Conference expansion turned from talk to reality last week as Nebraska and Colorado both decided to part ways with the Big 12. This was likely only the beginning as Texas' and Texas Tech's Board of Regents will officially meet on Tuesday and Oklahoma officials are expected to do the same on Wednesday. One way or another the Big12's fate will be determined next week.
The Latest Scuttle
The Pac-10 has stepped up their aggressive attack on the Big 12 with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in Oklahoma delivering invites to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Saturday. Scott then traveled to meet with Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M on Sunday. AggiesYell.com reports that A&M has turned down the Pac-10's invite, but others have said the report is untrue and the Aggies are still weighing their options.
The Pac-10 is not A&M's only option. The SEC and the Aggies have been flirting with each other in recent days and reports have SEC commissioner Mike Slive in College Station on Saturday. There were various reports over the weekend on which way Aggies officials are leaning, right now the momentum appears to be with the SEC.
If the Aggies decide to part ways with big brother Texas, Kansas or Utah could receive an invite from the Pac-10. The remnants of the Big 12 could merge with the Mountain West, keeping their automatic BCS bowl bid alive.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is trying to hold things together, promising a TV deal worth $17 million per team starting in 2012, which would rival that of the SEC and Big Ten. Great plan Dan, why didn't you think of this six months ago?
As we all know, this is all about the money and if you're wondering just how much football programs from the Big 12 and Pac-10 generate, look no further than here.
In the most disturbing story from the weekend, FedEx has decided to be a player in the conference expansion game. Yes, FedEx. CEO Fred Smith is allegedly offering up a $10 million per year bounty for whichever BCS conference will take Memphis. The fact that corporations are directly involved in conference expansion is a sign that this has officially spiraled out of control.
From the non-BCS ranks, the lose of Boise State is a significant blow to the WAC's credibility and Nevada isn't sitting around waiting to see what happens next. Over at Conference USA, teams appear committed and are looking at the possibility of adding outcasts from the Big 12.
Why would the SEC want A&M?
The first reason is easy. The addition from Texas A&M expands the SEC's reach to Texas and Texas TV sets. Which ultimately gives the SEC the opportunity to make more money.
From an athletic standpoint, SEC coaches and athletic directors are licking their chops at the prospect of opening up the Texas recruiting pipeline. Kids gravitate to schools they see on TV or in person. In 2010, the SEC was only able to pry five of the Top 50 recruits out of the State of Texas. You can expect that number to increase dramatically once the SEC schools start showing up more frequently on TV sets in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Why would Texas A&M want to part ways from Texas and join the SEC?
For the same reasons as above, only in reverse. The Pac-10 is essentially promising a future TV deal that would line everyone's pockets. But why hitch your wagon to promises when the SEC already has a TV deal estimated at $207 million annually and splits this revenue evenly between all conference members?
While the SEC would receive a windfall in recruiting the State of Texas, doors would also open for the Aggies in Florida and the rest of the Southeast. The Aggies were only able to snag four of the top 20 recruits from their own backyard and a move to the Pac-10 doesn't help their chances of increasing that percentage, if anything it will only mean more competition from the outside. The Aggies need to expand their reach and the Southeast is a fertile breeding ground for talent.
Does Texas really want to keep the Big 12 together?
Texas has indicated that their first choice is to keep the conference together, but are keeping all their options open.
Of course they do. Take out the financial side of the equation for a moment, they dominate recruiting in the State of Texas and hence control the conference. If they can't keep the Aggies out of the SEC, you'll have Urban Meyer and Nick Saban trolling the streets of Texas for recruits. And if they move to the Pac-10, they further open the door for Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and the rest of the Pac-10 to establish a bigger footprint in Texas recruiting. In the interest of self preservation and keeping the monopoly they have on Texas recruiting, their best option is to keep the rest of the Big 12 together.
However, that seems unlikely. Panic and distrust has rifled its way through the conference and they all fear being the odd man out. There is no doubt in my mind this is why Colorado left so abruptly. With the fear of Texas politicians strong-arming the Pac-10 to take Baylor instead of the Buffs, they jumped on the offer the second it arrived, squealing their tires on the way out.
What about the Big Ten?
Last week I said I believed the Big Ten had a better shot at landing Texas than the Pac-10. This belief was based purely on the numbers. The Big Ten, however, seems to be sitting this fight out, at least there is very little chatter about the Big Ten making a move for Texas in recent days. They seem content on stirring the hornets nest and setting into motion major conference realignment. The ultimate goal is still Notre Dame and it takes major upheaval to get the Irish to commit. I still believe the Big Ten would love to have Texas, but have little desire to take on 5-6 teams that come along with them.
As of right now it looks like they are in a holding pattern while the SEC and Pac-10 will pick apart the rest of the Big 12. They likely then start the dismantling of the Big East by picking one from their flock, starting the whole thing all over again.
So what about Notre Dame?
On Friday athletic director Jack Swarbick said, "There's been nothing at all that's happened that directly impacts us or our evaluation of what's going on." And he's right. Nebraska and Colorado moving have little impact on Notre Dame. The collapse of the Big 12 and the Big East, however, would.
Notre Dame was given an equal voice and an opportunity to play for a National Championship under the current BCS system. With four mega-conferences looming, the BCS as we know it is done and the question is will the new BCS (whatever that is) give Notre Dame an equal stake again? Especially after they will have once again shunned the advances of others. That is a risk Notre Dame might not want to take.
However, Frank the Tank suggests that Irish football is safe no matter what the new model looks like, but not having a home for it's other sports is what would ultimately drive Notre Dame to the Big Ten.
For now Notre Dame is in no hurry to give up their football independence. If Texas defects from the Big 12 on Tuesday, their tune could change.
Obviously Tuesday is a big day. The biggest day yet for conference realignment. Everything hinges on what Texas and the rest of the Big 12 members decide to do. Personally, I'd love to see the remaining Big 12 members come together and sing Kumbaya, which will stop the madness. But in reality, we are likely looking at the final days of the Big 12 and the start of major upheaval across the country.