The Winners and Losers in a Historical Week in College Football

 

While this logo has the ring of truth to it, my guess is that the Big 12 lite probably goes in a different direction.

Years from now, this last two weeks will be remembered as the moment that everything changed in college football.  First, we learned that the University of Southern California was given a two year post season ban, a loss of 10 scholarships a year for three years, and that they will have wins vacated from their 2004 season possibly resulingt in the BCS vacating their national championship; apparently the NCAA was serious about that whole not paying your student athletes thing.  Then, amid the jockeying for conference affiliation, much of it documented here, Colorado made the first “official” move accepting an invitation to join the Pac 10, part of Larry Scott’s master plan to steal the heart and soul from college football’s most dysfunctional family.  Within hours of this move, we learned that Nebraska would accept an offer to join the Big 10, the conference’s first expansion since 1990 when the Nittany Lions joined the fold.  The next domino to fall was the Boise State Broncos, who agreed to join the Mountain West Conference in its quest to become BCS worthy.  And just minutes ago, a website in Utah has confirmed that the Utes will be leaving the Mountain West to join the Pac 10 conference, which will probably become official before this article gets published.  With perhaps the most important two weeks in college football history behind us, it’s time to take stock of the winners and losers as a new era of college football is upon us.

Winners:

Nebraska.  The Big 12 has been an unhappy marriage since eight former Big 8 teams merged with four Southwest Conference teams.  No one was less happy about this arrangement than Nebraska.  Simply put, Nebraska was upset with the unbalanced revenue deal that catered to the Longhorns, who turned out in the end to be Jennifer Aniston; the hot girl that annoys every guy that comes in contact with her.  When the Big 12 voted on whether to utilize a conference championship game, the vote was 11-1, with you guessed it, Nebraska as the lone dissenting vote.  This fact was probably not lost on Big Red when the officials decided to add one additional second to the clock in the 2009 Big 12 championship game so that Texas could play in the national championship game (I watched this over and over and was convinced that it was the right call.  Bo Pelini, coach of the Huskers, and many of their devoted fans, vehemently disagree.  That this benefited the Longhorms, still sticks in the old proverbial craw).

Bo Pelini and the Huskers have to be thrilled to be out from under the Longhorn’s shadow.

And look at the way round one of conference alignment shook out, with the rest of the Big 12 schools agreeing to stick it out with Texas because a future TV deal with Fox will purportedly give each Big 12 school a hefty raise.  Maybe this happens and maybe it doesn’t, but Nebraska walks into a deal worth more than the anticipated Fox contract, and that’s before the Big 10 adds a championship game and realizes the gains by adding the Huskers.  And this guy is not convinced that the Big 12 is now one big happy family; the revenue deal will be based 50% on television appearances, meaning the while the Longhorns get fat, the rest of the conference will have to make due with table scraps.  Nebraska was so happy to leave this train wreck behind, they agreed to pay additional buyout penalties so they could begin play in the Big 10 in 2011.  Finally, everyone believes that the Cornhuskers are culture-wise a better fit in the Big 10.  With a natural rivalry against Iowa built in, plus the financial advantages detailed above, my guess is that Tom Osbourne can’t wipe that perma-smile off his face as he realizes that Texas is now somebody else’s problem.

The Big Ten.  Sure, the Big 10 would have liked to add either Texas or Notre Dame, the two marquee programs purportedly in play in the high stakes game of conference musical chairs.  But truth be told, Nebraska was a better fit.  From day one, Delaney and his followers placed a priority on adding members that really wanted to be Big Ten schools.  Notre Dame has steadfastly professed their preference for independence, meaning that they would be brought over to the Big Ten kicking and screaming or not at all.  And, as for Texas, the details of their sordid odyssey reek of a narcissistic prima donna that apparently has little regard for the concept of a conference, a stance that flies in the face of the Big Ten’s one for all and all for one mentality.  In the end, creation of a Longhorn Network with proceeds split just the one way was what mattered most to the brass at Texas.  Some have speculated that Texas leaked information to Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com about the Pac 10 rumor (and purported defection to the Pac 10 that was to happen on June 15) simply to leverage their best deal amongst their own members.  One rumor I heard on the internet was that Texas, after hearing of Beebe’s proposed TV deal, then went back to the Pac 10 and asked them to match it (i.e. allow the Longhorns to share in the general conference proceeds for national broadcasts but keep all the local coin for themselves).  The Big 10 doesn’t need this kind of  action.

