Conference Realignment's Family Feud: Who to Blame for Collapse of Big 12?
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The wheels are in motion once again.
It was just last summer that college football was sitting in a state of uncertainty with many of its biggest programs seeking more profitable waters in different conferences.
After an abrupt halt to many of the biggest potential moves, it seemed the idea of conference realignment had been put on hold.
Just three weeks into the 2011 football season, realignment talk has reared its ugly head, but this time, it looks and feels like the real deal.
Texas A&M kick-started the subject when it made very clear that it was attempting to gain access to the SEC, a deal that is likely to happen sooner than later.
The late hours of Sunday and early Monday saw a massive amount of activity.
Not long after, Texas and Oklahoma made headlines when their respective Board of Regents gave the athletic departments carte blanche to pursue admission into the Pac-12 conference.
With college football's biggest powers on the move again, many traditional conferences are in danger of extinction.
In particular, the Big 12, already having to deal with the probable loss of A&M, could potentially lose the four other big shots in the conference (Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech).
In the last few hours, the idea of the Big 12 absorbing the Big East has been floated around. While this could possibly save the floaters left in the respective conferences as well as the Big 12 name brand, one thing is clear: The Big 12 as we know it is dead.
So who's to blame?
Let's take a look at the players involved in the demise of one of college footballs more recognizable conferences and, in turn, assign appropriate blame where it is deserved.
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This is the popular pick by far.
If there is one thing we learned last summer, it's that the University of Texas is an empire, and like all great empires, it is seeking to expand its power and authority.
No matter the cost.
In the court of public opinion, Texas has burned bridges right and left with its attempt to put itself on even more secure financial footing at the expense of its Big 12 peers.
As if the Longhorns needed the cash. Texas made a whopping $143 million during the 2009-2010 academic year, and that number has remained steady throughout the first part of this year. The next closest was Alabama at $129 million.
Texas' popular brand name, as well as the unequal revenue sharing setup in the Big 12, has made it the ultimate force to be reckoned with, and consequently, public enemy No. 1.
Now, let's not beat around the bush: Texas played one big game last summer.
Why you ask? Because it can.
With the departures of Nebraska and Colorado, the university felt it might be prudent to see what offers it could get from other conferences while the Big 12 began to lose its footing.
Knowing full well it held all the cards, Texas probed the then-Pac-10, Big Ten and SEC for their best offers, giving little thought to the consequences it would have on the schools it would leave behind.
What complicated matters even more was the creation of the Longhorn Network in association with ESPN. A 20-year, $300-million deal with sport's biggest brand was the first of its kind and left many schools pondering the possible unfair advantages it gave to the already powerful Texas.
The Pac-10, and the other conferences courting Texas, saw the network as unsustainable and unfair.
In short, a deal breaker.
Unwilling to part from its profitable investment, Texas abruptly ended its pursuit for entry into another conference and "saved" the Big 12 from impending doom.
What Texas did really had nothing to do with saving anyone but itself, as is clear from the renewed talks with the Pac-12. It was only a matter of time before the puppet master began its game again.
While the university's administration says the survival of the Big 12 is preferable, it won't look back when the Pac-12 calls next week and says it's ready to accept the Longhorns and their network into the nation's first super-conference.
Texas' grab at power turned Nebraska away and has created a fair bit of animosity among the remaining members of the conference.
UT couldn't care less as long as they continue to come out on top.
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It's strange. As big a program as Oklahoma is, it managed to stay relatively quiet last summer amongst the chaos that was realignment.
It was assumed that should Texas head west, Oklahoma would likely follow. Had the trigger been pulled, that was the likely scenario.
When Texas pulled the plug on realignment and returned to the Big 12, Oklahoma seemingly gave up its ambitions as well.
Or did it?
It was recently revealed through interviews with Oklahoma president David Boren and various other sources that the Sooners have kept a back-channel with the Pac-12 open just in case things turned nasty in the Big 12 again.
As soon as A&M made it known it was jumping ship on what seemed like a stable Big 12 conference, Oklahoma wasted no time in negotiating a way out as well, giving little thought to Texas and its counterparts, apart from OSU.
Head coach Bob Stoops was quoted saying that the annual rivalry with Texas didn't have to continue if Oklahoma headed west alone. Little value is placed on tradition when cash and stability come into the equation.
While Oklahoma came across as the quiet observer, it has wasted no time in blowing up the conference at the first sign of instability. Like Texas, little thought has been given to the ramifications for the other, less influential members of the group.
