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Major Conference Realignment Definitely/Maybe/Possibly On The Way

It started last week just as soon as spring practices wrapped up across the country (almost as if some folks needed stories that would drive ratings, call-ins, and pageviews… hmmm).  This week, word came that two of the remaining Big Five conferences had cut new television contracts worth billions of dollars.  But did that slow the expansion talk?  Not for many.

For those keeping score at home…

 

Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site that covers Texas — wrote yesterday that maybe, just possibly Florida State could consider a move to the Big 12.  Now, last week the same site reported that they’d been told by people at Clemson and Florida State that representatives from those schools had had no conversations with the Big 12 at all.  Yesterday’s piece didn’t conflict that.  Yet it’s still being passed around the internet as though there’s some breaking news involved.  Granted, they make a good case for all the reasons FSU might want to consider a move, but they don’t say the Seminoles are considering a move.

In fact, in another post from Chip Brown — the site’s administrator — Orangebloods refers to “the longshot scenario that Florida State would possibly leave the Atlantic Coast Conference.”  So while the site itself says it’s been told the parties haven’t actually talked and that such a move is a “longshot scenario,” it’s being passed along on other sites that a new gospel has been handed to us, written by Brown, stating that FSU is ditching the ACC for the Big 12.  Talk about seeing what you want to see and reading what you want to read.

Further, Orangbloods writes that FSU president Eric Barron “is seen as an academic who is not tied in closely with athletics and prizes FSU’s place in the academically strong ACC,” despite working for the University of Texas from 2006 through 2008.  In addition, the site says football coach Jimbo Fisher “is apparently opposed to leaving the ACC.”  Oh, and the site questions whether or not AD Randy Spetman — facing a budget shortfall — is in any postion to push his school into a new league.

Funny.  While Orangebloods is being tabbed as breaking some sort of news of an FSU move, in reality the site looks to be stating, “Hey, it’s possible, but there are a lot reasons to think it won’t happen.”

(Ironically, this is the exact same stance we’ve taken here, here, and here only to be clubbed over the head for it by Big 12 messageboarders.)

 

Another person being quoted by Big 12 fans is someone who refers to himself as “The Dude of WV.”  Yep, no name.  We just know the following from his tagline: “The Dude abides.  Truth seeker, philosopher, sPitt hater, and Mountaineer fan.”  Well that sounds like an objective point of view.  (Nevermind the unwillingness to sign his name to his work.)

At any rate, the Dude wrote last week that not only have their been talks between FSU, Clemson and the Big 12 — you listening, Orangebloods? — but that “both FSU and Clemson have reached a tentative agreement to leave the ACC for the Big 12.”  Well, hell, that’s strong as new rope, as we say Down South.

Yesterday, he provided an update that starts with this bit of homerism:

 

“The vast majority of media pundits and traditional journalists just can’t accept an ACC team would leave for the Big 12.  They offer a litany of reasons why any move would be a bad idea.  Yet switch ‘Big 12′ with ‘SEC’ and they all agree a move would be a great thing.”

 

No, grand sweeping generalizations there.  But, since the Dude chose to go there…

People would think an SEC move for Clemson and Florida would make more sense than a Big 12 move for three simple reasons:

 

1.  Those schools are already in the same region of the country which would make travel easier and cheaper.

2.  Those schools already have existing rivalries with SEC schools.

3.  The SEC is a more stable league than the Big 12.  We wrote earlier this week — though it was ignored by several Big 12′ers because it didn’t fit their “You hate the Big 12″ narrative — that the Big 12′s decision to extend its grant of rights is a terrific step for the league and goes along way toward stabilizing things inside that conference.  However, the SEC has no exit fees.  Think about that.  They’re so unworried about schools leaving that they don’t even have exit penalties in their handbook.  On the other hand, the Big 12′s granting of media rights is akin to a married couple saying, “Yeah, we trust each other, but we better handcuff ourselves together just in case.”

 

Those three points are facts.  We here at MrSEC.com cover the SEC, we don’t pull for, root for, or puff up the SEC.  Those three points aren’t homerism, they’re reality.

So is this: You know why Notre Dame is never mentioned in connection with the SEC?  Because that school would more likely align itself with a league better known for its academics, like the Big Ten or the ACC.  SEC fans won’t like to hear that and we’re sure to hear that by adding Missouri and Texas A&M Mike Slive’s league has now grown to four AAU schools total, more than the Big 12.  True.  But it’s still a fact that the ACC, Big Ten (and Pac-12, too) have better reputations academically than the SEC.

