College Football: The Significance of Potential SEC Realignment
As we approach the imminent move of Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, I thought we should take a look at all the different players in the game and what their motivations are. This realignment is a dynamic process with multiple moving parts. The University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, the Southeastern Conference and ESPN all have the proverbial skins in the game. I wanted to take a look at the realignment from their various viewpoints.
The University of Texas
I believe the move of Texas A&M to the SEC is the University of Texas' worst nightmare.
In the Big 12, UT is currently almost omnipotent in the conference as indicated by the statement from UT AD Deloss Dodds that his staff "is working on 20 names as a replacement for A&M." Any rational person would ask themselves why Dodds and not Dan Beebe and the Big 12 were working on a replacement for A&M.
This just proves what has been the prevailing thought in Big 12 country for a long time, that Deloss Dodds and Texas run the conference and not conference commissioner Dan Beebe. UT knows that as long as Texas A&M remains in the Big 12, they will have a say over anything that happens at A&M because of their pull in the conference.
If Texas A&M leaves the conference, it would have a negative effect on the perception of the conference and therefore a negative effect on the Longhorn Network. A pregame breakdown of a game between UT and Houston or UT and Air Force is not going to generate as many viewers as a breakdown of UT versus A&M, and the officials at UT know this.
If A&M leaves the Big 12, the conference's television contract will become null and void unless A&M can be replaced by another team. It remains to be seen, but a conference with Air Force or Houston would probably not be viewed as having the same value in the future as a conference with A&M in it when the television contract expires and negotiations begin. Texas would prefer to avoid all of these complications and therefore is working to keep A&M in the conference.
Despite viewing themselves as the Baptist Notre Dame, Baylor has neither the prestige or the athletic reputation as the nation's preeminent Catholic university. Baylor would not have been invited into the Big 12 in the first place if not for the interference of Gov. Ann Richards and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.
Baylor knows that their only shot at remaining in a BCS conference is if the Big 12 stays intact. That is why they started a grassroots campaign to try to force A&M to stay. It is interesting to see how many of the statements made by Baylor President Ken Starr mirror the talking points sent out by Buddy Jones when the Big 12 teetered on collapse last summer.
Starr did not seem to be nearly as concerned with protecting conference rivalries when Baylor left the Southwest Conference for the Big 12 in 1996. I guess 70-plus year series with Rice, TCU and SMU do not matter if Baylor can increase their revenue by moving to the Big 12. Rivalries only matter when they can be used in an argument to prevent A&M from increasing their athletic department revenue.
If A&M leaves the Big 12 for the SEC and the Big 12 eventually collapses, Baylor will be relegated to a "lesser" conference in the Mountain West, WAC or Conference USA. This would mean a tremendous loss in revenue for the Baylor athletic program. For this reason, Baylor is committed to doing anything they can to keep A&M in the Big 12.
As I stated in a previous article, ESPN stands to lose hundreds of million of dollars if A&M leaves the Big 12. With regards to ESPN, ask yourself if you ever remember ESPN openly campaigning against another school leaving a conference.
Coincidentally, ESPN has hit on some of the same talking points that Buddy Jones brought up in 2010. It is sad when a proclaimed journalistic entity tries to shape the story rather than simply report the story. ESPN wants A&M to remain in the Big 12 simply because it is a business issue for them. A&M in the Big 12 equals more of a profit for the worldwide leader in sports.
Put in the simplest terms, moving to the SEC is a game-changer for Texas A&M. Not only would it mean an exponential increase in revenue for A&M, it would mean a separation from UT, who they no longer view as a trustworthy business partner.
While the mainstream media has focused on the Longhorn Network as the source of A&M's frustration, the truth of the matter is that the leaders at A&M just feel they cannot trust UT. Why would you want to do business with people who say one thing, while they are going behind your back and doing exactly what they swore against. Would you continue in business with a partner that you did not trust?
Bowen Loftin and the rest of the leadership at Texas A&M decided that they did not want to be in this same situation a year from now. The Aggies decided that they would not sit idly by and watch Texas try to strong arm other members of the conference while Dan Beebe ignored the needs of everyone except UT.
The Big 12 was once a great conference. It will never be a great conference again because Dan Beebe has allowed UT to run it into the ground. A&M is looking for a new home and luckily, the best football conference in the country has a place for the 28.2 million television viewers that the Aggies can grant access to.
The Ags view the SEC as their best option for the next 100 years. We will see what the future brings, but I believe that when the 2012 football season kicks off, the kicker for A&M will be striking an Southeastern Conference football.
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