Big 12 Realignment: Why the Big 12 Will Go To 12 teams... Very Quickly
There has been a lot of talk out of the northern schools since the Big 12's near death experience about how the conference is stronger as a 10-school conference than they were as a 12-school conference.
It seems very contrary to logic that a conference could lose a national power like Nebraska and a major media market like Colorado and emerge stronger for it, but that does seem to be the case.
Fear of the implosion of the Big 12 led groups of people to get involved in getting the Big 12 TV deal renegotiated ahead of time, allowing UT, OU, and A&M to take home $20 million a year in TV income and even dog BCS competitors like Baylor and Iowa state to take home $14-17 million a year.
Teams in the north seems to finally understand that being in the north and not playing UT and OU each year put them at a financial disadvantage vs. teams in the south. They say they are happy at 10 teams, and I beleive them.
There is no guarantee the conference will find schools that their network partner will want to pay $14-17 million more each to add. Or that their network partners who spent out the nose to prevent realignment will suddenly turn around and spend money on more Big 12 members... to get more realignment.
So why do I think the Big 12 will go back to to 12 teams?
The Houston Legislators
The fact is 10 teams in the Big 12 means to a lot of people in Texas that two slots are waiting to be filled.
About 25 Texas legislators have started a movement to attempt to bring Kevin Sumlins's Houston Cougars into the Big 12.
As these things go, they start of with a silly letter asking for the comissioner to the conference to see all the good sides of admitting Houston and ignore all the bad sides and then they quickly progress to threating to pass laws and wanting to put Bevo on a spit.
The silly letter has already been delivered.
The facts are this could go nowhere.
But the conference only has 10 teams....It could also gain momentum and could be quite difficult to stop.
The Houston push appears to be a doomsday clock for big three control of the conference and may push this expansion to happen quickly.
Red Hot Red Raiders
UT's financial games and A&M's arrogance cost the Red Raiders a lot of money last weekend.
Tech was going to get $20 million a year in TV revenue and would replace games against Baylor with games against Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State. Now they get Baylor and $14-17 million.
They were going to join a conference that likely could have quickly helped Tech score the $49 million dollars a year in research dollars that they need to become the state's third "Tier one/Research University". Now they are back in a conference that doesn't much care about research.
All told A&M and UT may have cost Tech about $55 million a year because they couldn't park their egos at the door.
You think Tech fans aren't bitter?
You have to know A&M and UT don't want another Texas mouth to feed in the conference.
Houston legislators if you want to know who you should be seeking support from, try legislators affiliated with Tech.
When you sit and think about it, no one but the University of Houston would have exactly the same motivations as the Red Raiders. They would be a very unified and potent legislative force together.
Consider that in the Big 12, the Cougars would see a massive bump in attendance and visibility. The University of Houston programs would become a lot more vibrant in Houston, A&M's home territory.
In this way Houston would naturally undercut some of A&M's influence in the area, reducing the odds that, if the Pac-10 were to come calling again, A&M would have the local support in East Texas to flaunt the wishes of the other Texas schools who might be seeking a better academic affiliation.
It would be smart for Houston and Tech to work together and try and broker this deal to the northern schools.
Afterall, keeping A&M in line also protects the northern schools from a potential A&M and OU defection to the SEC in a few years when UT starts making an additional $20 million a year from their own network.
The Vacant Jerry Dome
Jerry Jones may officially be stating he isn't going to meddle, but let me assure you...He wants his Big 12 championship game back.
Anyone who saw Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban talking about the Jerry Dome on TV around the time of the all-star game got a unique insight into both men and their view of the Jerry Dome.
The Jerry Dome is not just a big price tag to the average fan.
It is a big price tag to guys like Mark Cuban and especially Jerry Jones, who has to pay the bills.
Putting on sporting events pays Jerry's loan.
Jerry Jones Won a Football National Title in the SWC at Arkansas
Even if today's young Arkansas fans who have never seen Arkansas come close to competing for a national title don't get why the Razorbacks would consider leaving the SEC, Razorback fans over 35, like Jerry Jones, know the score.