With Nebraska, the conference adds one of the best programs in the country historically with unquestionably one of the best fan bases in America.  With all new TV sets in the great plain’s states and the shiny new conference championship game coming to a state near you soon, it’s a good bet that the Big 10 will improve on it’s $22 mill per school TV revenue payout, already tops in the game.

Texas. While I spent most of my time excoriating the Longhorns above, it’s hard to deny that this was a complete win for the University of Texas.  As I suggested in my last piece, William Powers Jr. and company were in fact toying with everyone.  I was exactly correct when I concluded that they would likely remain in the Big 12, opting to start their own network.  What I didn’t know is that the Big 12 would line up a new TV revenue deal with Fox that might pay the Longhorns more than $20 million just for their national broadcasts (according to Orangebloods.com, Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M were able to essentially blackmail the rest of the conference into giving up their share of the penalties to be paid by Nebraska and Colorado in order to keep the conference together.  This means that Texas will almost immediately make this money).  Subtract Nebraska and Colorado from the mix, and Big 12 money is split just ten ways without the need for the Longhorns to fuss with a pesky conference championship game on their way to the easiest BCS path to the national championship game.  How long will this cozy arrangement last?  Who knows.  If the Big 12 falls apart in the next five years, don’t be shocked if the Longhorns try the Independent model if their network is already in place.  Next order of business, change the name of the conference to the Longhorns and Their Nine Bitches.

Texas A&M. While they can’t beat ’em on the field, they finally stood up to big brother in the conference realignment waltz.  By threatening to go to the SEC, Texas A&M was able to negotiate a deal that made them financially a big time player in the Big 12.  Many have speculated that A&M never really seriously considered moving to the SEC, both because of the poor academic reputation of most of the SEC schools and a belief that they would never sever their relationship with Texas.  If so, the gambit was a brilliant move.   As discussed above, the mere threat of moving to the SEC allowed A&M to earn a cut of the rest of the conference penalty fee to be paid by Nebraska and Colorado.  That means, despite being the junior college version of the Longhorns, at least for the moment, A&M is at least equal to their big brother in apparently the only way that really matters.  The Longhorns may beat them next year 65-3 on the field, but what does that matter when you’re sitting on a wad of cash?

Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State, and Iowa State. This one is simple, if the Big 12 falls apart, these schools would have been scrambling for lesser conferences.  Maybe a spot in the Mountain West?  Conference USA?  Or worse.  And now, with the formulation of a new deal with Fox, and the fact that conference revenue will be split ten ways instead of twelve, each school immediately earns a hefty raise.  This has to be bitter sweet for Missouri, who thought all along an invite to the Big 10 was coming.  Now the Tigers will have to tuck their tail between their collective legs and resume their position of playing fourth fiddle to the Longhorns.  Still, things could have been a lot worse in Columbia.

The Big East & the ACC. For two weeks the vultures were circling, as it was rumored that the Big 10 was going to pick off at least two Big East schools, possibly Syracuse, Pittsburgh, or Rutgers.  When this didn’t happen, the Big East was able to keep their conference in tact.  Had the Big Ten pilfered just two of those teams, it’s likely that the conference would have either disbanded or they would have had to replace them with lesser members, possibly teams from Conference USA.  The ACC was in a similar position, with rumors that the SEC might add Miami, Florida State, or even Virginia Tech.  With the Big 10 at twelve teams and likely done with expansion for the moment, it would appear that the SEC is content to stay put.  Take a deep breath–both of you can continue to remain the mediocre conferences that have consistently failed capture fans’ imaginations outside of their respective regions.

