Things got nutty yesterday, didn’t they? Way too nutty.
We in the media have a tendency to feed like sharks. If there’s a drop of blood (or truth, in our case) in the water, everyone starts working to get their piece of it.
The media feeding frenzy is matched only by fans’ desire for immediate information and a pulpit from which to share their own views, theories and wishes.
Example: Website tied to school files report from left field. Media jump on report. Fans take report as gospel. Fans post thoughts and theories on messageboards. Reporters tweet about thoughts, theories and rumors they’re seeing on messageboards and blogs. Fans mistake tweets from reporters as dispersals of fact, not “hey, here’s what’s being said.” Circle continues, etc, etc, etc.
It’s a mess. And as someone who works in the media, it’s shameful.
We didn’t post our own follow-up last night because we wanted to check with our contacts before chiming in on yesterday’s rumor frenzy. And because we know when stories build and build and build on one another in rapid succession — as happened yesterday — there’s usually more hot air than fact involved.
So after finishing our radio and CSS duties yesterday, we hit the phones. The word we’re getting in simplified form: Not much changed yesterday from an SEC perspective.
* Missouri still wants into the SEC in 2012 and is working to make that happen. MU chancellor Brady Deaton wasn’t blowing smoke last Friday when he told a press conference that any move Mizzou makes will be made with next year in mind.
* The Big 12 has thrown up more resistance than expected — including the declaration that the league cannot play with nine teams next year (even though some schools and coaches had campaigned for that very thing) — and that resistance could slow down an MU-SEC announcement, but the SEC office knew there would be some snares.
* It’s still possible Missouri and the SEC will announce a union this week, but MU will have to clear the legal hurdles being tossed around — just as Texas A&M did — first.
* Could this lead to a 2013 SEC entry for Missouri if all goes wrong? Yes, but the SEC had obviously anticipated that, too.
The feeling I get from talking to people around the league is one of calm. If Missouri’s in by 2012, great. If they’re in the following year, the SEC will survive one season as a 13-school league. (But it’s clear landing a 14th school for next season is still heavily preferred.)
There also didn’t seem to be a whole lotta fear regarding talk that the Big 12 might grab Notre Dame which might, in turn, convince Missouri to stick around. We said yesterday that that plan had a large number of moving parts that would all have to interconnect perfectly if it were to come to fruition. As an official with one SEC school told me last night via text: “Too many egos, too much redtape.”
Our gut feeling? We believe the Big 12′s latest protests might slow the announcement process down by a week, but we still feel Mizzou has a pretty good shot of exiting by 2012.
If a contract states that a school must remain in a conference or pay a buyout fee, there are two ways to fulfill the contract — stay in the league or pay the buyout fee. If Missouri pays the buyout fee, it should be clear to leave.
The problem, however, is whether or not Big 12 schools (like Baylor) would sue Missouri for damages should the league lose network television dollars. But speaking to a friend who happens to be an executive in the sports side of one of the Big 3 networks, the assumption is that if Fox or ESPN were to pull money from a nine-team Big 12, they would pull back only Missouri’s share… which would leave the other members at their current levels of income.
We’ll see where things shake out moving forward, but here’s a whole wave of expansion reports from around the country, complete with our take on most of them:
1. Here’s the Orangebloods.com report (behind a paywall) that sent the media world into a tizzy yesterday afternoon. It claims that Notre Dame “is seriously considering” moving it’s non-football sports to the Big 12, which — coupled with a promise of Irish-Missouri football games — could lead Mizzou to stay in the Big 12.
2. Yesterday, Mike Slive spoke to the Huntsville, Alabama Quarterback Club and jokingly told the audience they weren’t going to get the information that they wanted — a yes or no on Missouri.
“I realize you’re anxioius to know what happens next with regard to conference realignment. There’s a lot happening over the intercollegiate landscape, especially the last several weeks.
But with respect to the SEC, I don’t have anything new to report at this time.”
Slive also reiterated a point that we have made on this site many, many times.
“We were very happy with 12 (members). When Texas A&M contacted us, it’s a great institution and we were willing to take them. We’re willing to be at 13 for a short period, if that’s what it takes. Obviously 14 is much easier, but it’s never been for us a goal to move to 16. It’s never been about numbers for us.”
Despite what you read elsewhere, the SEC is not planning to go to 16. That would only happen if the college football landscape changed further. Slive does not want his league to be the first league to 16. Not when it’s making so much money and having so much success in the present.
3. MU’s chancellor spoke about his school’s expansion plans during a radio interview yesterday (and we’ve already covered most of this on the site). Among his comments:
“We’ve reached firmness in where we are headed, where we want to analyze and focus our attention.” (If that were the Big 12, the school would have simply said, “We’re staying!”)
“Our head has to outweigh our heart in achieving some of the objectives because the heart won’t necessarily in this case lead to where the University is going and needs to be going.” (Kinda obvious what that means.)
