OTE Potluck: Conference Realignment Special 'It's Not Nebraska's Fault' Edition

[Editor's Note:  About 2 hours after this was posted, ESPN's Doug Gottlieb reported that TAMU had, in fact, accepted an invitation by the SEC, and Florida State, Clemson...and Missouri?!...are considering offers to join.  If this report is true, it's going to be an Olly Olly Oxenfree Musical Chairs realignment the likes we have never seen.  Get your popcorn ready...]

Well, well, well.  I bet you're feeling pretty happy with yourself right about now, aren't you, Bugeater?  Because this time last year, the Texas contingent was blaming you for the near demise of college football as we knew it.  Yeah, Nebraska jumped to the B1G (never mind Colorado bolted, too, because Texas was greedier than Kirstie Alley at an all you can eat buffet, but whatever), and it was the first domino in the coming Apocalypse. 

Well, apparently, if there's any truth to this rumor, Texas A and M might not be long for the Big Texas And Her Nine Stepchildren Conference, and less than a year after Big XII commissioner Dan Beebe declared that the Big XII had been saved and was going to be around forever and ever, amen, it's on the ropes...again.

And it has nothing to do with Nebraska.

In what might be the biggest over playing of a hand since Lyle Lovett somehow was able to marry Julia Roberts, Texas, in their infinite wisdom, thought they would be able to pretty much dictate the terms of revenue payout and start up their own TV network without pissing off any of the remaining conference schools.  The straw that seemed to break the camel's back was when Texas and ESPN announced that they would broadcast Texas high school football games on the Longhorn network.  Texas A and M felt that would be an unfair recruiting advantage for Texas (which it would, let's not kid ourselves), and lo and behold, the Aggies are on the verge of jumping the Titanic of a conference that is the Big XII for the greener (as in terms of cash) pastures of the SEC. 

If they jump, Texas A and M essentially doubles their money and will get almost as much per year as Texas would in their current setup, and all of a sudden, Texas looks like they're now launching a boondoggle of a network.  If the Big XII folds tent, there will be no major college football to broadcast, except their own games, and now the NCAA has ruled high school football can't be aired, either. But even with that announcement, I think that Texas A and M might be past the point of no return with Texas.

So how does this affect everybody else?  Well, we don't care about everybody else, we care mostly about the Empire.  And if this does happen, this will have a profound effect on the Empire and college football, probably changing the landscape as we know it forever.

And when there's a crisis a-brewin', what do we Midwesterners do?  We gather for a Potluck, that's what we do.

Appetizer:  After the superconference era in college football was seemingly avoided by the thinnest of margins last summer, it looks to be exploding again this summer.  Texas A and M looks to be on the verge of moving from the Big XII to the SEC.  But 13 teams is an uneven number, and with the SEC at the pinnacle of the college football world, they can pick and choose a 14th member to even things out if they want to, which they most likely will.  Who will it be?

Chadnudj:  I'd say it's 50/50 between Florida State and Clemson as Team #14.  The SEC is a football conference first and foremost, and both those schools have insane football fanbases.  However, both also come from states already within their footprint -- a distinct drawback.  But once you start looking at schools that would expand their footprint, the pickings are slim.  Virginia Tech loves being in the ACC and isn't leaving.  UVA, Maryland, and UNC are charter members of the ACC and won't leave (most likely….more on that below), and UNC certainly wouldn't leave Duke (who just isn't attractive to the SEC). 

Oklahoma is a feasible target, but is handcuffed to Texas.  Mizzou? Just not a cultural fit, and Mizzou is basically curled up, fully clothed in a running shower, holding its knees as it rocks and mutters "Why won't Jim Delany call?"  That leaves schools already within the SEC's footprint.  I'd give the slight edge to FSU -- Florida's the (current) largest state in the conference, so having 2 teams there won't be as excessive as having two in South Carolina (which is what would happen with Clemson).

Kennard Husker:  Bring on the Superconferences!  Anyhow, with aTm joining the SEC, the obvious big fish in the rumor mill will be FSU.  I think that would be a nice move for the SEC, but similar to Notre Dame picking the B1G – loosely translated – not gonna happen.  FSU has an easy path to the BCS if they’re good, and they get to call most, if not all, the shots right now for football.  They are the blueblood, and I don’t see them giving that away.  They also fit in the ACC, stylewise and philosophy-wise.

So hear me out on this one – USF. That’s right, the USF Bulls.  They are an up and comer, getting recruits because they are in South Beach, have money and handlers and Michael Jordan’s son plays on their basketball team.  Slive could swoop in with little interference from any political body (including Florida who would be none-to-pleased with the FSU recruiting body in the actual SEC).

Ted Glover:  Rumor has Florida State at the moment, but like Kennard said, they're a blue blood in the ACC with a much easier path to a BCS game and a money payout that isn't too far off from what they would make in a 14 team SEC.  And once the dominoes start to fall, I think the ACC would make a play to strengthen their hand and start raiding the Big East, which would probably improve their revenue payout by staying put.  I think SEC Commissioner Mike Slife might be able to pull another Big XII team, and Texas politics might try and force Baylor.  I could see FSU, but Florida might not like that.  I could also see Georgia Tech, but that might hurt Georgia.  Tough call.

