Conference Realignment . . . Hello Old Friend

Our dear friend conference realignment is back with a vengeance.

It appears that we’ll have something to entertain ourselves with this spring and summer, namely, that the conference realignment appears to be very much on it’s way and it’s rolling over anyone in it’s path. Earlier this week we discussed how the Big 12 was set to release a report which in essence said that the Big 12 would be more likely, by 5%, to enter into the College Football Playoff if the Big 12 expanded to 12 teams, reduced their conference schedule to 8 games and held a conference championship game.

This information, on its face, seems both logical and simplistic and that’s because it is.

Things changed a bit today as the Big 12 actually released the report and most of the data points stayed the same, but the earlier report of the difference being only 5% is actually closer to 10% or 15%, via CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodds. It seems logical that the percentage isn’t higher if you want me to be honest because by removing a conference game is the biggest difference maker of the bunch. Having to only play 8 conference games, rather than 9 in a round-robin fashion is significant. Adding a conference championship game only solidifies whoever meets up, no matter who it is. And I could envision a scenario where the four teams from the Big Ten, Big 12 (if they do this), the SEC and the Pac-12 essentially guarantee themselves three of the four playoff spots each year. That’s a pretty good gig.

But we know that conference realignment isn’t all about football, it’s about money and markets.

As of yesterday, AAS’s Kirk Bohls opined that the Longhorns were in no mood to convert the Longhorn Network to the Big 12 Network, even with additional compensation.

On Texas’ potential decision to fold the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 Network:

“This promises to be an interesting month as the Big 12 prepares for a meeting of athletic directors at the end of May to discuss the conference’s future concerning expansion and a possible television network. I still see no willingness on Texas’ part to fold the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 network, even if the league gives the Longhorns an extra $15 million share to cover its LHN income, because, the Texas source said, “we would get the same money, but lose our branding and having our own channel? Not very compelling. If we get rid of LHN, it will be to change conferences, in my opinion.”

This is problematic for the Big 12 not wanting to fall further behind the Big Ten and SEC, which Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby all but admitted would happen in the next 10 years if the Big 12 didn’t do something to rectify the situation, FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel:

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is more blunt. Citing the growing revenue gulf between his league and the financial behemoths that are the Big Ten and SEC, Bowlsby has said more than once recently: “If we do nothing, we’ll be substantially behind a decade from now.”

As linked in the post from earlier this week, in order to expand, there must be more than 75% and right now, the three teams that are holding the “no” votes for expansion are allegedly Texas, Texas Tech and TCU. We really don’t know, but that’s what’s being reported. For Texas Tech, we’ve always believed that Texas and Texas Tech are tied together and TCU could be voting that direction because of the back-scratching that Texas did to get TCU into the Big 12.

It will be interesting to see if any of these teams flip to allow for expansion or stick with Texas. I can’t see Texas Tech backing away from their allegiance with Texas. And Oklahoma fans are mad at Texas because they’ve refused to expand and now that the data shows that they need to expand and get rid of the conference network, Texas is still defiant and doesn’t want to expand (allegedly).  This is the same sort of frustration that led Nebraska to the Big Ten. Texas arrogance, and that arrogance isn’t necessarily unwarranted, they are the big kid on the block, whether you and I like it or not. Texas Tech only had an invite to the Pac-12 if Texas jumped as well.  It’s where we’re at.

Now, we’ve reached the point in this story where conference realignment is likely after yesterday’s meeting because of the data suggesting that what this conference needs to stay alive and viable is to expand. The problem, as we’ve discussed over the past four or five years is that there isn’t a candidate that really moves the needle and adds more markets.

Memphis. Connecticut. BYU. Cincinnati. South Florida. Central Florida.

Those appear to be the likely candidates, although there was thought a year or so ago that Houston was ramping up to make a move to a Power Five conference, but this seems unlikely. Whatever happens, it will happen quickly:

Bowlsby reiterated that a decision — whatever it is — needs to be made this year. The league added West Virginia and TCU to complete its current roster of 10 in 2012.

“The good news is the last time we added members we didn’t have the same urgency,” Bowlsby said. “I just think we need to act expediently.”

I honestly have no idea what will happen. I previously wrote that it makes more sense for teams to make themselves available to the highest bidder between the ACC and the Pac-12, although at this point, even with the Pac-12’s failing television deal and the relatively top-heavy ACC with football, those two conferences seem like surer bets in terms of sticking together and not completely falling apart, like it appears that the Big 12 is set to do.

If I had to expand, I’d probably take BYU and UConn and could be talked into trading Memphis for one of them, but I think BYU and UConn offer the best teams historically.


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