“These issues, such as stability, take on very, very important long-term meaning. We’re trying to look ahead at where we’re going as a university, and where the Big 12 is going, or the SEC is going, and where the world of sports entertainment is going.” (Again, when it comes to stability there’s an obvious choice. Deaton might as well have said, “We want to surround ourselves with people who speak with a drawl.”)
Mike DeArmond of The Kansas City Star further discusses that interview here.
4. Vahe Gregorian of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was also listening in on Deaton’s radio interview and picked up on these comments:
“Our hopes (for making an announcement) were days, possibly a week or two. We’re hoping the sooner the better.”
“Involved in these steps that are being taken at this point are two conferences, two boards of directors, two sets of legal counsel, two sets of financial analyses, or three, if you count the University separate from the Big 12, and then you have a commissioner in whichever conference you’re dealing with.”
5. Deaton was asked by the radio host if he would make his announcement on that show. We’ll let Gregorian take it from there:
“Deaton declined (the host’s) invitation to announce it during the show, albeit with a slight slip.
‘I’d loved to come back, as soon as we annou. …’
He caught himself before completing the word and added, ‘as soon as we’ve reach conclusion on this, I’d love to be back here with you.’”
6. Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star took a shot at the SEC yesterday stating: “Missouri is as good as gone, of course, off to the Southeastern Conference and its voluntary class schedules for football players and disregard for the NCAA rulebook…” The league has brought rulebook cracks upon itself, but when it comes to class schedules, the SEC will soon have more AAU schools than the Big 12. Time for the Dust Bowlers to drop the academic barbs.
West Virginia News
7. Meanwhile, it was widely reported yesterday that West Virginia — passed over by the ACC and the SEC for its small population and academic reputation — will replace Missouri in the Big 12 at some point. The Associated Press reports that the Big 12′s board of directors unanimously approved inviting WVU “when Missouri’s spot comes open.”
8. Taking business issues out of the equation — though those are why conferences actually expand — this writer believes West Virginia is a more than adequate replacement for Missouri. (Of course, he also states that WVU to the Big 12 is no more “absurd” geographically than Missouri joining the SEC. I’ll agree just as soon as someone shows me where West Virginia borders Kansas, Iowa, or Texas.)
9. A statewide radio network in West Virginia reported yesterday that WVU’s “move to the Big 12 will happen regardless of whether Missouri stays in the league or applies for membership in the SEC.”
10. That contradicts The New York Times story by Pete Thamel which claimed a “West Virginia official said the Big 12 would remain at 10 teams.” (The Big 12 has been pretty clear that 10 teams was its first goal and that 12 might be a possibility down the road. If it’s adding WVU now, that means it knows — as does the rest of the world — that Missouri is SEC-bound. The chances of anyone ever seeing a Big 12 featuring both Mizzou and WVU are extremely remote.)
Notre Dame News
And here’s where things get interesting. Orangebloods.com — which often puts out just what Texas officials want put out — started this ball rolling with its initial report on a possible Irish-Big 12 union. Several people have since picked it up and ran further with it…
11. Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman says Notre Dame joining the Big 12 as a part-time member is “probably a long shot” and that it would be “in many ways a dubious arrangement,” but it could save the league.
12. Lenn Robbins of The New York Post says that the Irish are weighing the Big Ten (full-time membership), the ACC (full-time membership) and the Big 12 (non-football membership).
13. Former Notre Dame AD and ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan — whose son coaches lacrosse at UND — believes the Irish and the ACC would be a perfect fit and that Notre Dame has to take full-time membership in a conference seriously at this point.
We’ll stop on 13 — coincidence? — and make just a couple more observations to conclude:
* Missouri’s exit and exit fees would be helped if West Virginia could extricate itself from the Big East. Ironically, both schools are all but set to move, are trying to negotiate their exits even as we speak, yet can’t really say that they’re on the move.
* Fair or not, Missouri is being viewed as a villain in all of this by some SEC fans (and media). Those who don’t understand all that’s involved with the Big 12′s legal threats, believe Mizzou is simply dragging its feet or somehow leveraging the SEC. I can guarantee you that SEC presidents are not about to be leveraged by Missouri.
* From a short-term, football-only perspective, the Big 12 will get more kudos than the SEC if expansion finally breaks as it appears to be breaking. TCU and West Virginia are viewed as a stronger combo — right now — than a Texas A&M/Missouri combo. Of course, conference realignment involves more than just drafting football teams. Compare the universities, their alumni bases, their television pull and the SEC is getting the better deal. But that won’t matter to the messageboard crowd.
* I keep seeing Big 12 fans ripping Missouri for trying to leave. Hopefully, these aren’t Texas, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State fans because all three of those schools have tried to escape the Big 12 in the past 20 months.
* Regarding Notre Dame — An entry into the Big 12 is a long shot and even it eventually comes to pass, it will have no impact on Missouri’s move to the SEC. Despite what’s being tossed around on Big 12 websites today.
We’ll have more as real news develops. Hopefully this breakdown condenses everything into a nice, neat, clear package for you.
And as we stated at the top, from speaking with our sources, we still believe it’s likely Missouri will find its way to the SEC for 2012.