Salad:  If the vultures start to circle, which conferences die?  Will any conferences die?  The big rumor is that Florida State is the 14th team to go with TAMU to the SEC, requiring a move by the ACC...unless the B1G gets out in front and moves to raid the ACC.  If the ACC moves first and starts grabbing Big East teams, the B1G could move in for the Big East kill, much like a Germany-USSR mutual destruction of Poland in WW II.  Where does this leave the Big XII?  Will the Pac-12 look to grab teams, or could the B1G make a play for Oklahoma-Oklahoma State?

Chadnudj:  Asking this question is like predicting when JoePa will retire/die -- we'll see a lot of speculation, thousands of gallons of ink will be spilled, we all know it's going to happen someday….but the simple answer is, we just don't know, and won't know until it happens.

My guess?  We're all heading to 16 team superconferences, with the ACC/Big East joining in an unholy union of subpar football teams.  SEC will add Texas A&M, FSU, Clemson, and….Virginia Tech.  Sure, why not?

The Big Ten will push east, gobbling up UNC, Duke, Virginia, and Maryland -- they're all AAU universities (important, even if Nebraska no longer is), it lands the B1G big markets with huge alumni bases (DC Metro area and Charlotte) and some great recruiting territory, and some teams out east for Penn State to play (plus UNC is Delany's alma mater…he'll take care of them).  Best thing about this? It offers the BTN some REALLY kick-ass college basketball games/ratings.  And Charlottesville is a phenomenal college town (I'm biased --- I'm an alum of their law school.) 

The remaining ACC schools (BC, Miami, Wake Forest, NC State, and Georgia Tech) will team up with the Big East football schools (Cincinnatti, UConn, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, and West Virginia, plus TCU soon….although TCU may not go Big East if the landscape goes nuts).  That's 14 teams right there, and you need two more -- I'd say they grab Mizzou, and then one of Central Florida, East Carolina, and Memphis sounds about right.  The Big East basketball only schools stay together.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Kansas head to the Pac-12.  Iowa State joins the Missouri Valley Conference.

And Texas?  Well, they go full-on independent in football, and figure something out for non-football sports -- a member of Baylor/Texas Tech/Houston and whoever else's conference (which could be where TCU goes instead of the Big East).

Kennard Husker:  I mean, the Big XII is screwed in this whole scenario. They would be left with nine teams who don’t really like each other, have very divided cultures and interests, and have zero leverage come 2012 when new TV Deals come up (ESPN losing money on TLN doesn’t help matters either). It would be an open season on the Big XII by the Pac, B1G, and whoever else. OU and UT would go down swinging, I’m sure, but really?  In my scenario, the ACC remains afloat because they all are similar in goals. However, the Big East being down another school in football could be in trouble. I could definitely imagine a world where the remaining schools from the fallout create an even savvier basketball league with a slightly less decent football brand (UNC/Duke/Kansas in the same conference? It would be awesome).

Ted Glover:  There are so many different directions this could go.  I think once the dominoes start to fall, I can envision scenarios where the ACC, Big XII, and Big East can either survive or die, depending on who goes where, and what the money payout will be.  That's going to be the key in all this--follow the money.  At the end of the day, the Big Ten, PAC-XX, and SEC will be the biggest of the big boys.  They're going to come out head and shoulders above everyone.  I can see where the SEC raids the southernmost ACC teams (four of any Clemson, Ga Tech, Va Tech, Florida, or Miami), which leaves North Carolina and Duke ripe for the B1G, effectively ending the ACC as we know it.  But I can also see a scenario where if the SEC does raid their southern most teams, the ACC aggressively goes after half the Big East, with the B1G taking the rest. 

For the Big XII, I can see the PAC-XX coming in and re-trying the power play the attempted last year, with the B1G grabbing Mizzou and Kansas, along with two Big East teams, say Rutgers and Pitt.  I can also see Texas building a firewall with Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, and trying to replace Texas A and M with...someone.  TCU would've been a good option, but they're headed to the Big East...unless the Big East begins to implode.

Potato/Rice Dish:  Will the B1G stop at 14, or keep going until there are 16?  Might the B1G just stand pat and play the hand they currently have, and would that be the proper move for the time being?

Chadnudj:  Proper move? Do nothing, but talk with a lot of people to lay the groundwork if it makes sense to go to 14 or 16.  Delany's sitting pretty -- a profitable network, a great conference, a B1G culture that makes sense.  No need to be rash, but we've gotta be ready in case everything explodes.  I'd be shocked if Delany hadn't placed a courtesy call to his alma matter (UNC) and privately told them "Hey guys, if things go nuts, talk to us."  It makes sense to see where other conferences look like they're going, and be in a position to match them if necessary.  Even if we end up standing pat because a good match isn't out there, we're in great shape as it is.  I will say this, though -- 14 just doesn't make sense.  If your expanding your conference, go to 16.

