Big 12 Survival: Who Were the Winners and Who Were the Losers?

Tobi WritesAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2011

Big 12 Survival: Who Were the Winners and Who Were the Losers?

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    The PAC-12 just slammed the door shut on expansion (for now) leaving Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State looking at the Big 12 as their best option (for now).

    With OU not leaving, the momentum to allow The University of Texas to follow Texas A&M out the Big 12 side door seems drastically reduced.

    It seems an appropriate time to name winners and losers in this round of Big 12 realignment.

Winners: The BCS Elite

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    The Pac-12 sent a message to the University of Texas in declining to invite them.  The Big Ten may have been rumored to have listened to a joint proposal from UT and Notre Dame, but there was no offer extended there either.

    It seems that the two elite athletic and academic conferences in America sent their messages to UT.  One wonders if UT athletic Director DeLoss Dodds and co. got the message.  For the Pac-12, the offer is Oklahoma and Texas Tech on terms acceptable to the Pac-12. For the Big Ten, the offer is UT and Notre Dame on terms the Big 10 accepts.

    Both power conferences still make more in TV revenue than the SEC for another year.  The status quo holds for now.

    But just because the Big 12 survived does not mean realignment season is over...

    There is still a fairly good chance the meat of the football Big East with their non-football anchors will end up consumed by the ACC and the Big 12.  End result?  One fewer BCS Automatic Qualifier conference and one extra at-large bid and payout for the BCS elite.

    Just another day at the office for the elite.

Winner: Oklahoma Sooners

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    Oklahoma hoped for the grand slam.

    Joining the Pac-12 meant joining a conference that has very high payments that each school shares equally.  For this reason, there is little drama out west.  Cheating in recruiting, an issue where Oklahoma has faced their own demons and has no desire to revisit, is much less prevalent in the Pac-12 than in the SEC. OU hoped to drag along Texas Tech and UT to allow the Sooners to continue recruiting Texas, while being able to cherry pick blue chip recruits from California.  Oklahoma State was going to come with them, keeping peace in the state of Oklahoma.  Affiliation with the academic elites in the Pac-12 could not hurt OU in their goal of joining the prestigious Association of American Universities.

    But UT couldn't reach acceptable terms with the Pac-12.

    So no grand slam.

    But this is probably still at least a triple for OU.  For a while, they appeared to have earned the votes to gain admission for OU and OSU from the Pac-12 academic elite.  The reports seem to all indicate UT was the problem.  Could their interaction with the Pac-12 member schools help OU earn that AAU affiliation?  One thinks it cannot hurt.

    Now OU is apparently back in the Big 12, and is demanding big changes, like the dismissal of Commissioner Dan Beebe and some limitations on the Longhorn Network.  The limitations sound quite similar to what is reporting that the Pac-12 required just before shutting down expansion talks (for now).

    If the Big 12-minus-three reaches a much more rigid agreement to stay together for the next five years and OU is able to chip away at the LHN, it greases the skids for all four schools to join the Pac-12 in about 2016, as there will be less for UT to negotiate next time.

    Last year UT had the role as the "savior" of the conference, and was able to reap significant benefits from that. This year, OU is in that role.

Loser: Dan Beebe

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    What is it they say?  "When you swim with the sharks..."

    Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe's reputation is mud today. OU has apparently named the removal of Beebe as one of the terms for them coming back to the conference.

    The membership and their fans see Beebe as UT's puppet.

    Like most sports fans following this story, I would be shocked to see Beebe in his position a month from now, and I suspect his days as a commissioner are over.

Losers: Deloss Dodds, Bill Powers and the University of Texas

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    UT was one school that, like OU, I thought couldn't come out of any end scenario without winning. 

    I was wrong.

    Last year UT played the Pac-12 in order to get a better deal out of the Big 12. They strung them along and left those proud western schools at the altar.  This year the Pac-12 leaders returned the favor.

    In case you missed this, the Board of Regents at UT voted to approve changing conferences on Monday before the Pac-12 leadership rewarded UT's lack of enthusiasm and endless conditions with an "eh...never mind" on the idea of offering them a slot.

    It wasn't close. At least six out of 12 Pac-12 schools turned them down


    While it is possible the Arizonas could have stood firmly against leaving a division with USC and UCLA, how much do you want to bet the six schools were the academic elites of the Pac-12: Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC, Washington and either Colorado or Arizona?