Notre Dame’s also a lot closer to the Big Ten and the Big 12 than it is to the SEC.  That doesn’t hurt us to say that because we… don’t… care.  We cover.  We give honest opinions unclouded by allegiance to a school (or hatred toward sPitt, for example).

But back to the Dude’s latest ultra-popular expansion piece…

Yesterday he wrote that FSU has already asked the Big 12 “to help with the ACC buyout and demanded a full share of Big 12 revenues from the start.  And they want Miami to join them.”  Further he adds: “Miami’s money problems are worse than FSU’s and FSU believes that travel in the new Big 12 East would not be that much of a burden with WVU, Clemson and Miami in the division.  Add Louisville or Maryland in there and travel is no longer an issue.”  And for a sweetener: “FSU really likes the spirit of cooperation they are getting from the Big 12.”

Yep, because when you think of the Big 12 in recent years, the words “spirit of cooperation” often come to mind.

So last week we had FSU and Clemson with tentative deals to jump leagues.  Now we have a Big 12 featuring Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, and Louisville or Maryland making up a new 14-school league.

Now that seems like a big jump in a week’s time, but that’s what’s been sent to my john@mrsec.com email account about 50 times since yesterday afternoon.  (Most of those emails also mention that Notre Dame will jump in as a non-football member of the league, too, to bring the total number of Big 12 schools to 15.)

That would be a helluva conference, no two ways about it.  Good football and basketball, mega-brands, a huge geographic footprint for recruiting and a big “electronic” footprint in terms of desirable television matchups.  And if the Dude’s nailed that one, we’ll be the first to tip our hat to him.

But doesn’t it seem that there would be a lot of hoops to jump through to make all of that happen?  And doesn’t it also seem odd that ESPN and Fox would cut new TV deals with the Big 12 if they thought all those moves — or any of those moves — were truly likely in the short-term?  Just saying.

 

That’s not all, of course.  Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com writes that Boise State might now be reconsidering its decision to join the Big East.  If so, they could get directions from TCU on how to leave a conference before ever entering it.

And Andy Katz of ESPN.com writes that according to his sources, Louisville AD Tom Jurich “told the Big East board of directors that the Cardinals want to be in the Big 12 or the ACC.”  But wait, there’s more.  ”Connecticut, meanwhile, states publicly that it wants to stay in the Big East, though a number of UConn sources have said privately that they want to be in the ACC with Notre Dame.”

Of course, they do.

 

While all the world appears to be spinning off into the Realignment Twilight Zone again, we’re sticking to the same points we’ve been making for a week:

 

1.  Any changes in conference affiliation aren’t likely to lead the SEC to expand anytime soon.  The smaller conferences — we’re looking at you, Big East — might be drawn and quartered like William Wallace, but the big boys probably aren’t going to be adding four to five teams, regardless of what anonymous writers with good taste in movies claim.  (Two thumbs up for “The Big Lebowski”)

2.  If the Big 12 expands, it will do so probably in hopes of getting back to 12 teams in order to add a conference championship game (which Big 12 officials have publicly stated isn’t an actual goal).  Louisville almost got in over West Virginia last year.  Katz’ news on Jurich and the Cardinals wanting to join the Big 12 or ACC is perfectly believable.  That’s why we’ve listed Louisville as the most likely school to join the Big 12… if invited.

3.  We’re still not convinced that adding a league championship game by grabbing Louisville and Cincinnati — the other school we’ve thought makes the most sense if a biggie can’t be grabbed — would add enough revenue to justify even adding two more schools.

4.  No one pays attention to academics, but academic budgets are far larger than athletic budgets.  Would a move by FSU increase or decrease its academic standing?  Would that in turn lead to more grants for research or less, more funding or less, more donations or less?  These things don’t matter as much to schools like Boise State and San Diego State who need to grab every penny — academic, athletic or otherwise — that they can find.  They do matter to Top 100 universities, their presidents and their donors.  Keep in mind, in the history of expansion the three most-respected leagues academically have never lost a single team to a conference with a lesser academic reputation.  Not the Pac-12.  Not the Big Ten.  Not the ACC.  Call that dumbluck or claim “there’s a first time for everything,” but to date, the schools most prideful of their academic standing have never stepped down the ladder.

5.  Even if the Big East disintegrates, it’s likely that each power league other than the SEC will scoop up a school or two.  Louisville and Cincinnati or Notre Dame to the Big 12.  Notre Dame or Rutgers to the Big Ten.  Notre Dame or UConn to the ACC.  None of those moves would force the 14-school SEC to react.

