Expansion Clearinghouse

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Expansion Clearinghouse

The Case for the Big 12 Conference

The Dallas Morning News has obtained a “confidential white paper” sent out by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to conference members last month in his attempt to keep the conference together. “The Case for the Big 12 Conference” is a five page treatise outlining Beebe’s rationale as to why members would want to stay – and pulls no punches in going after the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

The white paper accompanies an article http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/colleges/topstories/stories/070210dnspotechbig12lede.1c4c06b.html, and is an interesting read. (It is worthy of note, however, that this paper went out before Colorado and Nebraska left the conference, and before Beebe convinced the remaining ten schools to stay in the Big 12 with a revenue distribution plan weighted heavily in favor of Texas).

A few highlights:

As to the membership complaining about the unequal distribution of revenue (remember it was Missouri which was using this argument as a justification for bolting to the Big Ten), Beebe wrote: “It is interesting that the two conferences that pose the most threat to poaching our members, the Big Ten and Pac-10, have opposite approaches to division of television revenue. The Big Ten shares equally, while the Pac-10 does not, resulting in a more disparate situation in the Pac-10 than in the Big 12 (e.g., in most years, USC receives twice that of Washington State) … The fact is that no conference shares equally all of the revenue produced as a result of conference competition. If any did so, all revenue from gate receipts, local sponsorships,  concession sales, donations for athletics, etc., would be pooled.”

Making the pitch that more television money is coming the Big 12’s way: “The recent Atlantic Coast Conference deal with ESPN for a reported average of $155m per year is a positive development and indicator that we will be in line for great increases,” Beebe wrote. “Conversations with FOX indicate their bullishness about competing for our future rights, and they have already made overtures about their willingness to pay exponentially higher rights fees than those in our current agreement.”

Taking aim at the Big Ten “For any institutions evaluating membership in the Big Ten, I hope full consideration is given to linking the future with a part of the country that is losing population and tax base relative to the Sun Belt,” wrote Beebe. “In addition, disconnecting with the Sun Belt region may result in removing significant contact with a region where many alums and fans reside, not to mention a fertile recruiting ground for students and student-athletes.”

While also taking shots at the Pac-10 “I grew up in Pac-10 territory, and although there are outstanding institutions in the conference, the facilities and fair weather fans are a disappointment,” according to Beebe. “I suggest that the fan support for their regular season games and championships, and the accompanying image that projects, should be carefully examined.” Beebe went on to echo what became the main publicly expressed concern by the leadership Texas A&M about joining the Pac-10, namely the travel time and expense. “There also is the issue of having student-athletes return to campus from competitions that are two time zones away, and losing those two hours while trying to go on and keep up with class.”

Playing the geography card “I believe geography is a major factor in the support of intercollegiate athletics, and those who disregard that do so at their peril,” wrote Beebe. “This region is filled with supporters and alumni from Big 12 schools, not so much with those from Big Ten and Pac-10 schools. Fans like their teams playing against teams of their friends and families.” (This argument was carried to the extreme by Texas head coach Mack Brown, who, in the June 28th edition of Sports Illustrated, was quoted as saying: “Our players’ parents were pretty adamant that they (be able to) drive to the games to see their kids play” – as if Texas, with the largest athletic department budget in the nation (by a wide margin) is primarily interested in playing to the wishes of players’ parents). For Colorado fans, meanwhile, the arguments made by Beebe concerning geography run in reverse – there are many more Colorado alumni in California – and Arizona, and the Pacific northwest – than anywhere in Big 12 country.

“This conference,” Beebe concluded his confidential memo, “has a terrific future, and will continue to provide a source of pride and connection for the citizens of this region of the country. I beseech its leaders to have faith in this future, and to commit to it.”

Of course, Beebe did not receive the commitments he asked for at the June Big 12 meetings, and Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado were shortly thereafter put on the clock for expressing loyalty to the Big 12. On June 9th, Colorado, followed two days later by Nebraska, left the conference. In order to maintain a viable league, Beebe had to offer to Texas – and, to a lesser extent, Texas A&M and Oklahoma – a sweetened deal. Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, and Baylor had no option but to go along.

Texas Tech, though, along with Oklahoma State, were not given extra dollars despite being amongst the five schools from the Big 12 South invited to join the Pac-10. Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M were guaranteed at least $20 million in revenue for 2012-13, the first year of a new media agreement.  On June 15th, the day after the remaining ten members of the Big 12 pledged their loyalty to the league, Beebe wrote to Texas Tech president Guy Bailey, trying to soothe the ruffled feathers in Lubbock by trying to convince the Red Raiders that they would not be losing money compared to other schools, most notably Texas A&M. “These were difficult times with desperation being felt by many – perfect decisions and perfect consideration may not have been possible,” Beebe wrote, “but the result, in my opinion, is the best for all in keeping the Big 12 as a viable conference. I know I represent the nine committed institutions in hoping that Texas Tech provides the unequivocal, unconditional commitment that that Board of Directors requested at their recent meeting.”

Of course, Texas Tech has not been in lock-step with the conference since the announcement was made that the Big 12 would go on with ten teams.

“I don’t think this conference will last long because there is too much disparity between all the teams,” said new Red Raider head coach Tommy Tuberville. “In the SEC (where Tuberville coached at both Ole Miss and Auburn), for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the television contract as Florida. Everybody is good with it. Everybody is on the same page. Everybody gets the same votes.”

The new deal struck by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe in order to save his league, one which is heavily weighted towards Texas, does not provide for such equality. “We have some teams that get a bit more money and have more stroking than some of the other teams,” said Tuberville. “And when that happens, you’re gonna have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave. We have a ten-team league right now, but I just don’t know how long that’s gonna last, to be honest with you.” {Tuberville was quickly reprimanded by the Big 12. Tuberville’s comments “were unfortunate,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, “and contrary to the very strong feelings of unity expressed publicly and privately by the Big 12 Board of Directors and athletic directors.”}

So, commissioner Dan Beebe has managed to save the Big 12 … for now.