Utah (if the Pac 10 invites them). If the rumors are true, that Utah gets an invite to the Pac 10, they go from the Mountain West Conference to an AQ (automatic qualifying) conference in the Pac 10.  This is huge for a Utah program, that not only will earn more revenue as part of a conference with BCS ties, but also will allow a program that has been on the fringe of the national championship scene to actually compete for one.  And while there were threats of a 16 team super-conference in the Pac 10, this would have only made competing for a national championship that much harder for Utah, who will now experience a markedly higher level of competition week in and week out.  And the Utes’ timing could hardly have been better, what with the Trojan program effectively gutted by the NCAA for at least the next two years.  Also, with the creation of a conference championship game and a new TV network, both believed to be priorities for the new Pac Ten, Utah will earn money they never could have dreamed of in the Mountain West Conference.  Good week for the Utes (what is a Ute anyways?  Soon, everyone west of the Mississippi will know).

This guy and his conference came dangerously close to being extinct.

Daniel Beebe “Gun” This one is simple– just two days ago, every pundit, except this guy, was predicting the demise of the Big 12.  No conference, and no job that pays you big bucks to sit around and do absolutely nothing.  I don’t know what is more shocking, that Beebe was able to pull together his Fox deal for the Big 12 so quickly or that the idea did not dawn on him before this weekend.  Had they been able to promise Colorado and Nebraska the kind of scratch they are talking about now, the conference might have stayed completely in tact.  Still, this has to qualify as a success for Beebe, who undoubtedly would have been blamed if six teams or more were left scrambling for cover.  Recent statements by Beebe that the Pac 10 is full of “fair weather fans” and that the Big 10 “rust belt” is dwindling will not make Beebe the most popular guy in the room at the next conference commissioner’s party.  Time for Beebe to get back to doing what he does best, nothing.

Pete Carroll. Like a rat deserting a sinking ship in the nick of time, slick Pete parlayed the mess in Los Angeles into a fat contract in Seattle (he doesn’t have to be ashamed about running a professional football team anymore).  True, he couldn’t hack it once before and will probably fall on his face again, but he will still collect his money, and no doubt, some college somewhere will one day give him another shot after the Seahawks send him packing.  You didn’t think that the guy that was able to get away with skirting the NCAA’s rules (yeah Pete, we saw your press conference where you feigned ignorance, but we’re not buying it) for so long wouldn’t be smart enough to engineer a great escape plan for himself, did you?  I imagine slick Pete and Reggie Bush are laughing themselves silly watching someone else pay for their sins (can you laugh uncontrollably and count your money at the same time?).

Here are my suggestions for the new conference logos.

Losers:

U.S.C. Could it be any worse for the Trojans?  Ten schollies lost a year for three years,  a two year post season ban, wins forfeited from the 2004 season, and the possible loss of their 2004 BCS championship (though I have always found this sanction amusing.  I seem to remember watching the Trojans win those games.  I guess I was mistaken.  With one swift motion of the NCAA pen, U.S.C. went from one of the top dogs in the country to also-ran status (just ask Alabama fans what NCAA sanctions did to their program for awhile).  All that’s left now is to see which of the juniors and seniors pull a Carroll and head for the hills.  And if things weren’t bad enough, U.S.C. has a moron for an athletic director in Mike Garrett, who is publicly making arrogant statements that suggest the complete lack of humility on the institution’s part (wait till the NCAA reads those comments when considering the school’s appeal; here’s to guessing that process is resolved quickly this time around), leading some to officially call the Trojans the University of Sanctioned Cheating.  Add in a buffoon for a coach, not so affectionately dubbed Lane Violation for his “creative” recruiting techniques, and it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict dark days ahead for Trojan nation.  Good time to be a Bruins fan if you live in Los Angeles.