6.  While some continue to trumpet Virginia Tech and NC State as future members of the SEC – ignoring the fact that the majority of NCSU’s board is put in place by UNC’s board — we don’t see the SEC raiding the ACC.  In fact, if the SEC has a pal among the other Big Five leagues right now it appears to be John Swofford and his conference.  As 14-schools leagues, the SEC and ACC are fighting similar battles right now when it comes to the layout of a new playoff system (assuming the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents don’t blow that whole idea up).

 

Yesterday, we wrote that the ACC’s new television agreement should hush some of the rumors regarding ACC defections.  One commenter asked beneath our story, “What fans have you been talking to?”

The answer: None.  We don’t form our opinions and go on the record with those opinions based on what we read on messageboards.

Instead I’ve personally spoken to people inside two SEC athletic departments, two SEC administrations, two ACC administrations, and one high-ranking television executive (not with ESPN or Fox) in the past 24 hours.

Those seven phone calls and email conversations have led those of us at MrSEC.com to believe that what we’ve said all along is still true — expansion and realignment at the highest levels is slowing down, not speeding up.  Everyone seems to believe the Big East could crumble at any moment.  No one seems to believe FSU or Clemson will leave the ACC, despite the rumors which — to date — have not had a single quote attached to them.

So if you’re thinking FSU might land in the Big 12 North as the folks at WFOR-TV in Miami seem to, you might want to take a deep, deep breath.  Sure the Big 12 could be the Big 20 tomorrow.  Never say never.

But I think Big 12 fans and everyone else should pay attention to what Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis said regarding his league’s possible expansion:

 

“No, I don’t think there’s a consensus on it.  I think there are a lot of variables [and] a lot of factors that have to be considered.  Right now we have a lot of views on it, but they’re all subject, I think, to what we believe the future of college athletics will be and who might we ask to join.

I do think there’s a strong feeling in the conference for the round-robin nature of our schedules.  I know our athletic directors really like that [and] I think fans really like that.  So there would have to be a very good reason to abandon that.”

 

Money is a very good reason.  That said, it certainly sounds as though the Big 12 — like most other leagues out there — would rather catch its breath and see how its most recent changes play out before racing into more moves.

Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star seemed to agree with that sentiment while appearing on a West Virginia-based radio show this week:

 

“At least the league isn’t backpedaling and having to add schools to save its existence.  Now it adds schools to enhance its existence, if it decides to.  My gut is telling me is it has to be the right schools.  You don’t add for the sake of adding…

I threw out Florida State and Clemson only because those names have been popping up since February.  I had not written that in any story or blog, but I said ‘if we’re going to round up everybody, let’s include those two.’ 

Everybody that I’ve talked to in the Big 12 and at schools in the conference office tell me there have been no conversation between those schools and the Big 12.  But, that’s not to say back channeling hasn’t happened or various other ways that schools can communicate with conferences.”

 

True enough.  But again, with previous expansion moves there has always been some level of talk among the major players before a move took place — the Pac-12′s Larry Scott flying hither and yon to meet with various Big 12 school officials in 2010, SEC officials and Texas A&M officials chatting one another up in 2011, etc.

At some point, the big boys may start talking.  Until then, the “it’s coming and it’s coming fast and it’s ALMOST HERE!” crowd probably need to relax.

We could be wrong.  No doubt about it (even though we trust our sources because they’ve given us great information over the past four years).  But we don’t believe the Big 12 will be raiding the ACC and the Big East and grabbing Notre Dame in the next week or so.

We think a lot of this stuff just feeds on itself.  Remember, there was a time when the Pac-10 was definitely going to add Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor.  There was a time when the Big Ten was definitely going to add Missouri, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Connecticut.

So put your money on the hype if you like.  You might hit the jackpot.  We at MrSEC.com will be keeping our cash in pocket until we hear something just a bit more definite.

 

UPDATE — Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News writes: “…two sources indicated that Florida State’s name has not yet been mentioned in expansion talks among Big 12 athletic directors.  One source also wondered about the rumor’s resiliency and what it said about legitimate Florida State discontent.  And multiple sources listed Louisville as the most likely Big 12 possibility, given the wobbly Big East and the Cardinals’ runner-up status to West Virginia int he most recent expansion sweepstakes.”

