Call me crazy but I can see a scenario where Notre Dame joins the Big East with all sports. This gives them similar power in a conference with a BCS AQ and Texas like power over the conference. I just cannot see Notre Dame tying itself to Texas especially when Nebraska and Oklahoma both wanted to get away from it. Big East can schedule regular season games agains ACC teams in nice media markets. They can team with Pac12 and B1G to vote in a six team playoff with byes for the top two seeds into the semi-finals. This provides decent money for the Big East and ACC. Plus both leagues would be dominate in basketball. Makes lots of sense to me for Notre Dame. It helps keep them quasi independent as Texas is in Big 12. Saves Big East and ACC. There are no reasons for FSU or Clemson to move to Bi 12 and tie themselves up that way with Texas. This also gives Notre Dame/Big East a coast to coast, mountain to Florida electronic footprint; much more valuable than anything the Big 12 offers.
Needing a quick fix of Expansionpalooza 2012? Of course you do.
* Yesterday, TCU AD Chris Del Conte put his foot in his mouth while speaking to a group of Horned Frog boosters and to KTTU-FM in Lubbock. After saying, “Clemson, Miami, Florida State, they all want in the Big 12,” he backtracked in the afternoon. He claimed he was only talking about internet rumors, not confirming them.
* In response, ACC commissioner John Swofford told Nashville radio station WGFX-FM that he would be susprised if Clemson, Miami and Florida State were trying to enter the Big 12. ”I base that on talking to their presidents and their AD’s who have told me that there have been absolutely no contact or conversation with the Big 12. The Big 12 commissioner told me the same thing yesterday. So, yes I find those comments, (chuckling) just one more rumor.”
* Well, today Clemson’s board of trustees are getting together to hold “an informational meeting to discuss conference expansion and realignment.” That’s usually the first step before a school informs a league that it is weighing its options… which usually leads to the school leaving said conference. However, it should be noted the Florida State trustee Andy Haggard said last year that his school was forming an expansion committee, but nothing came of that one. (At least not yet.)
* Orangebloods.com — the Rivals.com site covering Texas — reports today (you’ve got to buy a subscription if you want to read it) that “there is a sense in the Big 12 right now that if some schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference want out of the ACC and into the Big 12 such as Florida State, Clemson or Georgia Tech, there is going to be enough momentum to add two of those while still trying to lure Notre Dame’s non-football sports to the Big 12.” Before hollering that Orangebloods is just a PR wing for Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, remember that Texas and Dodds want the Big 12 to remain a 10-school league. According to Orangebloods’ Chip Brown, it sounds like UT could be overruled.
* Finally, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News writes that the Big 12 — left for dead less than a year ago — “now holds all the cards” in determining whether or not a chain reaction of conference shuffling begins again. He also believes the SEC will chase Virginia Tech and North Carolina if the ACC goes bye-bye.
Having provided you with all those notes, quotes, rumors and reports, let us now share with you 15 reasons not to put too much stock in any of them. And these are the same 15 reasons we at MrSEC.com have come to be leery of any expansion-related gossip:
1. School presidents — The top dog at any school will want what’s best for his college athletically, academically and financially. He’s the official voice of the school. Any comment from one of these guys will likely be aimed at making sure his school doesn’t look like it’s just Jock U.
2. Trustees — While the president is the face of a school, he gets his power from the board of trustees. And trustees can be very easily influenced these days. Boards often include a school’s richest booster. They can include ex-athletes (Derrick Brooks served as an FSU trustee until recently). They can include some loose-lipped, reactionary folks who care more about football wins than the long-term good of their school as a whole. And they can include some pointy-heads who could give a flip about sports. They’re basically loose cannons and no one can know who’ll talk or what they’ll say next.
3. Athletic Boosters — These are the folks who can influence trustees. Their checks to a school’s athletic department help pay the bills and fund new facilities. They truly care more about football (or basketball at some schools) than educational rankings and membership in the exclusive AAU.
4. School Donors — The yin to the boosters’ yang, these folks can also exert pressure on board members. It’s their checks that pay for new libraries, new academic programs, and new classrooms. For this bunch, athletics is just a small part of what a university truly is.
5. Everyday Fans — Through the power of social media and their own wallets, Joe Grad and Steve Sidewalk-Alum now have more influence than ever before. They can shape opinions, spin tall tales, and stir up enough passion to influence boosters and trustees.