    It sounds a lot like the Pac-12 elite returning that pimp slap from last year.

    I can't say it was 100% the smart thing for the Pac-12 to do, but it could work out for them very well down the road if it brings UT back to reality. (It could also backfire on the Pac-12 spectacularly if UT jumps alone to the Big Ten). 

    Now UT has to go back to a Big 12, where the momentum is all about pulling together and controlling UT.  Their "Tech problem" is likely back to some degree. It will be much harder for UT to get out now than it would have been last week, especially if Baylor continues with their threats of legal action against A&M.

    Hey UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds, you remember pushing splitting "tier 1" TV revenues evenly back on the 9th of September?  That appeared to have been designed to make certain OU and A&M felt a reason to leave, as they would be losing up to $5M each.  OU's departure would kill the conference, freeing up UT to follow them out the door to any conference the Longhorns chose.  Well, OU apparently does remember that bit of backstabbing.

    OU Beat writer Berry Tramel, a source high up in the Big 12, said, "...OU could even push for revenue-sharing of individual networks. Texas is reaping more than $12 million a year from its ESPN contract with the Longhorn Network."

    Hey UT President Bill Powers, remember giving Texas Legislators your personal assurances that if they let A&M leave, the Big 12 will survive?  They probably do.  It may be quite a while before anyone in the Texas government believes a word you say again.

    Remember that Big 12 voting block of UT, OU, A&M, Tech, and Baylor that UT used to have that made it impossible for the conference to ram through anything UT didn't like?  Who exactly has UT not screwed over in that block in the last year?

    OU seems non-plussed about getting screwed out of a Pac-12 invite.  A&M is probably gone.  Tech also desperately wanted to go to the Pac-12.  They had to read on about Dodds talking to the Atlantic Coast Conference about UT bailing without Tech, instead of carrying the Red Raiders with UT to the Pac-12. And Baylor...well....

    It seems pretty clear who lost the most ground here.  UT gave a lot for very little. They have no credibility with state politicians, Texans in general and their conference mates.

    If A&M does make it out the door, UT may break even, as that would open the door for UT to depart on their own at some point down the road, but shy of that, the Pac-12 handed the Longhorn leadership their asses.

    It looks like through two rounds, UT and the Pac-12 are 1-1.

    Of course, with a brilliant megalomaniac like DeLoss Dodds in charge, this won't last long.  OU and the rest of the Big 12 need to be bold and act quickly.  Dodds is like the Russel Hance of realignment survivor.

    Here's hoping that when the third time comes around, UT and the Pac-12 will leave their agendas at the door and make this smart marriage work.

Losers: Texas Tech and Oklahoma State

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    I like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, but even I have to admit, based on their academic profiles today, that neither school has any business in any conversation about inclusion in the Pac-12.

    And yet there they were, about to join one of the two elite academic and athletic associations in the country.

    Then UT screwed it up.

    Now Tech has to sit in an unstable Big 12.  Or maybe they could help UT out, and consider joining A&M in selling off any potential of winning a national title in the revenue sports to be another new concubine and recruit donor for the SEC elite in exchange for a slightly bigger check.

    Oh yeah.  And in the interim they will have to read reports about how UT wants to jump to the ACC with Tech in tow, and how the ACC finds Tech's academic profile embarrassingly substandard and unacceptable.

    And there is more.  If they do the smart thing and stay in the Big 12, Tech won't be able to do or say a thing about it, because if they don't grovel to UT, UT won't eventually carry them into the Pac-12.

    There are two points that keep Tech from being the biggest loser in this round of Big 12 realignment. First, the season can be a distraction for Tech fans. Secondly, and far more importantly, this situation likely has Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance and the other Tech power brokers on alert.  Now is UT's "Tech problem" back in full force, or has UT baiting A&M into leaving robbed Hance of the ability to beg Governor Rick Perry for help? Can it keep UT from jumping to the Big Ten on their own or with Notre Dame?

    No doubt this was the worst fall in the Big 12 today.

    OSU at least can just cheerily vote against UT on every issue as they mourn the loss (for now) of their Pac-12 slot.

Winners: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri

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    Last year's leftover 5 clearly won this year's round of realignment, with a big assist from the Pac-12.

    Missouri says they want to keep the Big 12 together, and even if they can't, there are rumors that they have an SEC invite in their back pocket

    Kansas and Kansas State wanted to remain together in a BCS conference.  That appears likely to happen.