Glad the Buffs are not part of that mix anymore?

Yeah. Me, too.

Conference Realignment: How we got here / Where we are now / What will happen in the future

Wednesday, June 30, 2010. A date which led to all of the stories, rumors, press conferences and denials over the past few months.

Teams which planned on moving on from their present conferences needed to do so by June 30th, the end of the fiscal year for most schools, in order to avoid even harsher “penalties” for giving notice after June 30th.

In the end, only Colorado, Nebraska, Utah, and Boise State left their old conferences for new. The Buffs, Cornhuskers, Utes, and Broncos, however, have set in motion a tectonic shift in conference realignment which will not end with just these moves.

How we got to where we are now …

This all started last December, when the Big Ten announced that it was looking into expansion. The announcement came with a 12-to-18 month timetable, but those words were drowned out by the nationwide speculation and debate over which teams were moving where. At the top of the Big Ten’s wishlist, as it had been the case for years, was Notre Dame. Adding the Irish to the 11-team league was an all too logicial fit, but Notre Dame officials, alumni, and fans all spoke out against losing their independence.

While Notre Dame played coy, the Big Ten looked elsewhere. Missouri seemed like a good possibility, and, unlike the Irish, a willing participant. The Tigers were ready, willing, and able to leave the Big 12, and Missouri administrators and elected officials were not bashful in making their feelings known. The Big Ten, though, looked to cast an even wider net, looking to add as many as five teams to form the nation’s first super conference. In addition to Notre Dame and Missouri, teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Nebraska were mentioned (other stories indicated that the Big Ten was looking as far afield as Maryland, Connecticut, and Colorado to fill out its new roster of team).

While attention was focused on the Big Ten this spring, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made headlines of his own, indicating that the Pac-10 was also interested in expansion. Denied the lucrative television dollars which came with a 12-team league, the Pac-10 turned its eyes east in terms of suitable partners. Wanting a pair of natural rivals, the options of Colorado/Utah and BYU/Utah were often mentioned. Other schools, including Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, and UNLV, were mentioned, but were not seen as good fits academically.

Not happy that two or more of his schools were being mentioned as possible defectors, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe went on the offensive, trying to rally/bully/intimidate members into staying with the Big 12. With Nebraska now on the Big Ten’s radar, Beebe demanded, in effect, a loyalty oath from members schools at the league meetings in early June. It was reported that Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado were given June 15th deadlines to choose their future.  Meanwhile, rumors became rampant that if Nebraska left for the Big Ten, Texas would leave the Big 12 as well. It became known that the Pac-10 was poised to invite as many as six teams from the Big 12 to join the Pac-10 – Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Colorado, and Texas A&M. Baylor, the only Big 12 South school left out of the discussion, began a very public campaign to be included in the new Pac-16, to the exclusion of Colorado.

In a surprise to many, it was not the Big Ten and Missouri, or even the Big Ten and Nebraska, which pulled the trigger first. Instead, it was the Pac-10 and the University of Colorado. On Wednesday, June 10th, Colorado accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10. Two days later, Nebraska announced it had reached an agreement to join the Big Ten.

With two charter members of the Big 12 gone, the demise of the conference seemed imminent. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made the rounds, visiting – and inviting – Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M to join the Pac-10. The leftovers of the Big 12 – Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State – were seen as being left to fend for themselves as new members of the Moutain West Conference or Conference USA. The “Pac-16″ appeared to be a done deal.

Over that weekend, though, much finagling went on behind the scenes. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe worked with the “Forgotten Five” to try and work out a plan to keep the conference together. Texas A&M and Oklahoma, not appreciating been seen as the weak sisters to all-powerful Texas, made it known that they were in discussions with the SEC.

In the end, Texas made itself a sweetheart deal, being permitted by the other remaining schools in the Big 12 to make more money than any other member. Throwing the Sooners and the Aggies a bone, the new deal allowed Oklahoma and Texas A&M to make more money than the other seven schools, but still not as much as Texas.

With a 16-team super-conference no longer in the offing, the Pac-10 went back to one of its original models, choosing Utah to complete the new Pac-12. Replacing Utah in the Mountain West Conference, starting in 2011, will be Boise State, moving over from the Western Athletic Conference.

Where we are now … An Uneasy Peace

 So, as the dust settles on the great realignment moves of 2010, we are left with the following: The Big Ten now has 12 members, while the Big 12 has ten. The Pac-10 is now a Pac-12, while the Mountain West has swapped Utah for Boise State, opting, for now, to remain a nine team conference.

Still, there is trouble in paradise.

The Big 12

Missouri, more than willing to throw its Big 12 brethren under the bus in order to join the Big Ten, is now left in a diluted Big 12, trying to express its joy in being part of the “Texas and the other Nine” conference. It’s unlikely that other schools will soon forget the disparaging remarks Missouri officials made about its fellow members.

Texas A&M and Oklahoma, meanwhile, are faced with the bitter reality that their futures are tied to the whims and discretions of hated Texas. Officials have tried to put a positive spin on the debacle – Oklahoma has made it known that the Sooners were being courted by the SEC; Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has been quoted as being excited about how, with a ten-team league, a “true champion” can be crowned, as each of the ten teams will play one another (Sherman conveniently forgot to mention that it was it was the lack of 12 teams, and the lack of a championship game, which was the impetus for all of this expansion discussion).

Then there are Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas – unwanted and uninvited. It must have been a real shock for Jayhawk fans to be faced with the reality that having one of the top five basketball programs in the history of the sport meant nothing when conference realignment discussions were taking place. Being looked upon as the ugly step-children of the diluted Big 12 must be leaving a bad tast in the mouths of many fans in Ames, Manhattan, Waco, and Lawrence.

