probably fall back to a more appropriate conference.   They could end up in the MWC as well.  Baylor's attendance could get better quickly with a more competitive product, and their athletic budget—$48.5 million—suggests they would compete at that level.

It is also possible that they might end up in CUSA west.

Wherever they end up, they should be able to draw as well as they do now in football and perhaps better.  They might take a hit in basketball attendance, but should experience a resurgence of competitiveness in their revenue sports.

So where is the downside? Who are the losers?

The only "loser" if this scenario unfolds I see is Dan Beebe, the commissioner of the Big 12.  He has clearly worked his butt off to try to make this conference work, but it may just be the time for this conference to move on.

The Big 12 doesn't need to go on life support—where it would be after losing Missouri and Colorado and their media markets—the Big 12 needs Dr. Kavorkian.


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