    The Big East had mentioned possibly offering Baylor a slot, but it was not a given. Baylor and Iowa State were potentially going to fall out of the BCS unless they made some very smart decisions with the remaining assets of the Big 12.  Now they don't even have to worry about that for a while.

    Baylor's threat of a lawsuit against A&M is still an ongoing issue that does leave the slightest of potentials that A&M could change their mind and return.

    These schools didn't give up anything this year, and appear poised to land better payouts via more equal revenue sharing  and a much larger voice in the direction of the conference, due to the decision of the Pac-12 membership.

Winner: Texas A&M

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    How can I call a school a winner that I firmly believe sold their ability to compete in football for a bigger check from an academically inferior conference? will be a decent check.  There is no question of that.

    Ultimately I think the Aggie leadership lacks any vision, so maybe a conference doormat is all they will ever consistently be.  If that is the case, collecting a fat SEC check is good plan.

    The Aggies could have easily landed a slot in the Pac-12 and gotten the same money as they will likely get from the SEC, as well as UT-level institutional respect nationwide. So to me, their SEC fetish is incredibly self-defeating and ill-concieved. 

    It is all about "we want to play them in football," and nothing else.

    But I still call them a winner.

    Why?  Because they took on Texas, more or less got what the Aggie faithful wanted, and Texas appears to have been the big loser in the process.  They simply lost less than UT.  To the Aggies, that is a rare win.

    It's like tying the Longhorns in football. That is an Aggie win.

    If UT jumped to the Pac-12 or Big 10, and A&M jumped to the SEC, one would have seen the academic gap between the two schools widen.  A&M's poor decision would have been unmasked as the athletic and academic loser that it is.

    Not so much the case now.  It will be years now before most Aggies really see the downside.  It will be the day the Longhorns point to the Aggies being allowed to go as a precedent, and walk into the Pac-12 or Big 10.

    So, for today, I call them a winner.

    Now if A&M had any vision, they would offer Texas politicians what those legislators want, and offer to return to the Big 12 for a price...those politicians coercing UT into surrendering part ownership of a re-named LHN.

    If UT said no, the Aggies could go on their way and it would essentially excuse the Aggies from all blame on the Big 12's problems. All that blame would fall on UT.  If they said yes, the Aggies would essentially steal part ownership of Dodds' most prized possession.

    The Aggies could give UT and Dodds an added beating.

    It would take Aggie AD Bill Byrne pulling off a Dodds-like sudden 180 change in position to maximize leverage.

    It won't happen though.  There is only one DeLoss Dodds in the Big 12. It seems likely Byrne and the rest of Aggie leadership simply don't have the kind of vision to poach the LHN...or the skills to pull it off.

    The Aggies act like the SEC is the only conference that would take them.

    The Aggies are running away from UT because Byrne was tired of losing to Dodds and the Aggies like their AD. 

    Even the idea of returning to cut off UT's escape plan and pay back UT every cent of that beating with interest in an anti-UT Big 12 can't overcome the legendary Aggie inferiority complex.   Simply put the Aggies are the abused wife in that relationship and the fans know in their hearts they will fall back into that role.

Winner: The SEC

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    There is no doubt that the SEC is a big winner of this go-round.

    All they have to do is leave their offer out there for a year, and A&M will likely join.  There is little reason to believe the bull-headed Aggies will wise up.

    As soon as the SEC adds a member, there are clauses in their TV contract that state that the SEC will be able to renegotiate their TV deal.  Now the SEC leadership has played it down, but a lot of sports editorialists have suggested they are doing just that, and that a major renegotiation is on the way.

    As it is, the SEC does not have NFL competition in their cities cutting their game turnouts and robbing their teams of fan support.  They have an abundance of state flagships and second schools with statewide followings. Their teams' fan support is nearly maximized.

    With that in mind, they are underpaid in today's college sports market. Just adding any school would have likely landed them a major raise, as their deal corrected to closer to the market rate.

    Adding A&M, with the second largest fan base in a state of 25 million people, guarantees an even nicer raise.  The Aggies faithful are SEC true believers and hardcore fans who will support their team even when they lose.

    Oh, and the Aggies are located just outside of one of the nation's best football and basketball recruiting grounds, and have a military affiliation that turns off a lot of recruits, and higher academic standards than almost everyone else in the SEC.

    You simply can't find a better expansion candidate than that if you are the SEC.