The Big Ten and Pac-10

The two conferences without a conference championship game got what they set out for – 12 teams. Still, fans of the teams from those conferences have been left with thoughts about what might have been. For the Big Ten, the concept of a 16-team league – especially if Notre Dame were included – was tantalizing. Nebraska brings more to the table than Missouri, but its still not all that Big Ten fans may have hoped for.

The same goes for the fans of the Pac-10. The opportunity to have the nation’s first 16-team conference – especially if Texas were included – was also tantalizing. “Settling” for Colorado and Utah, even though that scenario was part of the initial discussion for expansion, could be considered a letdown.

As for other conferences …

The SEC remains at the top, intact and dominant. The SEC can jump to 16 teams anytime it sees the need, and will not be lacking for applicants … The Big East, on the verge of collapse if there were mass defections to the Big Ten and SEC, can rest easy – for the moment … To a lesser extent, the fears held by Big East members also applies to the ACC. A basketball league, the ACC isn’t going anywhere, but it could face dilution in the expansion wars … The Moutain West Conference lost Utah, but gained Boise State, seen by many as a wash. Still, the MWC had its sights set on the Kansas schools and perhaps Missouri, so keeping the number at nine, for now at least, remains a setback.

As for the Future of Expansion

June, 2010, witnessed the first round of massive conference realignment; not the last.

The Big Ten

… has a comfortable number for the first time in almost 20 years – 12. The conference can split into two divisions (although how those division lines will fall has yet to be determined), and the Big Ten can have a conference championship game to go with its Big Ten television network. The revenue may not equal that of the SEC, but it will be close, which will be good enough for Big Ten members.

Unless …

Notre Dame decides enough is enough.

The Irish believe themselves to be insulated from monetary issues. Notre Dame has its own network contract, its own seat at the BCS table, and gets to keep all of its own revenue.

But Notre Dame has not been relevant on the national stage in some time. The Irish have played in only three BCS bowl games in the past 15 years (and were thumped all three times). When television contracts are renegotiated, NBC might not be willing to spend as much on a team which is not consistently ranked. Notre Dame might begin to look longingly at the massive television contracts made by the Big Ten, and maybe – just maybe – take an interest in joining the Big Ten.

If Notre Dame moves, the landscape of college football changes forever. The Big Ten will expand to at least 14 teams, perhaps 16, with the Big East and Big 12 the most likely to be affected.

The Big 12 …

Will not stay together as a ten team league. It’s great for Texas, but that’s it. Texas A&M and Oklahoma saved some face by getting more revenue than the other seven schools, but still are second fiddle to the Longhorns. If the SEC comes calling again for the Sooners and the Aggies, they might well take them up on the offer.

Will the Big 12 expand back to 12 teams? Not likely. There are few options out there which would enhance the league. Adding Texas schools, such as TCU, Houston, or SMU, would only serve to further drive home the fact that the Big 12 is now a Texas league (how long before SWC references are made?). Schools from outside the borders of Texas, schools like BYU or New Mexico, would not bring much in the way of television sets nor national followings. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alumnus, is said to be interested in getting the Razorbacks into the Big 12, but that move makes no sense for Arkansas. It was being part of a Texas-centric league that prompted Arkansas to leave the old SWC for the SEC. Leaving the money and security of the SEC to bow down to Texas? Ain’t gonna happen.

The Pac-10

Call it bias, but it appears to me that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has done a wonderful job of positioning his new league to be a strong league, with enhanced revenues. The Pac-10 set out to add enough teams to have a conference championship … mission accomplished.

True, the Pac-10 did offer five other Big 12 schools, and were rejected, but that doesn’t mean the game is lost.

If Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, or

If the Big Ten offers Missouri, or

If the SEC decides to expand to include Oklahoma and Texas A&M …

The Big 12 may still cease to exist.

Texas, if there are any other defections from its own made-for-Longhorns league, may be a team without a conference. Texas could ultimately go independent, or could be forced to join a 16-team league …

The Pac-16.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has saved the conference – for now. By the time the next round of television contracts are being negotiated - or even sooner – there may be no league left to save.

Colorado fans, at least, can rest easy. There were some anxious moments in early June, 2010, when Baylor was banging the “Big 12 South Unity” drum loudly. It appeared that the Big 12 was dead, and that the Buffs, along with other castoffs from the Big 12 North, would have to settle for joining an expanded Moutain West Conference.

Now, however, there are no such fears. Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State fans remain uncertain as to what their futures hold. Future rumors, internet stories, and press conferences will be reviewed, analyzed, and dissected.

Buff fans, though, can watch the future negotiations and realignment politics with quiet satisfaction.

Colorado has found a permanent home.

 

June 23rd

Oklahoma President – Sooners & Aggies invited to join SEC

What a difference six weeks make.

Back on May 14th (feel free to scroll down through this thread – it actually is interesting to see the evolution of the expansion story over the past two months), Oklahoma president David Boren, as rumors swirled about Missouri and Nebraska leaving for the Big Ten, had this to say:

“We’re very happy with the Big 12 conference, and we certainly expect to stay in the Big 12 conference,” Boren said. “I really think that the likelihood of any school leaving the conference is really blown out of proportion. I think the conference will stay intact.” Boren went on to fire a shot across the bow of any team contemplating leaving. “I think when you look at where we’ve been, the revenue growth of the member schools of the Big 12 has been quite significant,” Boren said. “I really think that if any member decided to leave, they would regret it later on. Financial considerations are not the only considerations.”

Boren got his wish. The Big 12 stayed intact … at least for the most part.

But, six weeks after Boren said any team which wanted to leave the Big 12 “would reget it later on”, it has been confirmed that Oklahoma was not only looking into joining the Pac-10 along with most of the Big 12 South, but that the Sooners also entertained an offer from the SEC.

“There was a time when A&M thought they were going to the SEC and they very much wanted us to go with them,” said Boren. “Oklahoma, in the whole thing, we were positioned in a way where virtually we could not have lost.”