 


20 comments
redscribe66
redscribe66

I am disappointed the SEC continues it's hate binge of WVU. The national press pointed out the Big 12 improved itself by taking WVU and TCU. WVU is happy to be in the Big 12 and brings the conference the Pittsburgh (24th), Washington DC (9th) and Charleston Huntington (64th) television markets.  WVU has a huge national following, a strong reputation with businesses all over the country and is the favored holiday team of the networks. Many rational and educated West Virginians,  like myself, appealed to the SEC to take us and they did not. Only John Adams of the Knoxville newspaper saw the value of taking WVU. Please SEC leave WVU and the Big 12 alone. If your not happy with Missouri, find another team to invite. The Big 12 is pretty balanced and lets all get along. Remember WVU is a small team that works hard, but Texas is a rich school with lots of resources. Again, lets all get along in this new football world

buddha22
buddha22

 @redscribe66 Praytell, who is unhappy with MIZZOU? Sorry you do not like hearing it, but WV < MU, it's not really close. Yes, you went to some BCS bowls during this BCS era, but do you really think MU playing in the Big Least this past decade wouldn't have eclipsed what you did? Or better yet, do you really believe WV would have done well vs Texas/OU during the past decade? Lastly, if you want to count Pittsburgh and DC, MU should also count Omaha, Des Moines, Chicago, Little Rock and Tulsa/OKC. C'mon, be realistic, in eyeballs, WV isn't even in the conversation.

mitchs3
mitchs3

Great article and summary. As noted, much of this FSU/Clemson B12 talk seems to start in WV, the place that was fairly begging for an SEC or ACC invite all last year. I believe the Dude himself pretty much pegged the time and date of the WVU SEC intro press conference several times. Insisted WVU would get in over MU.

 

These rumors may have some merit to them (perhaps not given later news of the day), they may be leverage balloons for FSU (this, I could believe), or they may be the jilted ramblings of a wacked out fan base mad they didn't get the offer they really wanted.  Just saying.

 

KansasBig12Pride
KansasBig12Pride

 @mitchs3 He was wrong on the SEC idea, but other than that, he has been right, 

 

I don't know if I quite agree that Clemson and FSU will come, but Chad Scott is the one I definitely don't believe. He predicted UConn and CUSE to go to the ACC. He said Pitt wasn't big enough to get invited. Then he said WVU was going to the ACC. He also said that Missouri would end up in the Big 1G and that aTm would stay in the Big 12 

MiloMoon
MiloMoon

I have had one theory, and wonder if ND and BYU combine to the 12th member. Here is my thinking. If there is conference championship requirement put in place to be part the playoff, then BYU will be looking for a conference to align. I doubt that the championship will be all championship requirement, there will be some at large selection. ND has the ability to "earn" an at large bid, BYU not so much. BYU joins the B12 in football only, and leaves their other sports in the WCC conference. It reduces travel and eliminates the playing on Sunday issue. ND may be looking for a conference to place their olympic sports since the Big East is becoming so watered down, and losing many name brand programs it might not be attractive to them any more. They combine to be the 12th member. ND gets to keep their independence in football. They could even have a scheduling agreement with the B12 for X number of games a year, and bowl tie ins. You would have 12 teams for easier scheduling in the major sports.

 

Just a thought.

KansasBig12Pride
KansasBig12Pride

 @MiloMoon Problem is, from what I've read, the Big12 isn't that open to part memberships. They are sorta favoring ALL or nothing. 

KansasBig12Pride
KansasBig12Pride

Main thing stopping Louisville is the fact they don't have a partner to come to the Big 12. The Big 12 doesn't think much of Cincinnati and ND won't move until they are forced to (which the BCS playoffs will probably force them to). I think John would agree, more expansion rumors, more moves will happen after that June 20th BCS meeting. The Big 12 is moving back to 12, but won't settle for schools like Cincy, and the BYU thing has fallen apart. The whole Sunday play has really crushed any chance that BYU has to the Big 12. 

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @KansasBig12Pride If the Big 12 needs a "12th" then I wonder about schools like Colorado St?  The Colorado market appears to still be growing and losing CU had to be a financial blow.  Or maybe South Florida?  USF is still a part of the wobbly Big East so we've already seen a desire for movement out of that league into the Big 12 with TCU. Travel is nothing new to them either and I doubt that the ACC or SEC would come calling for USF anytime soon for multiple reasons.  That would be the only realistic movement into the Florida market that I could see for the Big 12.

michael8349
michael8349

 @AllTideUp The Bulls making more money than FSU.  Wonder how that would go down in tallahassee.

 

michael8349
michael8349

 @AllTideUp  @KansasBig12Pride USF has been mentioned in some old articles as a possibility, but it is probably more like a Plan D option instead of A, B, or C.  The Big 12 wants to try for the big fish before they settle for some of the small fries. 

