Finally the last story should be a real pick-me-up. Lost in all the gloom and doom is some really optimistic nuts and bolts financial talk. I want to get this out before trained lawyer turned brilliant sports writer Clay Travis beats me to publish the whole story. He is one of the few plugged in sports writers looking at the financial implications and he is a clear and concise writer. (I am jealous.)
First a little framing information.
Rules changes: Last year all Division I conferences were bound by "continuity of membership rules" that among other things required having 6 teams who had played together for 5 years. If a conference was in violation, in two years it's automatic NCAA tournament berth would be stripped. 31 of the 32 Division I conferences have automatic bids. An NCAA tournament automatic bid is a chance for one of your member schools to pile up tournament wins and shares of the net tournament payout. If you don't have an automatic bid you are at a tremendous financial disadvantage.
The Big 12 was due to fall to 5 members and lose their tourney bid. It would be very likely that they would have been picked apart by the Big East.
That rule was greatly softened this spring to protect the Western Athletic Conference and fragile BCS conferences like the Big 12 and Big East. The whole continuity thing has been thrown out. Now when a conference falls below the threshold of members, the NCAA allows a conference a 2 year cushion to rebuild to the minimum. Simple as that. Add the required number of replacement schools within 2 years and you keep your bid.
Exit fees: By most accounts the exit fees for the Big 12 are a confusing mess. Travis has read them and concluded they are horribly written and potentially toothless as well.
Be that as it may, Nebraska settled for a 12M buyout last year and Colorado paid over 6M. Precedent can go a long way (as can a desire not to be sued). If powers UT, A&M, and OU go their settlements may combine for 36M. Tech and OSU would probably pay a little more than Colorado. That could easily be a 50M pot of gold awaiting the schools that stay.
Iowa State and Baylor have few other BCS options and Tech could likewise see their ticket to the PAC not materialize and be stuck in the Big 12. A lot of media sources are assuming the Big 12 will just suddenly turn out the lights and every have not member will scuttle away like roaches into the Mountain West or some other dark non-automatic qualifier hole. It boggles the mind that some think that trio in particular isn't going to insist on receiving their share of the exit fee money pile.
BCS language: The BCS Automatic Qualifier language was written before conferences got fragile and names the member AQ conference including "the Big 12". Their rules have to look transparent to the fans and fair in order to not draw government attention. It certainly looks set in stone that the Big 12 will be a BCS AQ conference through the 2013 season. Check out this from The BCS site:
"2. The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls through the 2013 regular season."
There are not apparently any BCS specific rules about the number of schools the Big 12 must have as members.
Now Colorado and Nebraska rushed out the door with only 1 year notice to join their new conferences and get their larger payouts. It seems likely that the other schools would do the same. That means that a rebuilt functioning Big 12 would be a BCS member in 2013. In PR terms stripping them of membership would be much harder to do than not giving it to the old Mountain West. Especially if the new BIG 12 chose their schools wisely and had good football arguments.
TV dollars: ESPN and Fox not only have TV deals with the Big 12 they also have TV deals with the SEC and PAC-12 which puts them in an awkward situation with the Big 12. It is possible the best case for those networks in legal terms is to give the new conference the current big 12 money for the length of the deals.
Travis has been all over this story and beat me to publish. His article on the subject is a must read (like most of his stuff).
Fox just signed a deal with the Big 12 for $1.17 Billion. They thought they were getting UT, A&M, and OU. I have to think they won't be thrilled about paying that money to Baylor and friends. But what can they do---Fox also has a deal with the PAC-12 and is almost certainly going to pay more if a PAC-14 comes into existence.
This is a nightmare scenario for ESPN as they could have to pay the PAC-12 and SEC a premium and still pay the gutted Big 12 at their full price. It is not out of the question that Fox may try to force ESPN to pay a part of Fox's Big 12 deal. There could be quite a bit of money here.
Every year that Baylor can keep the Big 12 together will save Fox and ESPN millions. Think about that for a minute.
That alone is a factor that might still come into play to save the conference as is, just like it was a factor last year.
$155 million split evenly between members schools is a heck of a lot of incentive to join the new Big 12.
Geography: Take a look where all the indisputably legitimate candidates for inclusion in a BCS conference are located. Only 2 of them (East Carolina and The University of Central Florida) are really in the Big East footprint. The Big 12 offers a much better footprint for most of them.
So ...which conference are you going to join...?
Realignment pressures: Should A&M leave it will trigger a move to 14 and 16 team conferences. The conference most likely to be decimated is the Big East. The SEC will pull 2 from the ACC and the ACC will pull from the Big East. The Big 10 may pull a couple of schools from the Big East. The SEC could pull West Virginia.
Now the Northern four could possibly save the Big East and deal with flights to North Carolina and Florida or they could just rebuild the Big 12 for much more sensible travel.
Basketball School meddling: It is also possible if the Big East loses 4 football schools that the non-football members may start meddling --- pushing strong basketball candidates like Memphis with weak football measurables in the current BCS standings. I could see something like that being the deciding factor in driving TCU (which seems to have only good intentions and gratitude to the Big East) into a rebuilt Big 12.
All of this seems to imply the remaining schools would have a great shot to rebuild to a Big East level. What is to stop them from adding say Boise State, BYU, TCU, Houston, and Tulsa and not having instantly a football conference with better BCS measurables over the current evaluation period than a cobbled together BE?
While it is no halcyon dream like most of the conference jumping to the PAC-12, it would be a BCS AQ conference and might draw reasonable TV dollars when it came time to issue new contracts.
This loss of control cannot be a happy thought for the BCS powers.
All I can say as a fan of the little guy, is "Give them heck, Baylor!"