Boren also said that the departure of most of the Big 12 South to the Pac-10 went nowhere because Texas decided against it. Boren said it “basically fell apart because of the difference of opinion in Texas” regarding Texas A&M and the Aggies leaving for the SEC instead. “One school doesn’t like the other one to tell them what to do,” said Boren.

So, Boren was pleased with the result - ”We were well positioned for whatever worked out” – the Sooners were looking both east and west.

I guess Boren wasn’t worried about his statement that any departing team “would regret it later on”.

And so it goes …

June 22nd

Big 12 content being the “Big Ten”

Athletic directors for the ten remaining schools in the Big 12 met this week, and expansion back to 12 teams was not on the agenda.

“There is a great deal of excitement about the future of the conference,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. “The ten school model is one which is extremely attractive and provides the opportunity for continued long-term success … There is no interest in expansion, and it was not a consideration at the gathering.”

Wow. Read that again.

So, let me get this straight. The Big Ten and Pac-10 were willing to expand to up to 16 teams, but at least to twelve teams, in order to be eligible for a conference championship game, and all the extra television revenue which came along with it, but the new and improved Big 12, with ten teams and no exemption for a title game, thinks that they have hit upon the golden ticket?

Really?

 

June 18th

Latest on the 2011 schedule

When Utah gave its notice that it was leaving the Mountain West Conference, it did so without penalty. As is often the case, teams playing for non-BCS conferences do not impose moving penalties upon its members. The logic is clear: Why impose a potential penalty on my school, which someday aspires to move up itself?

With no penalties for leaving, there is no reason to wait. Utah plans to become a Pac-12 member in 2011, and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has confirmed that Utah will begin play in the Pac-12 in 2011. As Nebraska has expressed its desire to begin play in the Big Ten in 2011, if Colorado tried to hang on to its Big 12 schedule in 2012, it would not only be awkward, it would be impossible.

So, the Buffs will play its last season in the Big 12 this fall?

“We’re hopeful to resolve that shortly so we can plan, and (the conferences) can plan,” said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn. “I think all parties are motivated to resolve that one way or another.”

Translation: negotiations are underway between Colorado, Nebraska, and the Big 12 so that the Buffs and Cornhuskers can leave early, while at the same time agreeing to some form of penalty/buyout fee which would allow the Big 12 to save some face.

Look for a resolution quickly. July 1st, and the start of the new fiscal year, is coming soon, and it would be in the best interests of all concerned to get the divorce papers drawn and filed.

 

June 17th

Utah ends Pac-10 expansion … for now

“Today is an absolute great day to be a Ute”, said Utah athletic director Chris Hill in opening his press conference announcing the Utes’ acceptance to the invitation to joining the Pac-12.

“First and foremost, the reason this has happened is because the athletes that we’ve had at the University of Utah have worked so hard and done so much to put this program on the map,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham. “That is really where the lion’s share of the credit go to.”

With the addition of Colorado and Utah, the Pac-12 has added the No. 16 (Denver) and No. 31 (Salt Lake City) television markets. While Colorado has been down in football of late, there are few who doubt the Buffs’ potential to rebound. Utah faces no such problem in terms of present credentials. The Utes are 69-13 in the past seven seasons, better than any Pac-10 team not named USC, and have posted two undefeated seasons. Utah fans can also point out that the Utes have gone 7-3 in their last ten games against Pac-10 foes.

All that is left for the Pac-10 to decide is:

1) what to call itself – with the Pac-12 all but a given;

2) decide how to divide up its conference into two divisions acceptable to all parties. Reports have the Utah/Colorado pair going with USC/UCLA and the Arizona schools, (but I’m still not convinced it will happen);

3) decide on what to do with a championship game – where to have it, for one -  assuming that there will be one.  After all, part of the lure of expansion was to obtain the extra revenue a conference championship would bring. But the Big 12, left with only ten teams, is seemingly content going without a championship game, and the new Big Ten/12 is said to be thinking about going without a title game; and

4) how to generate all that extra television revenue expansion promised.

At least Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott can now stop with the frequent flyer mile accumulation, and get down to the business of taking care of the above issues …

June 16th

Utah to officially join Pac-12 Thursday

Utah associate athletic director Liz Abel indicated today (Wednesday) that Utah would not comment on the Utes being invited to become the 12th member of the Pac-10, but all signs point toward that coming on Thursday. The school’s board of Trustees will meet on Thursday to discuss the “school’s conference affiliation”. A news conference is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., following the board’s meeting. As the move would mean a step up into a BCS conference, and with no penalties for leaving the Mountain West Conference early, the result from the board of Trustees’ meeting appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Any regrets from Pac-10 country about landing “only” Colorado and Utah, and not Texas?

“We realized that there could be all kinds of complications in terms of pulling off such a bold move,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. “That’s why we moved first on Colorado as a beachhead, to put a stake in the ground to keep available other options that we’re very interested in in terms of expansion that might be more modest in nature.”

Should the Pac-10 have given Texas the megadeal the Big 12 gave the Longhorns? “My marching orders were clear,” said Scott. “There are essential principles and values the Pac-10 holds true to that we were not going to compromise as part of getting a deal done”. Translation: the Pac-10 members were not willing to sell their souls – as the Little Seven apparently have done – in order to have Texas as a league participant.

And Scott’s not done.

“If you want to say we’ve swung for the fences, we’re thrilled,” said Scott. “This is the second inning at best. You’ll start seeing this summer some of our other plans and innovations.”

One of these will be to get to work on the new Pac-12 television contract, including the real possibility of a Pac-10 network akin to the Big Ten Network. At the very least, the Pac-12 will be looking to meet or beat the $1.86 billion, 12-year deal the ACC recently signed with ESPN.

So, Buff fans. Would you rather have Larry Scott or Dan Beebe as your team’s commissioner?

Yeah, me too.

June 15th

It’s Utah!

The Utah Utes Rivals site is reporting that Utah has been invited to become the 12th member of the reconfigured Pac-12. While this has not been confirmed on any national site, I can tell you that the same story is being reported by the local Fox Sports News station, which covers the San Francisco area (I knew there was a good reason for us to be at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open!).