Seantrell Henderson and all freshman and sophomores at U.S.C.  Think the nation’s number two recruit wouldn’t like a mulligan right about now?  While the juniors and seniors can leave, Seantrell and the rest of the frosh and sophs are stuck listening to whatever snake oil Lane violation will be selling the next four years.  And while you might be tempted to feel sorry for this kid, there was plenty of information available when he made his decision.   And what of his other potential choices you ask?  The Ohio State University is one of the favorites to compete for a national championship this year, an absolutely loaded team.  And four years in South Beach with the rising Hurricanes was also on Seantrell’s radar.  Instead, he was duped by a notorious liar and a father figure who demonstrated that he only cared about himself (I’ll let the reader decide which is Lane Kiffin and which one is Seantrell’s selfish biological father).  Youth is, in fact, wasted on the young.  Tough break kid.

Larry Scott tried to create a super-conference but instead ended up with Utah and Colorado.

The Pac 10. On the heels of watching the Trojans get ransacked by the NCAA, Scott’s vision of a 16 team super conference including Texas went up in smoke.  The reason?  While no one knows for sure, according to Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com, who was the first to break several of the expansion stories last week, Scott got greedy and tried to sub in Kansas for Oklahoma State at the last minute.  Scott purportedly did this because he rightfully concluded that Kansas would deliver bigger media markets than Stillwater Oklahoma, forgetting for a moment of T Boone Pickens and the sway that his hundreds of millions of dollars carries.  Some feel that Texas was playing the Pac 10 all along, using them to coerce an even better deal from the remaining Big 12 teams.  Regardless, Scott is left with a conference that now includes the Colorado Buffaloes (that yawn you hear could actually be coming from the state of Colorado) and an unwieldy conference of 11 members.  The hot rumor making its way amongst the talking heads is that the Pac 10 will add the Utah Utes (I still don’t know what a Ute is).  This can’t be the kind of home run Scott was hoping for.  You think no one west of the Mississippi cared about the Pac 10 before?  Utah vs. Arizona?  California against Colorado?  Anybody against U.S.C.’s walk-ons?  This can’t be what Stanford had in mind when they agreed to sully the academic reputation of the conference through expansion.  Good luck Larry negotiating the kind of TV deal the Big 10 and the SEC already enjoy, you’re going to need it.

Colorado.  Talk about the victim of bad timing.  Perhaps reading the gossip on the web, Colorado was the first of the schools to officially jump ship, probably figuring that their Big 12 friends were right behind them.  When they turned around, the Buffs must have felt a bit like Frank the Tank streaking from the quad to the gymnasium, alone and in the buff so to speak.  Now, the Buffaloes join a conference with a weakened U.S.C., a school from the Mountain West (maybe), and a conference that has the Washington State Cougars.  While the remaining Big 12 teams signed a lucrative deal with Fox, guaranteeing all the members from the conference at least $12 million dollars, the Buffaloes join a Pac 10 that collected only $8 million dollars apiece in TV revenue last year.  While a network deal and additional revenue is probably on the horizon for the Pac 10, it’s my guess that the Buffaloes would have been financially better off staying in the Big 12.  Add in the $15 million dollar penalty the Buffaloes must cough up for their departure at a time when their Board of Regents is financially strapped, and I’m guessing the University of Colorado is wishing they waited a week before moving west.  I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait for that riveting match-up between the Buffaloes and the Cougars, assuming of course, the Pac 10 can find anyone to carry it.

The WAC. Once thought of as a conference that might one day earn AQ status, the departure of one of the few truly relevant programs, Boise State, all but ensures this will never happen.  With the Broncos and their smurf turf in the MWC, who is the marquee draw here, Fresno State?  Down to nine teams, expansion to ten or more would probably require raiding lesser conferences like the Sun Belt (anyone excited about adding New Mexico State or Troy?).  In all likelihood, the WAC was probably sitting back waiting for the dominoes to fall in order to add a perennial power or two in order to make that AQ push.  Now, they are hopelessly stuck at eight teams and relegated to the status of Mister Money Bags, panhandling for loose change in the TV revenue game (see proposed WAC logo above).