 

Anyway, they could always grab USF later if they want a presence in in the Sunshine State if FSU or Miami turns them down

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @KansasBig12Pride  I get what you're saying, but the quality of a football program is not always constant.  Wyoming, for example, will probably always suck, but FSU used to be a team everyone scheduled for Homecoming.  Ole Miss used to compete for national titles back in the 60s, but they have been lucky to win 8 games the past 30 years or so.  These things are cyclical and can change in a relatively short period of time depending on the circumstances.  USF has a lot going for them and a bigger stage in a league like the Big 12 could help them develop into an FSU-like program.For the Big 12, I don't think any traditionally strong football programs are on the horizon for them if today's circumstances don't change drastically.  They need to think about revenue producers.

KansasBig12Pride
KansasBig12Pride

 @michael8349  @AllTideUp Once again, The Big 12 won't expand unless they can get decent Football schools

 

USF and Colorado State are horrible football schools and add nothing for the Big 12. They won't expand small. 

 

The Big 12 would have already grabbed Louisville and one of those schools if they were seriously wanting a school like that. 

 

The reason they haven't is because they want decent schools, not crap shoots.

J
J

Train A with actual reporting and the truth is traveling North @ 50 MPH.  Train B with Chip Brown is traveling south @ 590 MPH.  How far from the truth is Chip Brown?

Brad
Brad like.author.displayName 1 Like

As someone who lives in Austin and listens to Chip Brown's radio show most mornings (lesser of two evils), I can speak with pretty high authority that the guy is an idiot.  Basic recap of every show:  Texas can do no wrong, everyone loves the Big 12, kumbaya, Aggies are scared, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Wash, rinse, repeat every day with an occasional Josh Hamilton love affair thrown in.

aggiecpa
aggiecpa like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The only schools interested in playing in a conference with Texas are the schools that look at the Big 12 as a significant upgrade over their other options, with OU being the only exception to that rule. The Texas Network is the latest long line in the Texas theory that what's best for Texas always comes before the other conference members. The Aggies, Arkansas, Mizzou, Colorado and Nebraska all left the conference because of the inequality. It's really sad because the conference used to be so strong but look at it now, K State or Okie State vie for #3 in front of a group of dreadful teams with small fan bases. OU's home schedule this year includes Notre Dame and that's it. Not one team outside of Texas has mustered 20 wins against OU all time, Baylor won for the first time in almost 20 games last year. No Nebraska, No Colorado, no Mizzou, no aTm and now someone says that Clemson and Florida State are leaving the ACC that now boasts Syracuse and the Manhattan New York market for Manhattan, Kansas? Not hardly. The Big 12 has more in common with the Big East and the Mountain West than they do with the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. They are going to get passed by the Pac-10 soon.  

MiloMoon
MiloMoon

I think the delay regarding the B12 and L'ville is who is the #12 team. As much as Cincy gets tossed out there, I just cannot see it happening. They do not bring hardly any of the marketplace, and a marketplace as you have mentioned that is shrinking. They have trouble filling their 35k seat stadium that is in poor shape in need of repairs. The Athletic dept has had issues raising the funds to build basic items needed to support major programs like practice facilities and such. I think first that the B12 is talking with BYU. That would make the most sense to combine with L'ville money wise. It would also give the north division two major programs that have built themselves up without tying themselves to TX for recruiting. If I was the B12 and HAD to expand, and could not get BYU or ND to pair with L'ville, I would pick Memphis. One they have a larger stadium (though in need of repair), A top level basketball program. Actually has market presence in their metro and TV markets. Memphis and the surrounding 4 state region produces a lot of athletes, and most important - it would plant the B12 flag right into one of the core SEC areas.

buddha22
buddha22

MiloMoon, I disagree about Memphis, not that they don't have some BB cache, but as we know, football is the revenue maker. Also, I think Louisville is a big reach, old senate friends or not with Boren. If B12 is set on expansion and if new commish doesn't know where there may be some weakness between AZ and ASU and the P12, looking to a USF and the Florida market may not be too crazy. It appears FSU was a flight of fancy, but I have not heard any complaints coming from Clemson about being included in a move to the B12. Once they reached for WV, reaching Clemson and USF makes more sense from a recruiting and tv households point of view. However, as Texas and Dodds go, so goes the B12, new commish or not. From what we're hearing in this old B12, newly minted SEC territory, Texas doesn't want a Conf Championship game and if they go to 12 they will need the $$$ from it to keep the per school amount where it is now with 10. If I was laying down a bet, I'd say status quo for now.



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