This on a day when the nationally reported story is that Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson is being quoted as saying that he has not been contacted by Pac-10 commissioner about approaching Utah as a new Pac-10 team.

Buffs gone by 2011?

Rivals.com is reporting that Nebraska and Colorado may be out of the Big 12 as early as 2011. Last week, upon leaving the conference, Nebraska expressed its preference to leave for the Big Ten in 2011 instead of 2012, as Colorado had planned. In an interview with ESPN Austin, Big 12 commissioner stated that the Cornhuskers’ wish might come true. “The honest feeling that I have is it is difficult to have two years of competition with an institution that is going to be leaving,” said Beebe. “We’ll see about accomodating their interest.”

Last week, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott indicated that the Pac-10 was looking at 2012, but “if there are some things within the Big 12 that necessitated us starting things earlier”, the Pac-10 would be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.

 

 

 

June 14th

Texas announces that the Big 12/10 will play on

Given a sweet deal by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, Texas opted Monday to stay with the Big 12, declining an offer to join the Pac-10. Shortly after the announcement, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M also pledged their allegiance to the reduced league.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announced that the Pac-10 would not be expanding into Texas. “University of Texas President Bill Powers has informed us that the ten remaining schools in the Big 12 conference intend to remain together,” said Scott. The wording of the announcement is telling. It was not Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe making the announcement, it was Texas president Bill Powers. If there was any remaining doubt as to the center of power in the reduced Big 12, it has now been eliminated.

So, what will Texas get for staying?

According to Orangebloods.com, Texas will make out the best from the new television contracts. The Longhorns will stand to earn $20 to $25 million in televison revenue, including their own television network, which could generate another $3 to $5 million. Oklahoma and Texas A&M will receive around $20 million.

The other seven schools? They get to come along for the ride for around $17 million per year.  Still, while Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor stand to perhaps double their television revenue, you need to read between the lines.

Is this a boon to the Little Seven? Yes, they get to stay, for now, in a BCS conference (though one without a conference championship). And yes, the new television money promised will increase revenues.  But … every conference which has renegotiated its television contracts of late have reaped huge rewards – it’s the nature of the market.

What the Little Seven did to keep their BCS affilation, though, was sell their souls. The new “Big 12″ will be the Texas conference. It will be all about the mighty Longhorns. The Little Seven have acknowledged as much in agreeing to an unequal distribution of revenues. For every extra dollar coming into their coffers, Texas gets an extra two. Even Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who would rather die than agree to wear burnt orange, have conceded that they are second class – above the Little Seven, but still second class.

What will happen to Colorado and the Pac-10?

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott would not comment on Texas deciding to decline the offer to join the Pac-10, but focus will now clearly shift to Utah. One of the goals of expansion for the Pac-10 was to add a revenue generating conference championship game. With 11 schools, the conference is still one team short. With the Texas schools out of the equation, there are few other options for the Pac-10. If Scott really wanted to stick it to Texas, he could still invite Kansas. That would give the Pac-12 a group of six natural rivals, and give the conference a basketball power. However, it would have made sense for Texas to secure a promise from Kansas to stay in the Big 12 if Texas declined the Pac-10’s offer.

If Utah does get the nod, the scenario Buff fans wanted most will come true. A 12-team conference with schools which are academically and athletically on par with the Buffs. There would be an issue of how the divisions would line up – Does Colorado/Utah go with the Arizona schools and the southern California schools? (probabaly not – Cal and Stanford probably would be against giving up an annual trip to Los Angeles – though this is exactly the scenario a Denver television station is reporting); Does Colorado/Utah go with the Arizona schools and the Washington schools?; or does Colorado/Utah go with the Washington and Oregon schools to form a division?

Interesting stuff. But, as we know, it’s not a great idea to get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to see what Larry Scott will do. (Remember, Scott did, at one point last week, state that there was the option that the Pac-10 would stop at Colorado, but that was seen as a negotiating ploy. Now …. ?).

So, Colorado will be out some revenue …

Now that the Big 12/10 is staying together, the Buffs and Cornhuskers are going to owe some money to the rest of the league. Or, more precisely, go without 50% of the revenue Colorado and Nebraska would otherwise have received over the next two seasons.

How can the Buffs, who couldn’t afford to buy out $3 million of Dan Hawkins’ contract last fall, go without $8-$10 million over the next two years?

First, the choice to move to the Pac-10 was not just an athletic department decision, it was a University of Colorado decision. While the athletic department is always counting pennies, the University of Colorado, and its Foundation, have other resources. At worst, the athletic department could do what it did several years ago when the Gary Barnett contract was bought out – borrow the money from the University, and pay it back over time. With the additional revenue coming in from the Pac-10 contracts starting in 2012, this can easily be accomplished.

Will it hurt short term? Yes. The Buffs will be marked by Big 12 teams in competition the next two years, and it will be expensive to leave. Plus, a Pac-16 television contract would certainly have generated more dollars than a Pac-12 television contract.

But … and it is an important but … we are looking long term here. Long term, Colorado can and should be competitive with other teams in the Pac-12. Other than USC and Oregon (Nike), the Buffs are on par with the other schools in the league in terms of resources and capabilities. Colorado would never, EVER, have had that in a league with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

Especially in the new “Texas and the  nine dwarfs” conference.

It may not seem like it right now, but years from now, Colorado fans will be looking at the announcement today from Austin as a great day in Buff history.

 

 

Will Texas stay in the Big 12?

Orangebloods.com, which has been leading the way in breaking news concerning conference realignment, is reporting that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has convinced Texas to stay in the Big 12.