For Arkansas to compete at the top level of the BCS they have to be able to add top out of state talent to suppliment their strong in-state talent base.
That happened in the Southwest Conference, but doesn't happen enough in the SEC.
Winning big drives attendance, merchandise sales, and booster contributions.
Arkansas' athletic revenue would have been seventh in Big 12 last year, even though they made $7 million more in TV revenue than anyone in the Big 12.
They made less than Oklahoma State. Not OU. OSU.
Being a distant outlier in a conference is a financially and athletically weak position to be in.
Being the new kid on the block in a conference where fans wrap themselves in tradition and history is not a good recruiting position.
In the SEC their closest rivals are LSU and Ol' Miss.
In the Big 12 they could play old SWC rivals, Texas, A&M, Tech, and Baylor (and maybe Houston) as well as nearby financially strong Big 8 schools OU, OSU, and Missouri. In fact, that could potentially be their schedule every year if Arkansas made it their price for jumping.
Even if they lose $3 million a year in TV revenue in a move (not a given), it is hard to see how they don't make that money up and then some.
OK, so we see why Arkansas would want to join. Why would the Big 12 want them?
Arkansas is UT's #2 rival, and as we saw last week, what UT wants, UT generally gets in the Big 12.
Additionally playing Arkansas would be a strong game financially for almost any Big 12 member, but there is also the fact that Jerry Joes wants it and Jerry Jones is one of the few people who could potentially lean on A&M if they started leaning towards the SEC.
"You want to play in the SEC? What a shame. Arkansas wants to play a Big 12 member in the Jerry Dome. I guess they will have to play Tech. You want to play Florida in the Jerry Dome? Sorry, no open dates. Why don't you try the Cotton Bowl?"
Jerry Jones could be the godfather of this conference.
So lets pencil in those Razorbacks coming home as team #11.
Touchdown Jesus Weighs in
According to Tom Kegan of the Lawrence Journal-World, Jerry Jones's master plan is to bring in Notre Dame and Arkansas to make it rain gain gold coins on Arkansas and the Big 12.
The plan does scream "Jerry Jones!"
The thinking is if the Big 12 pulls say Rutgers out of the Big East in order to smoke out Notre Dame by initiating a death spiral of that conference as a BCS power and as such as a basketball power, Notre Dame could just flip the Big Ten the bird and join the Big 12 as member No. 12.
It is a very interesting theory.
Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com reports that supposedly Jack Swarbrick apparently sees Deloss Dodds as a mentor of sorts.
I think that still doesn't change Notre Dame's position. Jack Swarbrick won't be making the final call on where that school goes.
I'd say that this might be good news for the Big East, buying them a year or so before the raids start, but I think Jerry Jones and Arkansas's action plan is to try to ram this through as quickly as possible. Maybe a few weeks or so. Notre Dame just doesn't move that quickly.
So who is Team 12?
I personally think there may be something to this leak and I think his source may be someone close to Jerry Jones.
TCU in conference would offer Jones the possiblity of a few more games in the Jerry Dome. Unlike Notre Dame, TCU is an easy sell. It would be very easy to imagine a scenario where Jerry Jones quickly realized the Notre Dame thing would take to long and siezed on TCU.
Commissioner Dan Bebee, long considered a puppet of UT, has said that any new teams will come from outside of the Big 12's current footprint.
One would have to think that is UT's stance and it makes sense when you look at what happened during the Big 12's near breakup. The first thing that occured was Baylor trying to use the State legislature to add them to the Pac-10 deal and come along.
If Baylor had the numbers they would likely have tried to legislatively bind UT to the conference.
UT doesn't want another private school tag along who can't carry their load and just wants a check.
UT isn't going to want another Baylor on board working in unison with the Bears to thwart UT's dreams if UT decides to leave in a few years - after all, what else does the Big 12 have to give UT?
Also there is the fact that TCU loudly leaked that they would block Baylor to the MWC.
And the fact that the MWC schools lead by BYU and TCU were not willing to add Kansas State or Iowa State.
Payback can be a real bitch and I think it will be in this instance.
The UT solution
If I were UT, I would be thinking about my next concession I intend to pull from this conference.