Boise State (if Utah moves to the Pac 10). Another classic case of jumping the gun a bit too soon.  Most believe that the MWC has the best chance of earning an AQ BCS bid, with present members Utah, BYU, and TCU the strength of the conference.  What looked like a promotion for Boise State, moving from the WAC to the MWC, may end up a push if Utah moves to the Pac 10.  If you are Boise State, why pay the penalty to leave your current conference simply to move to another conference that almost qualifies for AQ status?  My guess is that, at best, Boise State and Utah are a wash, and the conference is still on the outside of the BCS game looking in, probably right where a small school from Idaho belongs.

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8 replies

  1. I think it’s premature to count the Big East as a winner. They did nothing, and the Big Ten is bound to strike within the next few months, because they need to feed the Big Ten Network and to make a play for Notre Dame. In fact, this week a coalition inside the Big East has decided to split off from the other teams if the Big East loses two teams. I’d say that probably makes the BE losers this week, because they may have just sealed their doom. Even if the Big Ten takes just Rutgers and Maryland, the ACC will probably replace Maryland with a BE school. And the SEC might play keep-up and take one or two BE teams, if they can’t pry two ACC teams loose. This also makes Notre Dame’s “independence” a probable loser, as the impending collapse of the Big East may force them to join a conference in football.

    You were probably right in not naming the SEC as winners or losers. They lost out on Texas A&M, but since they have less to gain from expansion than the Pac-10 and the Big Ten, they might benefit from the slowed arms race.

    “Intact” is one word. I’ve seen “in tact” at least six times this week.

    • Doug, my article was from the perspective of the teams and conferences today, with the conclusion of this round of expansion. I do not believe we have seen the last of expansion, but do believe that the next round probably will not occur for at least 2-3 years (just before the Big 10 Network contract expires in 2016). For the Big East, simply not being decimated this time around puts them in the winners column, though the temporary nature of this status makes your point well taken. I do not believe the Big 10 will add Rutgers or any other Big East team unless they get Notre Dame as part of the package, and I am convinced the Domers are going to ride independence out far past its usefulness. We’ll see, while I made some good calls on expansion along the way, like most people I did not hit the bull’s eye every time. Thanks for reading my post and for your comments.

      • From what I’ve read from ND posters, most Domers don’t want to budge from their independence unless the Big East crumbles first. I can’t see how “Starbucks” would face the wrath of the Domer nation by jumping to the Big Ten before that happened, and I doubt that the Big Ten would want Notre Dame if they’d lost half their constituency. Domer nation is full of front-runners; they don’t have a large local base or a large alumni, so they don’t have a strong foundation to fall back on. Once you lose the fans, they probably won’t come back.

        Whether ND comes or not, Adding Rutgers and Syracuse would give the Big Ten an excellent chance at cornering the NY/NJ market; and with both schools, they’d be getting 70 cents per BTN subscription instead of just 10 cents. And now is the time to act, taking advantage of the fact that they presently have the only TV network among the big conferences. They need to get a lot of people on board now, while the network is hot, to build up momentum and an insurmountable lead in eyeballs that will catapult them into a national network. If the BT waits, they give the other conferences a chance to catch up.