The selling point? Texas would be able to pursue its own distribution platforms (read: television network), which would not be possible under any arrangement Texas would have as a member of the Pac-16. Beebe has got the votes of the Kansas schools, Missouri, Baylor, and Iowa State (what else are they going to do?), which seemingly puts the ball in the Court of Texas A&M. If the Aggies opt for the SEC, then the move of Texas Tech, Texas, and the Oklahoma schools, would seemingly be a foregone conclusion (along with Utah? perhaps Kansas?). After meeting with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott (see below), Texas A&M was non-committal about joining the Pac-10. “Texas A&M continues to evaluate its options,” said A&M spokesman. “At this point, all options continue to be on the table.”

Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin  issued a statement Sunday night. “We are aggressively pursuing our options, one of which is to if for the Big 12 to continue in some form,” said Loftin. “We continue to evaluate our options in a deliberate manner as we work toward a decision that is in the best long-term interests of Texas A&M.”

Beebe’s plan to save the Big 12 …

… Increase television revenues in a new contract, from the present $7-$10 million, to $17 millon in 2012, when the new television contracts would begin;

… Divide up the approximately $20 million in revenue which would otherwise have gone to the defecting schools of Colorado and Nebraska; and

… allow schools (Texas) to pursue their own distribution networks, which would potentially be a huge windfall for the Longhorns.

Larry Scott on the move

 The private jet that the Pac-10 commissioner rode to Boulder last Friday has been getting a workout. Over the weekend, Larry Scott started at Oklahoma City, where he presumably hand-delivered invitations to join the Pac-10 to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. On Sunday, Scott arrived early in College Station, meeting with Texas A&M officials, before taking off for Lubbock and Texas Tech. Scott ended his day in Austin, at the hub of all that is being debated amongst the remaining members of what was the Big 12 South (except for, of course, Baylor).

Was it all for naught? Or will, as previously expected, Texas announce after its Tuesday Board of Regents’ meeting that the Longhorns are going to throw in with the Pac-10.

More later today.

Program Note: We are working our first day at the U.S. Open today, and I will be out of news range (not even a cell phone) for much of the day. But I will do an extensive update tonight, along with a first installment of “CU at Pebble Beach”.

 

June 12th

Buffs doing it right

For an athletic department not having much in way of success of late – four straight losing seasons by the football team, not much better success on the basketball court, and facing a week in which it was announced that Colorado (and Colorado alone amongst 1-A teams)  would be losing football scholarships due to poor APR scores – the administration sure had a good week.

When the week opened, Baylor alumni and supporters were in full “Bash the Buffs” mode. Prominent Austin lobbyist and Baylor regent Buddy Jones launched a campaign to have Baylor included in any Pac-16 discussion, to the exclusion of Colorado. “My guess is that Colorado hasn’t taken enough broadside hits to sink their boat yet, and they may be well on the invite list,” Jones said in an email to Baylor alumni and supporters last weekend. “I hope I’m wrong. But there’s still time left to change the scoreboard. We aren’t through.”

In another email, Jones urged alumni in the Texas legislature to contact officials from Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, providing them talking points on how to lobby for Baylor’s inclusion. “It is imperative that whatever happens, the four Texas schools (and hopefully Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) agree to stick together”.

Meanwhile, there was silence out of Boulder. Buff fans worried that Colorado was on the verge of being left behind, and was doing nothing to stop the move to relegate the Buffs to the Mountain West Conference.

Instead, behind the scenes, Buff administrators were doing it right – they were doing it behind the scenes. Work was being done. The Regents convened on Tuesday, and gave unanimous consent to joining the Pac-10. Negotiations continued, and, on Thursday, it was time to make the announcement.

On Friday, Colorado continued to do it “the right way”. Buff administrators met Pac-10 officials, including commissioner Larry Scott, at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport – aboard a CU bus. “It’s been a very structured process, and a lot of business and a lot of serious discussion, so it was an opportunity to really show what makes college sports so great,” explained athletic director Mike Bohn. “It’s the mascots, coaches, student-athletes. That’s what it’s about.”

Colorado also drove home the importance of the day to its visitors with its delegation. In addition to administrators, the bus carried former CU head coach Bill McCartney and former Buff – and now College Football Hall of Fame inductee – Alfred Williams. Colorado governor Bill Ritter also made an appearance.

Larry Scott was impressed.

“That was an amazing reception, and it blew us away,” said Scott at the press conference, not looking at all that he was saying so because his pre-pared notes told him to. “To see the support that was there and then to see the governor change his schedule at the last minute to greet us really was overwhelming. Just to see the level of importance that decisions like this have … It’s fascinating. It really gives me a great feeling of what we’re doing.”

Now, the hard work begins. Whether the Buffs are part of a Pac-12 or a Pac-16, regardless of whether the Buffs play in a six team division, an eight team divison, or a four team pod, it will be hard not to see Colorado as underdogs in almost every matchup they face.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” said Ceal Barry, former women’s basketball coach and present administrator. “We’ve had some good and some bad years in the last 13 years, and I think it’s a great opportunity to set our standards a little bit higher; a standard of excellence, and to have that expectation from the top down.”

“The school can be successful, and its proven out in the past, it’s just not successful now,” said former quarterback Joel Klatt. “So, I believe that this gives them the kind of shot in the arm that it takes to go and really get something going.”

Reality returns September 4th, when the 3-9 Buffs take on the 3-9 Rams, to see which team is ready to make 2010 better than 2009.

For now, though, reality is 2 1/2 months away.

For today, the Buffs and their fans can revel in the knowledge that the Colorado administration did it right, and came out winners as a result.

Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State to join Pac-10 next week

The Dallas Morning News and the Austin Statesmen are reporting that four more schools will be offered membership into the Pac-10 next week, with Texas A&M remaining “on the fence” between joining the Pac-10 and the SEC.

“The decision has been made,” said what was quoted as being a “highly placed anonymous official from a Big 12 school”. “We’re bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M”. Official offers are to be made this weekend, with Texas leading the way to acceptance after their Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday.

In essence, then, Texas A&M has three days to decide if they want to go with the Pac-10, or opt to try their luck with the SEC. Potential replacements for A&M, should the Aggies look east instead of west include Kansas, Utah, and even Baylor.

