Oklahoma Schools at Great Risk with Conference Realignments

Donald FincherAnalyst IMay 6, 2010

DALLAS - OCTOBER 17:  David King #90 of the Oklahoma Sooners leads the team out of the tunnel before a game with the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl on October 17, 2009 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

How do Notre Dame, the Big Ten, the Big East, and New York have anything to do with the fate of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State?

They say that the economy has gone global. Well, college football may not be global but it is certainly national. And the posturing and jockeying that is afoot elsewhere could make OU one of the biggest losers of all of this current edition of the super-conference shuffle.

To understand this, we must first understand what the worst case scenario is for the Big 12. Once we grasp this, it becomes easier to grasp the fate of individual teams within the conference.

So what is that worst case scenario?

Let's say that the Big Ten expands to 16 teams and, in doing so, Notre Dame continues to resist joining. This would likely result in the Big Ten taking the triumvirate of Rutgers, Syracuse, and UConn from the Big East to capture all of the large schools in the NY/NY/CT marketplace where they would get 70 cents per cable subscriber for the Big Ten network, versus averaging 10 cents per subscriber in their current market contracts.

This would give a decidedly eastward bias to the conference that they would attempt balance out by adding Missouri and Nebraska to the west. Both schools have been discovered to have privately made overtures to the Big Ten.

Mike Slive of the SEC has already said that the SEC would do likewise if the Big Ten made such moves. And Harvey Schiller, the SEC commissioner during the SEC's expansion, said last week in an interview on the Paul Finebaum show that Deloss Dodd, AD of Texas, wanted badly to come to the SEC in the last expansion and that there was an agreement already in place for them to do so at that time.

A&M got wind of it and managed to get the Texas politicos to package them together which blew the deal up. Mr. Schiller did not say why Texas A&M was not pursued but he did say that they were not. The original deal, he said, was to bring in Texas and Arkansas. We now know it was Arkansas and South Carolina that ended up joining when the Arkansas and Texas deal blew up..

Deloss Dodd is STILL the AD at Texas and the reasons to join the SEC are even greater than they were back then. And the SEC has made comments that make Texas A&M seem acceptable now. Thus, Texas and Texas A&M will most likely be asked to the SEC as a package deal if and when the Big Ten expands.

Then, to balance the divisions, ease travel burdens, and pacify some interests, the conference will most likely look eastward to Clemson and Florida State for the other two schools.

And out in the west, the Pac-10 has the worst TV deal of all the major conferences. They are looking to expand for the first time since they added Arizona and Arizona State to get a better one. They are known to be looking at Colorado. And Colorado is interested now and would only be more so if other conferences start to poach Big 12 members thus weakening the conference.

Losing Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, and Colorado would leave only seven remaining conference members including all of the less attractive teams and virtually none of the good TV markets. It's a recipe for disaster for the teams that are left. Think of the media markets that will be lost to other conferences:



St Louis



The only markets of more than 500,000 people left where a team will represent those areas will be Oklahoma City and Tulsa (Norman is a suburb of OK City and Tulsa fans follow both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State). You cannot build a national network TV package around that.

Now, when the Big East was raided, they were given time to expand and prove their worth as a reconstituted conference before their BCS bid was scheduled to be re-evaluated. The Big 12 would likely have the same opportunity. But what could be done?

The obvious answer is to poach the Mountain West. But the best expansion target in the Mountain West is Utah which will probably get taken by the Pac 10 along with Colorado.

This leaves the Big 12 taking five of the other schools or poaching yet another conference along with the Mountain West (such as Conference USA) just to get back to the original number of 12 teams. But if you looked at any combination of five schools in any of the midmajor conferences, the collective value of the best combination is not as valuable as Texas alone.

The most likely combination for the first five and the reason(s) why are below:

BYU – recent success in football, commitment to all programs, Salt Lake City/Utah market and a virtual nationwide TV market of all Mormons.

TCU – recent success in football, Dallas market, could really grow in a big conference, helps retain pipeline to Texas recruiting.

Colorado State and Air Force – this combination would be an attempt, but still a long shot, to retain the Denver market for the Big 12.

Houston – another attempt to capture some of the vast Texas market lost, also retains Texas recruiting pipelines.

But even then, the Big 12 is behind the reconfigured and larger super conferences in the Big Ten and the SEC. So they would need to add two to four more schools to get to 14 of 16 total. To do so means considering some really unattractive options for a once proud conference.

This newly reconstituted conference would be much less attractive to TV networks than the current configuration. And even the current configuration has an inferior TV deal to the SEC and the Big Ten now. And the newly reconfigured Big Ten and SEC will dwarf the current Big 12 TV contract.

Less time on TV and in front of fewer viewers means less money and less exposure which leads to lesser recruiting and poorer performance on the field.

Oklahoma is currently in the top 10-15 every year in money and recruiting. This directly leads to usually being in the top 10-15 in quality of coach and staff, recruiting classes and pre and post-season rankings. Money and exposure dictate team results.

The new deal will result in OU going from being top 10-15 in money and exposure to being around 30-40. Thus, the recruiting classes, future coaches, and rankings will follow. They always do.

Every team in the Big 12 that is passed over in expansion is at risk in this scenario. However, OU has the biggest way to fall followed by Oklahoma State. In short, there may be no team in the country that falls as far in the expansion fallout scenario as Oklahoma will likely fall.

There is one and only one scenario that will prevent this fate for OU. The Big Ten is currently prepared to kill the Big East by taking Rutgers, Syracuse and UConn. This is not just to capture the NY/NJ/CT marketplace but to kill the Big East so that Notre Dame doesn't have a home for it's non-football teams.

Being homeless for all other sports combined with the specter of being an independent among GIANTS in football will result in Notre Dame getting further behind their Big Ten brethren in TV revenue than they already are now. All of this would most likely force Notre Dame to play along and join. Irish AD Jack Swarbrick has as much as said that a “seismic” shift would likely force their hand.

But if Notre Dame would relent early, before too many invitations and plans are made, then the Big Ten would possibly move to 12 and not take Missouri and/or Nebraska and the SEC would probably not move ahead and offer Texas and Texas A&M. This would keep the Big 12 intact pending Colorado joining the Pac 10.

Some in the Big East are even tossing about the idea of trying to push Notre Dame out so that their hand is forced and the Big Ten gets what they want in the Irish and lets the Big East live to fight another day.

Notre Dame going both willingly and early are extremely unlikely. But It would be a really good idea right now for anyone that has ties to OU who also happens to have ties to Notre Dame to really lean on Notre Dame about joining the Big Ten and making it known NOW.

If the Big Ten spends millions studying the Big East raid and finds things they like, they may just be too tempted to go ahead with it anyway from both a revenue standpoint and a cost recovery standpoint. So Notre Dame would not just have to join but would have to join early and make their intentions known nearly immediately to prevent this eventual move by the Big Ten on Missouri and/or Nebraska and triggers the other dominoes.

Notre Dame making such a declaration is admittedly an unlikely scenario indeed and one that diminishes with every passing day. OU is at great and growing risk here and, worse than that, doesn't really control their fate so they really can't be very proactive about it. These are indeed scary times for OU and her fans.

And that is what Notre Dame, the Big Ten, the Big East, and New York have to do with Oklahoma.


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