      • Doug, my prediction is probably much along your lines. I do think the Big 10 will expand again, before 2016. I think they will go further east (NJ/NY) or the south (we may revisit adding B12 teams) because of population shifts. Regardless, I do think the Big 10 is not done flirting with Notre Dame. While their ratings have slipped considerably with NBC, as will always happen when a team loses, their core fan base has ND as the second highest grossing athletic department in the counrty (Forbes just released new figures a few days ago). So I disagree with you assessment with regards the value of this program. I think round two of expansion will feature many of gambits and grandstanding that we saw this time, possibly including picking off some Big East teams to erode ND’s base for other sports. As for your issues with timing, you might be exactly right. Plenty of people still believe that the Big 10 will continue to assess expansion in the next year, which still fits within Delaney’s 18 month window. This thing may not be over yet.

      • Michael, I didn’t mean to imply that Notre Dame’s program wasn’t valuable. They and Texas are #1 and #2. All I was saying is that, because most of Notre Dame’s fans aren’t home-grown (like, for example, Iowa’s) or organic (they don’t have that many alumni, being a smaller school), their fans are more apt to jump ship than many other fans. ND fans are mainly from three groups, Catholics, independent-loving people and front-runners. A lot of people root for ND as their second team because their home team sucks. So, my point was that Mr. Starbucks can’t join the Big Ten until the independent-loving fan base accepts the fact that times are changing and Notre Dame has to join a conference for football, or he’ll risk losing a lot of fans, which will decrease ND’s value to the BT (and he might lose his job!).

        If the Big East loses three football teams, they’ll lose their BCS status, even if they expand first, as shown here:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/sports/07conference.html?ref=national_collegiate_athletic_assn

        “If the Pac-10 swiped six teams from the Big 12 and Missouri or Nebraska went to the Big Ten, the Big 12 would become defunct. Under N.C.A.A. guidelines, a conference needs at least six universities that have played together for five years. The Big 12 would lose its Bowl Championship Series bid and automatic bid to the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament.”

        Because the BE is a hybrid conference, I don’t know whether they would become automatically defunct, but they’d lose the existing football teams, who would have to shop around, and Notre Dame wouldn’t want to stick around. But until that happens, ND probably won’t join the BT, another reason to get things going soon if you’re Delany. If he takes Rutgers, Syracuse and Maryland, the ACC would probably take U Conn, and the Big East would also lose big in basketball. With the probable coming of the superconferences, the Big East is probably doomed.

      • Doug, I do think ND joins the Big 10 eventually, but it will be in the next round of expansion, whenever that might be. The Big 10 will eventually add members because it is more profitable to do so, and because I think the conference has a concern with shifts in the population the last 3 decades or so. It simply makes sense to expand to the east, south, or west. I also think the Big 12 will continue to remain unstable; if certain teams like Missouri were upset with Texas before, wait till the dust settles on what amounted to institutional blackmail in my books. You and I are on the same page; I think the Big East, at least for football, collapses, and I can’t imagine there is any chance in the world ND would really consider joining the Big East to try and save it or move to any other conference. Their days as an independent are numbered as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for the posts, I have really enjoyed the dialogue.

  2. Is there a blog that better analyzes sports situations from all perspectives? If so, I can’t think of it. You give us your time to help us see your points clearly and in doing so have opened my eyes to the impact certain decisions and moves produce. Money. Money. Money. It’s changed all sports, but none more so than football, as evidenced by that preppy-looking scoundrel Carroll and his scoundrel-in-training Bush. As I’m writing this, the Congressional questioning of BP execs is taking place. They are villains! Our country is shouting. Your column points out that there are plenty of villains elsewhere whose greed and cavalier attitude hurt us daily. The days of mom and pop taking kids to a game are dwindling–unless they’re those in box seats paid for by the rest of us who are home watching the game on a premiere sports network, which we soon may be unable to afford. Great blog!

  3. Can’t afford $2,500 dollars for one seat to sit behind homeplate at the new Yankee stadium. It was sickening. THe Yankees were rematching the Phillies yesterday on ESPN and only a handful of people occupied these sests. It’s why TV revenue drives sports now; the vast majority of us, even those few of us fortunate to still have good paying jobs, can’t afford this kind of entertainment.

    Thanks for the comments, I appreciate your continued support!

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