The Sooners are playing their hand, and it has become increasingly clear they are every bit the imperialists that their rival Longhorns are.
It's also worth noting that Oklahoma is currently working on a television network of its own.
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It's amazing what envy can drive one to do.
Fed up with the giant, burnt orange elephant in the room, the Aggies have effectively severed themselves from their sibling and have headed for SEC territory.
Citing the Longhorn Network as a major breaking point, Texas A&M feels its prospects are better in a conference not involving its over-priveleged relatives.
Of course, the Aggies made you believe this move is really for competitive and financial reasons.
Now I'd like to hear them explain that one to me.
It's for competitive reasons?
The Aggies' all-time record against the SEC is 58-78-6. That record compared to SEC teams' records over the last decade would put the Aggies at ninth between South Carolina and Ole Miss.
Texas A&M hasn't won a Big 12 title since 1998. In fact, it hasn't been back since.
So, you want to enter the nation's best conference to improve your football standing? Hmm.
How about financially?
The Aggies are on pretty level footing with Texas and OU, as far as TV revenue goes. Last year the Aggies made around $20 million (interestingly enough, this sum was accumulated from a piece of the five "forgotten schools'" TV contracts...exploitation?).
If they enter the SEC, the approximate $260 million earned by the conference will be divided equally among 13 teams. That would come out to be around $20 million each, on par with what they make currently. The difference is that A&M's travel costs would be almost $3 million more expensive than they are now, having to travel to venues in Kentucky and South Carolina as opposed to Waco and Austin.
You want to make more money by leaving? Hmm.
By all means, blow up the conference if it's going to improve your program's prestige, but don't take the public for fools.
Just admit that you can't stand living in Texas's immense shadow. This move is out of pure jealousy for the power acquired by the Longhorns over the years.
A&M's issues with the Longhorn Network could only be taken seriously if it hadn't turned down an offer from DeLoss Dodds to be a part of the network at the time of its inception. At the time, A&M's president Bill Byrne didn't see the venture as profitable.
When he realized the project was picking up steam, he wanted on board, but Dodds thumbed his nose at him instead, stating they were already too far along in production.
Bad business forced A&M's move, not unfairness.
It's also plausible to think had A&M decided to stay put this fall, Texas and OU wouldn't be entertaining the Pac-12, and the Big 12 would be alive and breathing.
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You didn't think you could just get up and walk away without any blame, did you?
Nebraska, like many other schools in the Big 12, had grown tired with the Texas hypocrisy that had been governing the Big 12 and left for the Big Ten last summer.
It's true, Texas is running the show. It's also true that Texas has gained advantages because of the immensity of its brand.
But isn't this the same Nebraska program that dominated college football in the mid- to late '90s? The Huskers sat atop the football world for years, and they were still on top at the time of the Big 12's creation.
The hypocrisy they criticize Texas for can easily be applied to them. Nebraska, alongside Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, has consistently voted against uneven revenue sharing in the Big 12.
Nebraska was perfectly content with the power structure of the Big 12 when it sat in the driver's seat. Do you suppose a 1-9 record against a certain Texas team, and a tumultuous downfall from power, caused a bit of anxiety in Lincoln? I thought so, too.
Nebraska was also adamantly opposed to the creation of the Longhorn Network. Well, then why did they, along with 10 other Big 12 teams (minus Texas), vote against a joint Big 12 TV network in 2006-2007? Nebraska and the others didn't want to put the necessary resources is in to create such a network, so Texas did it by itself.
Seems like sour grapes to me.
If Tom Osborne's arrogance hadn't gotten the best of him and his program, the Big 12 would still be standing on two legs.
The hypocrisy exists, there's no doubt about it, but it's foolish to think Nebraska wasn't a part of it for many, many years.
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So whose fault is it?
I'll let you be the judge of that.
However, do you notice the trend here? The four schools I mentioned here are all guilty of one common thing: greed.
Get used to hearing that word—it's what modern college football is driven on. There's no such thing as conference allegiance anymore. It's all about No. 1.
Greed has killed the Big 12.
Greed, in the form of the BCS, is killing college football as a whole.
School presidents and athletic directors run the show now. Very little thought is given to what's happening on the field, and it's a damn shame.
One can only hope that the age of the super conference allows for some kind of playoff system in the near future, but in the meantime, we'll have to get used to the idea of a sport completely run by the elite few.
Thanks, guys, you've done a bang-up job.