Kennard Husker:  The B1G can’t stop at 14 if this all starts spinning. Delany will be in a position to add whoever he wants from a Big XII/Big East blowout. He may also be able to force Notre Dame’s hand. I mean, aren’t they being relegated to Versus regardless of what happens? Also, I think that Delany has to think about what he wants his conference to be about. He could dominate multiple sports, or at least compete in every sport if he played his cards right.

Ted Glover:  This is a full blown arms race, and the B1G has a golden opportunity to pick and choose to make the best of a super conference landscape.  Hesitation means settling, and I don't see Jim Delany as a guy that settles.  If I were a betting man, I would bet that Delany already has had preliminary 'hey, what if' talks with a number of schools, and is prepared to go in one of about 6 or 7 directions.  He's always been one step ahead of everyone else in this latest round of expansion, and public comments about 12 teams being a 'right size and fit' aside, he'll make a bold move when the time comes.  But he won't be the guy to push the Armageddon button.

Meat/Hot Dish:  Texas seems to have outsmarted themselves by a half, at least for the time being.  The NCAA just modified the bylaws to prevent high school football games from being shown on their network, and if TAMU bolts, there might not be a Big XII conference to broadcast games on their network, except UT.  What happens to Texas?  Will they scrap the Longhorn Network to preserve the Big XII conference, do they forge ahead with independence, or do they look to join another conference?  If they choose the latter, is there a conference that will take them and their hubris?

Chadnudj:  Texas will be fine.  See above -- they'll go independent in football, affiliate with the new Texas-based league in non-football sports, and get their Longhorn Network.  In other words, they're playing the "That School in South Bend" game to perfection.

Kennard Husker:  Texas is ridiculous. While I’m obviously a bit biased and still can’t believe the hate coming from that part of the country, this doesn’t even look rational to an outsider. Nebraska fans knew this was coming for the past year. If you spoke to aTm fans, you knew there was discontent in College Station. In their minds, they have the better fans and to be fair, they kind of do. I do think Texas could go indy, but if Superconferences arise, it just doesn’t happen. Does Dodds go crawling back to someone? Hard to say. I could see Texas creating the first self-serving conference in history by buying a bunch of friends and letting them in on their network (Hey Utah State, why don’t you come play with us? We don’t bite, and we have a huge contract we may give 5% of to you!). By the way Big XII, this is what all of Husker Nation thinks about you now. Who’s fault were superconferences?

Ted Glover:  Texas is Texas, they'll be all right, but they really overplayed their hand.  They'll still get their money, but at what cost?  They're on the verge of almost single-handedly destroying a BCS conference over a network that won't be able to televise anything but old Texas reruns and current Texas games, at least for the most part.  As a consequence, they're having issues just selling LHN to cable companies in Texas.  They have a guaranteed payout from ESPN, but how do you think ESPN is feeling now?  They practically printed money to keep the college football landscape as is, and it looks like they are on the verge of failing miserably.  If there is a superconference expansion, the new BCS conferences will very likely be able to dictate terms to independent schools in terms of how they might qualify for the post season, and teams like Texas and Notre Dame might be forced to accept conference alignment on terms that aren't to their advantage.

Dessert:  Notre Dame.  Discuss, if you haven't already.  Big Ten, independent, or might they align with the Big East to preserve that conference?

Chadnudj:  They will not join us, nor should we want them to.  Why have 3 teams in Indiana in the conference?  Delany will do the smarter thing if he expands -- poach some of the ACC jewels, give Penn State some better/closer rivals, and increase the footprint.  I fully trust Delany on this.  Besides, no one wants That School in South Bend in our conference.  The Buckeye fans are insufferable enough on their own -- no need to add the Domers to the mix.

Kennard Husker:  Ah Notre Dame. Where do you end up in all this mess? If a new Superconference was formed from the pieces of the mighty, it might actually do Notre Dame some good to join that one. The pieces of the Big East could give them the familiarity they need from their other sports, and having some clout for football in creating a brand spanking new charter would be pretty awesome. They could do what Texas is doing, only in the Northeast. I don’t hate that idea, and if you added in the crazy basketball thing, that conference might just be formidable finally. Of course, that’s much easier said than done.

Ted Glover:  I always felt that Notre Dame was Delany's ultimate goal, and the silence regarding Notre Dame and the B1G tells me that that might be the rabbit out of the hat once all this starts moving.  They're a perfect fit, culturally and geographically.  Notre Dame could, if they wanted to, be seen as the savior of the Big East if they chose to align with them, and it might prevent jittery teams from jumping.  But could a Big East with Notre Dame in it garner over $20 million/yr in football revenue?  I don't know.  But could a Big Ten with, say, Notre Dame, Rutgers, UNC and Duke, or ND, Rutgers, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, or Notre Dame and (insert three schools here) push the take for Big Ten teams, thanks to the Big Ten network, past $30 million a year? 

Yeah, it could.  Follow the money.

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