Heading into what will hopefully be a quiet weekend of football and football only conversation around the SEC, we thought we’d take one last look at some of the stories that relate directly or indirectly to possible SEC expansion. Here are five such stories (as well as our take on each):
1. ESPN and Texas spin, spin, spin the Longhorn Network
This morning we told you of yesterday’s announcement that Texas’ new cable channel would a) air highlights of high school games and b) feature two Big 12 football games this fall. That’s akin to the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba in 1962. Nikita Khrushchev could spin things however he liked, but placing offensive weapons 90 miles off the Florida coast sent a much louder message than anything the Soviet premier chose to say.
Now as Texas and their partner, ESPN, continue to find ways to shove LHN down fellow Big 12 members’ throats, both entities are most definitely in full spin mode.
Longhorn AD DeLoss Dodds said yesterday that he believed every Big 12 school could launch a network of its own, even singling out Kansas State, which recently announced plans for its own online sports network. Uh, yeah. An online network for Kansas State is pretty much in the same ballpark as Texas’ $300 million ESPN television deal. Sure.
Even more amusing, ESPN executive Burke Mangus had this to say:
“This did not sneak up on anybody… and the opportunity that Texas is taking advantage of with us is something that other institutions in the conference can take advantage of as well.”
Well, hell! Good news, Iowa State and Baylor. ESPN’s ready to cut 20-year, $300 million deals for you, too. Apparently all you had to do was ask.
2. So why no OU talk this time around?
The word from Oklahoma is that the Sooners are not as interested in joining the SEC now as they were believed to be a summer ago. Some 2010 reports even claimed that OU’s board had actually voted — faced with a Pac-16 or SEC scenario — to join the SEC last year, prior to Fox and ESPN saving the Big 12 with the promise of a new cash.
But it’s the opinion of Berry Trammel of The Oklahoman that OU would be more likely to “petition the Big Ten, hat in hand” than join the SEC. And the league’s presidents’ true goal — in his view — would be to actually join the Pac-12.
Why? “OU leaders are enticed by the academic reputation of the Pac-12, which the SEC can’t match.”
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this site. We’ve pointed out often that it will be Pointy Heads who will make these realignment decisions, not Jocks.
3. Frightened Baylor Fights To Save Itself
Last summer, it appeared for a while as though the Big 12 would break apart with six league schools breaking off to join what was then the Pac-10. Baylor was not among the schools receiving a West Coast invite. As it turned out, no one could have been happier with the salvation of the Big 12 than Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State… three schools that might have wound up in the Mountain West if massive realignment had occurred.
Having gone though that experience last year, the folks in Waco have a Texas-sized fear that if Texas A&M leaves the Big 12, the Big 12 will indeed split. And if the Big 12 splits, everyone but Baylor and a couple other cast-offs will split for better leagues.
That’s why BU president Kenneth Starr — yes, that Kenneth Starr — has written an editorial for USA Today. In it he predicts doom and gloom if schools start changing conference affiliations (nevermind the fact that schools have been moving in and out of leagues for a century). He also speaks of breaking “signed solemn agreements” and of “commissioner-orchestrated raids.” Oh, it’s all very over-the-top.
But in reality, if Mike Slive had offered Baylor a slot in his league, Starr wouldn’t have had time to write his editorial. He’d have been too busy dancing for joy and trying to figure out the shortest routes from Waco to Starkville and from Waco to Auburn. It would be in Baylor’s best interest to join an all-for-one, one-for-all league like the SEC. Just as it’s in BU’s best interest now to try and prevent A&M from leaving.
The fact that he’s got a horse in this race renders Starr’s editorial moot, in our view.
Ditto a much-quoted economic study released by Waco-based economists, The Perryman Group. Their study “revealed” that an A&M departure from the Big 12 would somehow result in the state of Texas losing $217.2 million in gross product output each year as well as 3,050 jobs.
Even a former governor of Texas has used the Perryman Group’s report to show that an A&M departure would hurt the state. Unfortunately, it turns out Mark White — governor from 1983 through 1987 — also happens to be a Baylor grad. Whodathunkit?
Well, there are three key problems with this now famous study:
1. The Perryman Group is also heavily tied to Baylor University.
2. The Perryman Group doesn’t fully reveal how they arrived at those eye-popping numbers.
3. The Perryman Group’s report is basically baloney.
The fact that it’s baloney is probably the biggest issue.
Kudos to BusinessOfCollegeSports.com for breaking down some honest-to-goodness hard numbers on this. According to that site’s math, it looks like a move by A&M to the SEC would actually increase revenue inside the Lone Star State. It’s a solid read and well worth your time.
4. The Big Ten says it’s not interested in expanding
Much of the handwringing over an A&M-to-the-SEC move is tied to the fact that such a shift is expected lead to all out realignment madness. In reality, there’s nothing to suggest that a Texas A&M move would be the catalyst to set off some sort of collegiate Big Bang.
Just last summer, the whole world teetered on the brink for a full month… only to see a handful of schools fill out change-of-address cards.
The Big Ten announced today that its Council of Presidents/Chancellors has decided not to “actively” engage in expansion now “or at any time in the foreseeable future, barring a significant shift in the current intercollegiate landscape.”
Would the addition of Texas A&M and — just as an example — West Virginia be a “significant shift” in the current landscape? Probably not. So more than likely, the Big 12 would grab Houston to replace A&M and whatever other conference lost a school to the SEC would set about finding a single replacement as well.
The growth from 12- to 16-team leagues could come over a period of several years, not all at once. Did we not all learn that lesson a year ago?
Also we have been told by multiple SEC sources that the league has no interest in rushing to field a 16-school league. Does Slive have a long-term plan just in case everyone else starts rolling toward 16? Yes. But is that plan currently in play? Not from what we’re being told.
It’s more likely — in our view — that we’re looking at a few small shifts like those we experienced last year rather than at a total shake-up of college sports as we know it.
In fact, we find it odd that this potential move is causing such a ruckus in the first place. Last summer, Larry Scott was hailed as a genius for attempting to raid the Big 12 for half its members. And no one painted Jim Delany as a fiend when his Big Ten eyeballed schools from the Big 12 to the Big East to the ACC, either.
So why is it so much worse for the SEC and Texas A&M to be talking with one another now?
5. The Death Penalty for Miami?
NCAA president Mark Emmert said today that he would be willing to use the death penalty on a program if he felt it would deter cheating.
“If, and I say if, we have very unique circumstances where TV bans and death penalties are warranted, then I don’t think they are off the table and I would be OK with putting those in place.”
Miami brass can’t like the sound of that. Neither can the administrators at eleven other Atlantic Coast Conference schools. That league brought in Miami for two reasons: top-flight academics and its big brand name in football. Wipe out football — with either a death penalty, major TV bans or even sweeping recruiting restrictions — and the overall value of the ACC drops in the eyes of television partners.
As we’ve stated previously, the fear of a drop in revenue could spook one or more ACC schools into taking a long, hard look at the big money SEC. And make no mistake, any good president is busy weighing all possible options right now.
The worse things look for Miami, the worse things look for the ACC. That kind of destabilization could, in turn, be very good for the SEC.