6. Athletic Directors — Talk about patsies. Folks like Bill Byrne at Texas A&M — a respected, experienced AD — can give a recommendation to the president and the board. They can give “all is well” quotes to the press. But in the end, they’re at the mercy of everyone else’s views and they have very little voice in what really occurs. And in Byrne’s case, they can be tossed out of office if they disagree too loudly with the school’s chosen direction.
7. Media Members – Like the everyday fans, they too can shape opinions. From talking heads on radio and TV to traditional columnists to internet bloggers, media members can help calm or enrage a fan base, boosters, and trustees to the point of taking action… or standing pat.
8. Network Executives — These are some true power brokers. When the ACC announced the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh last year, Boston College’s athletic director slipped and said that ESPN had “told them what to do.” And then ESPN turned around and gave the ACC a longer, but not much richer contract anyway. When the Big 12 was taking on water last year, it was ESPN and Fox that stepped in and provided cash to fill the cracks in the boat. Power, power, power.
9. Conference Commissioners — The tit to the network executives’ tat. These men sit at the opposite end of the negotiating table trying to squeeze every dime possible from television. Tradition, travel, scheduling… all are weighed by conference commissioners, but ultimately they act based upon dollars and cents. Ironically, they answer to the presidents of their member institutions. So just as presidents are influenced by trustees who are influenced by boosters, donors and everyday fans, commissioners also find themselves sometimes caught up in a mess they never intended to create.
10. Bowl Executives — For years, these power brokers provided big money to schools and conferences. Now the dynamic is changing. As TV dollars have gone up, the leagues don’t need the bowls as much as they used to (and they’re currently letting them know it). While most conferences want the bowls protected in some form or fashion, the SEC and Big 12 have already shown that the day could come when leagues just handle things themselves. So how do bowls impact expansion/realignment? Schools know which leagues have the most bowl tie-ins and biggest bowl revenues and those are the leagues they long to join.
11. City Tourism Boards — These civic leaders are going to become a bigger factor in college sports moving forward. Whether it’s a site for a new bowl game or the site for college football’s national championship game, it now appears that more and more games will be put up for bid. The cities willing to cough up the most cash will come to dominate. Shoot, Jerry Jones has become a one-man tourism board for Arlington, Texas thanks to his own checkbook and Cowboys Stadium.
12. Lawyers — Whenever there’s a possibility of schools leaving conferences, attorneys will be brought into the game. One conference will pay its lawyers to say a rival conference contacted its schools first. That rival conference will pay its attorneys to say, “nuh-uh, those schools called our client.” At that point, the negotiations begin on exit fees.
13. Politicians — Whether it’s the legitimacy of the BCS or which school goes where, politicians eventually find their way into these battles at some point. Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell almost pushed Louisville into the Big 12 last fall by dialing up University of Oklahoma president David Boren — a former senator himself. Eventually, West Virginia politicians got involved, too, and WVU wound up getting its Big 12 invite after all (while Louisville stayed in the Big East).
14. Spin — Every one of the 13 parties mentioned above have some stake in expansion and realignment and the changing landcape of college football. One’s stake is almost always opposite of someone else’s stake. So anything they say, write, let slip, or leak to the press is said for a reason. There’s an angle being played. Whether it’s a president saying all the right things about his school, a board member sounding a warning shot to his school’s conference, or a conference commissioner trying to fend off lawsuits by convincing everyone he’s not actually talking to any new schools… no one should be trusted. They all have an agenda.
15. Speculation — Finally it comes back to media. Everyone is looking for a scoop. Depending on their schooling and scruples, some will report only that which can be confirmed by multiple sources. Others will literally make stuff up in hopes that their wild dart might somehow actually hit a bullseye. If a radio show or website can swing for the fences and actually hit a home run, it can turn said show or site into an overnight success (see: Orangebloods.com).
So when when you’re scanning Twitter for the latest comment or quote from someone — anyone — who might have some tie to the realignment game, just remember that most everyone has some dog in the hunt.
We ourselves have learned that (and are a part of that, though we try to do things the old-fashioned, “right” way).
We remember when the Pac-16 was a done deal and the Big Ten was guaranteed to be going after Missouri, Notre Dame, Rutgers and UConn.
Spin. Speculation. Dozens of people with dozens of agendas.
Be sure to read accordingly.
(Oh, and did you notice the one group we didn’t include above? Yep, the NCAA. It should be clear to everyone by now that Mark Emmert and the NCAA have absolutely zero power when it comes to conference expansion and realignment. Zero.)