June 11th

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott: Adding Colorado a “bold first step”

“I think history will recognize and reward the bold first step that we’ve made together,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott at the press conference held Friday at Folsom Field to announce the acceptance of Colorado as the first new member of the Pac-10 since 1978. “While the Pac-10 is known for its storied history and traditions academically and athletically, I think we’re also going to be known for leading the way into the future.”

On a beautiful day in Boulder, with the Flatirons as a backdrop, the University of Colorado accepted its invitation to join the Pac-10 conference. Colorado President Bruce Benson, Chancellor Phil DiStefano, and athletic director Mike Bohn were on hand to welcome a delegation from the Pac-10, including commissioner Larry Scott. The common theme of the speeches was that Colorado was a “perfect fit” for the Pac-10, with special emphasis made on the academic virtures Colorado brings to the table. Seven of ten universities in the Pac-10 are members of the American Association of Universities. “That will make eight of 11″, said Scott. “We’re very proud of that.”

While noting that the Pac-10 is the “Conference of Champions” – the Pac-10 has 380 NCAA titles, 150 more than any other conference – Larry Scott did note that Colorado was bringing to the table 21 national championships. Of course, all but four of those titles are in skiing, which Scott joked was the latest sport to be added to the Pac-10’s list of accomplishments.

The lack of “Olympic sports” at Colorado was brought up at the press conference, and did make Colorado officials squirm just a bit. Athletic Director Mike Bohn noted that it was 30 years ago – to the day – that Colorado athletics suffered its blackest day, when a number of sports were cut, including baseball, wrestling, and gymnastics. While not promising any increase in non-revenue sports at Colorado, chancellor DiStefano did acknowledge it was being discussed. “I think as we look to the future, we should be thinking about adding sports,” DiStefano said. “Baseball is one I would like to see; although the weather here in the spring isn’t always conducive towards playing baseball.”

In a nice gesture from the Buffs’ new partners, the Pac-10 delegation brought Libby Wright, the Chairman of the Rose Bowl Management Committee. Ms. Wright brought roses for everyone at the podium, and stated, “We are thrilled to be here today and be part of this announcement.”

There was one good laugh at the press conference which might not make it to the morning papers. Chancellor DiStefano was discussing the already long and storied history involving Colorado and members of the Pac-10. DiStefano noted that Colorado had played Stanford in football all the way back in 1904. DiStefano then said, “I should probably ask Dave Plati if he knows the score of that game …”, at which time Plati, in the background, said “33-0, Stanford”. To laughter, DiStefano then said that he should probably have asked Dave about the result in private before he started his remarks.

Program Note: This weekend we’ll take a look back at some of the memorable games Colorado has already played with current members of the Pac-10. This side of Dave Plati, you would be hard pressed to find more details about the Buffs’ history than right here in the CU at the Game archives. Help yourself!).

Nebraska pulls the trigger

In a much anticipated move, the Board of Regents at the University of Nebraska voted Friday to apply for membership in the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman said that the move offered stability “that the Big 12 simply cannot offer.” The move will not be official until the Big Ten presidents give their approval, but that is expected to merely be a formality.

Two items of note from the Nebraska announcement:

First, both Perlman and athletic director Tom Osborne went out our their way to say, in essence, “the implosion of the Big 12 isn’t our fault”. Perlman noted that Nebraska’s leaving did not require the dissolution of the Big 12. “One school leaving a conference does not destroy a conference”, Perlman said. “Nebraska did not start this discussion. After the Big Ten announced it planned to consider expansion, we saw reports that Missouri would want to go to the Big Ten, including a statement from their governor, a member of the board of curators, and chancellor – comments that were clearly not supportive of the Big 12.” Osborne agreed. “As we read the tea leaves and listened to conversations, some of the schools that were urging us to stay,” Osborne said. “We found some of them had talked to not only one other conference or two but even three, and those were the same ones urging us to stay.”

Me thinks Dr. Tom doth protest too much …

The other interesting tidbit came when chancellor Perlman indicated that Nebraska was proposing to begin play in the Big Ten in 2011, a year earlier than most projections have the move being finalized. This proposal, if it can be worked out with other conferences and schools, would mean that Nebraska would not make a final trip to Boulder Thanksgiving weekend next year.

At the Colorado press conference Friday, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was asked about the Buffs starting conference play in 2011. “We do not foresee that moving up (the 2012 timetable for Colorado to join the Pac-10), but if it did, if there are some things that happen within the Big 12 that necessitated us starting things earlier in 2011, we are prepared to do that as well.”

So, what about Missouri?

Remember back in the good old days, say … three week ago? When “Missouri to the Big Ten” was main topic of conversation with regard to expansion?

What happened? Well, the Missouri curators met the end of this week, but with much less fanfare than the meeting of the Nebraska Board of Regents. There was no vote to join the Big Ten. There was no reason to – Missouri doesn’t have an invitation to accept.

“We have obligations to our Big 12 Conference, first and foremost,” said Missouri system president Gary Forsee. What?

“We are trying to be patient,” said board chairman Judy Haggard. “We are committed to the Big 12 at this time.” Really?

Go back and re-read those quotes, and see if you can do it without at least a smirk coming across your face. Go ahead, I dare you.

Puh-lease. Scroll down to May 14th on this very page (I know I’ve written a lot since then, but trust me, it’s down there), and you will see the following, under the heading: Missouri governor on joining the Big Ten: “We should look at it if it’s offered”

This is not the first time the Missouri governor has snubbed his counterparts in the Big 12. Last December, when asked about Big Ten expansion, Nixon put his foot in it. “I’m not going to say anything bad about the Big 12,” Nixon said just before he did just that,” but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern; when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you being looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at.”

Ouch (of course, the slam doesn’t sting for Colorado fans – we’re in the AAU).