It is very hard to imagine what the conference has to offer, but this is the best idea I can imagine-losing the deadweight to increase shares.
There is no weight in the conference deader than Baylor. They offer no media market that UT and A&M already deliver, they are a poor draw, and generally non-competitive in football to boot.
They can't get into a conference UT would want to join and they will always attempt to try in order to keep the flow of fat TV checks coming.
Really the only reason to have Baylor is due to "sunset provisions", something the brilliant Scott Wilson of Bleacher Report clued me in on. Apparently by having a single private in the conference, public schools do not have to open their books to Freedom of Information Act requests.
This hits me as something that would likely be of great value to a school like UT.
If the Big 12 were to bring in BYU as team #12 , that would open a lot more opportunities for UT in the future.
Lets say in 5 years The Pac-10 is willing to let UT have it's network. UT can pack up OU, OSU, Tech, Arkansas, and A&M or Missouri and go west.
Stanford and USC provide that private sheild in the Pac-10. BYU, Kansas, & Missouri leave enough to probably continue as a BCS conference without Baylor's bitching.
Or lets say in 5 years OU and A&M are complaining about the money difference with UT and the Longhorn network.
The big three can pull a "mountain west" on the Big 12 and take Tech, OU, A&M, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, KSU, BYU, and possibly UNM and start a new conference, adding a little new market and a lot fewer mouths to increase the hush money to OU and A&M beyond SEC payouts.
They don't need Baylor to keep UT financial secrets a secret at that point. If I understand it correctly, BYU would suffice.
The addition of BYU as team 12 would probably work for Jerry Jones as well, as evidenced by the OU/BYU game, but again will BYU have Baylor, Kansas State, or Iowa State's votes?
But My Gut Tells Me...
...Team 12 will be the Houston Cougars.
I think ultimately the other schools in the conference will realize after what they have been through in the last two weeks that at this point in the process adding a little more value is not worth more than adding a lot more security.
I think even if adding Houston means the conference doesn't add a cent of value and to fund it means cutting the non-elite's TV payouts from $14-17 million to $12-15 million, the other seven schools might trade two bucks to try to ensure they keep 12.
After all, it is still ACC money.
Adding another Texas school will further limit the ability of UT and A&M to join other conferences, a move that would kill the financial streams feeding the other eight.
TCU might be a good add, but they do nothing to check the biggest short term threat to this conference's ability to compete at a high level - A&M's SEC fetish.
If A&M bails to the SEC, it could blow the doors to Texas recruiting wide open to the SEC.
It could hobble Big 12 revenue generators UT and OU and any other school reliant on Texas recruiting, causing an extended slump in most members' revenue and the league's perception and competitiveness.
A higher profile Big 12 TCU might jump with A&M to the SEC, making a bad situation even worse. TCU has proven time and again that they will jump conferences in a heartbeat for a better deal. The SEC with A&M would probably be paying $20 Million or so per team.
That is a 6 million dollar annual raise.
TCU would sleep with SMU for 6 million dollars.
Simply put, those shady Frogs can't be trusted.
Houston will always have supressed attendance numbers playing in the shadow of the Texans. They may only draw 40,000 to their new stadium in the Big 12.
Though it would not be ideal, it would be OK in the Big 12. At those numbers, they won't ever be a target of the SEC. That means they would have a vested interest to talk up the conference in Houston each time Aggies talk up the SEC.
Houston would be a pretty good check on A&M.
Plus there are the political implications. Houston has a much, much larger enrollment than TCU and is based in a much larger city that doesn't already have Tech supporters all over the place like DFW.
Houston is on the other side of the state. That means Houston will generally be able to rally more unique Texas legislators to the Big 12 position than TCU could.
And finally, it actually lays out very nicely with a SWC division and a Big Eight division allowing each schools to play their historic rivals.
Also it would finally give playing the championship game in Dallas some geographic meaning as the two divisions would meet on the Texas/Oklahoma border and the heavy of the northern division would have almost home field advantage.
Just imagine the tension in years when the championship game is a rematch of the Red River Rivalry with a slot at the national title game at stake...
That is a license to print TV money.