Nixon wasn’t finished. “If a significant conference, with a long history of academic and athletic excellence, talks to you about joining them,” said Nixon, “you shouldn’t say, ‘We’re from the old Big Eight and I remember when’ … If they want to talk, we should talk. We should listen.”

Now, with Nebraska and Colorado gone, and no Big Ten invitation for Missouri in sight, Tiger athletic director Mike Alden said Friday, “We aren’t looking at any other conference”.

With Colorado’s administrators popping the bubbly this weekend, pulling off a coup many other schools across the nation would die to have right now (including Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor) you almost have to feel sorry for Missouri.

Almost. 

11’s across the board

Welcome to June 11th, where the college football world, at least for a few moments, is perfectly aligned for the University of Colorado – 11 members in the Pac-10; 11 members in the Big 12; and 11 members in the Big Ten.

Just don’t look for the perfect alignment to last.

By June 12th, the Big Ten is expected to have 12 members, as Nebraska is expected to announced Friday that it has accepted an invitation to join that league. The Nebraska Board of Regents is meeting today, and every indication is that the Cornhuskers have been extended an invitation, and that they have accepted.

The conventional wisdom has been that if Nebraska left the Big 12, that the conference would come to an end, with five of the six Big 12 South schools opting to head west to play in the Pac-10. However, two scenarios remain in which that might not happen. First, there is still a chance, especially if Missouri is not offered admission to the Big Ten, that the Big 12 could stay together. The athletic directors for both Texas and Texas A&M have stated that this would be their preference, but, with a conference already heavily weighted toward Texas, the loss of Nebraska and Colorado would only diminish the clout of the Big 12 in terms of television revenue. “It’s on life support,” said one source about the Big 12, “but people have come off life support before.”

There is also the chance – which seems to be picking up steam of late – that Texas A&M may opt for playing in the SEC. According to sources, A&M regent Gene Stallings (see below), A&M system chancellor Mike McKinney, and former coach R.C. Slocum have been pushing for A&M to go east instead of west. The problem for the Aggies is that Texas has no interest in the SEC, and if A&M split off from their big brother, the Longhorns would retaliate by cutting off all contests between the two schools (and it would be tough to be an Aggie, where the school song is all about beating tu, to just dump that history).

Still, there is time for those hoping to keep the Big 12 together, or for other moves to be made. It was announced on Friday morning that the University of Texas regents will meet on Tuesday, “for discussion and appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership”.

So, the Big 12 lives on – at least for four more days …

 

June 10th

COLORADO INVITED TO BECOME 11th MEMBER OF THE PAC-10!

It was just a scant 63 years ago when the University of Colorado ditched the Mountain States (Skyline) Conference to join the newly formed Big Seven Conference (which had been the Big Six until the Buffs changed the math). In 1947, Colorado played to a 3-3 conference record in the Mountain States Conference, beating BYU, Colorado State, and Wyoming, but falling to Utah, Denver, and Utah State. The following year, Colorado went 2-3 in its first season in the Big Seven, defeating Nebraska and Kansas State, but falling to Kansas, Iowa State, and Missouri (it wasn’t until 1950 that Colorado and the other member of the Big Seven, Oklahoma, could schedule conference games).

In 2012, Colorado will once again, after 65 years, shift conference opponents, once again taking a step up in competition and national prestige.

“The University of Colorado is a perfect match – academically and athletically – with the Pac-10,” said Colorado president Bruce D. Benson. Chimed in Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, “The University of Colorado is a great fit for the Conference, both academically and athletically, and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10″.

“On behalf of the University of Colorado students, faculty, alumni and fans, we are proud to accept this invitation from the Pac-10, and join the most prestigious academic and athletic conference in the nation,” said CU-Boulder chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.

Discussion concerning Colorado joining the Pac-10 has been going on for several decades. It almost happened in 1994, when a narrow vote by the Board of Regents rejected an offer to join the Pac-10 conference. This time, however, the Board of Regents was on board. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Board of Regents gave Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn the go-ahead to secure an invitation to the Pac-10, and the deal was finalized on Wednesday.

Now Colorado coaches, with 23 Californians on the roster (compared to three Texans), can start to recruit more heavily in California … or can they?

Still to be determined over the next few days,weeks, months, and years, is how many teams will wind up in the Pac-10, and how conference games will be scheduled. If Colorado ends up in the Pac-16 East, with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas, Arizona State and Arizona, and if every teams plays every other team in their division, that’s seven games out of an eight or nine game conference schedule. That does not leave many trips to the states of California, Oregon, and Washington left available to schedule.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For now, just sit back and savor the joy that comes with knowing that Colorado will not be relegated to the Mountain West Conference. Enjoy the knowledge that, for all of the crowing coming out of Waco that Baylor was a better choice for the Pac-10, it was Colorado that the Pac-10 wanted.

In 1947, Colorado made the right choice, jumping into the Big Seven, even though that meant leaving a conference it had dominated (five titles; three second place finishes in 11 seasons in the Mountain States Conference), to take on the opportunity to square off with national powerhouse Oklahoma on an annual basis.

In 2010, Colorado again made the right choice.

 Meanwhile …

Now that Colorado has pre-empted the “Texas four pack” discussion, what is next for the Big 12, the Big Ten, the SEC? The Mountain West … ?

Nebraska to the Big Ten

Multiple sources are reporting that Nebraska has, in fact, been extended an invitation to join the Big Ten, and that an announcement that the Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 (now 11) to join the Big Ten (which will now have 12 teams) will be made Friday. There is the possibility that the Big Ten might stop there, awaiting further developments (read: hoping to add Notre Dame) before moving any further. “It’s going to happen (Nebraska to the Big Ten), unless something crazy happens in the final hours,” said a source from the Big Ten.

The loss of Nebraska has been widely reported as bringing an end to the Big 12, as Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech are to be extended invitations to the Pac-10, essentially gutting the conference.

But …

Texas A&M to the SEC?

Texas A&M and Texas officials met today (Thursday) to discuss options. Presumably,

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