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Don’t Like The Idea Of 20-Team Conferences? Don’t Worry, They Won’t Last Long

hello i am history cartoonWhen Ohio State president Gordon Gee admitted last month that there seems to be “movement towards three or four super-conferences that are made up of 16-20 teams,” he was stating what many already suspected.  While some may envision a sporting landscape that includes four conferences of 16 schools each, there’s absolutely no reason to believe leagues will stop growing when they hit that imaginary ceiling.  If a conference believes there’s more money to be made with 17, 18, 19, 20 or more schools, you can be sure that conference will expand accordingly.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen as much movement, as much shuffling as the college sports world has ever known.  A chart of this evolution would show a slow rise from ape to man from the early 1900s to the 2000s… and then a huge leap forward to a man with both gills and wings in the 2010s.  For the geeks out there, consider these the X-conferences.  And the mutants are taking over.

Here’s a look at what’s transpired since 2010:

 

* The ACC has lined up Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville, but it’s lost Maryland.

* The Big Ten has added Nebraska and it’s scheduled to add Maryland and Rutgers.

* The Big XII has added TCU and West Virginia, but it’s lost Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri.

* The Pac-12 has added Colorado and Utah.

* The SEC has added Texas A&M and Missouri

* The Big East, well, that list is too long to mention.  Ditto those poor, poor leagues smaller than the Big East.

 

With the exception of the Big XII and the revolving door that is the Big East, the biggest conferences have been getting even bigger.  Money is the obvious motivation.  Conferences are adding schools so they can make more television dollars off an increased amount of content (games).  Schools are switching conferences in order to find a better pay day.

But if history is a guide, don’t expect any super-conferences currently on the horizon to stick together for too long.  Contracts, grant-of-rights agreements, and exit fees be damned… those leagues expanding to 18, 20, or more schools will eventually splinter right back apart.

Here’s why:

 

1. A Lack of Solidarity

The most stable conferences today — the Big Ten, the Pac-12, and the SEC — have long embodied the “all for one, one for all” motto attributed to the “Three Musketeers” by writer Alexandre Dumas.  Less stable conferences have been hurt by internal conflicts (the ACC) and power struggles (the Big XII).

In the Atlantic Coast Conference, it is claimed there is a rift between the league’s few “football schools” and their basketball-loving brethren.  There have also been rumblings that some schools located outside of North Carolina believe those schools located inside the state are looked upon more favorably by John Swofford and his Greensboro-based league office.

In the Big XII, Texas — and to some extent Oklahoma — have long held more sway with the Big XII office than their rivals.  Heck, the league office itself moved from Kansas City to the Dallas area in 1996 when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor merged with the old Big Eight.  Since then, no Big XII school has done more flirting with other conferences than Texas.  And it was Texas that kickstarted its own Longhorn Network and drove a final wedge between itself and several other ex-Big XII schools.

Even the league’s attempt to glue itself back together was nearly hijacked by a rogue institution.  A call from Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma, led to a late, unsuccessful bid by Louisville to sneak into the Big XII ahead of West Virginia.

All the while, the schools of the Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC spent much of their time yielding to the common good of their conferences.  Whether there’s debate over a scheduling issue or a revenue-sharing plan, backstage battles rarely fall under the spotlight.  Those three leagues handle their disagreements internally, peacefully, and then their schools march lockstep forward.

Take for example the SEC’s attempt to limit the amount of oversigning its schools can do.  When the league’s presidents overruled their football coaches and implemented a soft cap on football signees two yeas ago, Mike Slive let everyone know — even those who were against the move — that once their voices were heard, the final vote on the matter would be unanimous.  There was a debate.  And then the final vote tally was 12 yays, zero nays.

But Slive was dealing with a group of just 12 presidents.

How easy will it be for mega-leagues to keep 18 or 20 presidents on the same page?  The ACC, Big XII, Big East and others have shown that it’s awfully difficult to keep just 10 or 12 people singing from the same hymn sheet.  And no one in the SEC knows exactly how easy it will be for Slive to keep 14 presidents representing 14 different schools with 14 different agendas in line for the long haul.

So good luck to those conferences that end up needing to hold their spring meetings in an aircraft hangar.  The bigger the group, the harder it will to maintain unity.

 

2.  Class warfare

The haves and the have-nots.  The proletariat and the bourgeoisie.  It’s Karl Marx meets college athletics.

Not everyone in a given league will have equal funds.  Even in a league like the SEC where television revenue is split equally, there will always be high-earners and low-earners.  Once the SEC kicks off its new television network and acquires all or most of its schools’ Tier 3 broadcast rights, there will still be high-earners and low-earners.

Some schools simply spend more on athletics than others.  Those schools tend to earn more revenue in return.

Currently, the Alabama football program inhabits the same league as the Mississippi State football program.  Yet Bama has a stadium that seats 100,000.  MSU is expanding its stadium to finally top the 60,000-seat mark by 2014.  In gameday revenue alone Alabama nearly doubles what Mississippi State can make on a given Saturday.  Now multiply that number by seven or eight Saturdays.  Throw in merchandise sales, donations from boosters and the like and it’s easy to understand how Alabama brought in $124 million in athletic revenue in 2011-12… while State pulled in just $54 million.

These issues have led schools like Maryland to seek more cash in new leagues.  But how long before Maryland tires of being one of the poorest athletic departments in the Big Ten?  And it’s one thing for a Maryland, an MSU, an Ole Miss, or another financially-handicapped program to swim in a 12-school pond.  Who knows what life will be like in a 14-school lake?  Or in an 18- or 20-school ocean?  If you’re the runt of a 12-team league that’s one thing.  It’s quite another to be at the bottom of a 20-team league, outspent by your 19 rivals.

If you think most schools of the Big XII are jealous of Texas and Oklahoma now, just wait and see how schools like Iowa State and Texas Tech will feel if more big-money programs land on top of them in a new wave of expansion.

 

3.  Outside Influences

In October of 2011, shortly after the ACC had announced it would raid the Big East for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo put his foot squarely in his mouth.  “We always keep our television partners close to us,” he said.  “You don’t get extra money for basketball.  It’s 85% football money.  TV — ESPN — is the one who told us what to do.  This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.”

DeFilippo quickly backtracked and said that he’d spoken “inappropriately and erroneously regarding ESPN’s role in conference expansion.”  BC’s AD retired last September, but his words live on.

Make no mistake, all the major conferences are speaking with their television partners, potential television partners, and advisers who used to work for those television entities as they try to figure out which realignment moves to make next.  With ESPN serving as a partner to so many, it must make for some interesting wheeling and dealing in Bristol, Connecticut.

For now, leagues are bulking up their rosters of schools in order to grab more cash from TV.  If a 20-team league is formed, you’ll basically have what would amount to two old 10-team leagues partnering up under one roof.  Together, 20 schools have more content to sell and — if that content is good — those schools will have more bargaining power than two of the old-style 10-team leagues would have on their own.

But that’s now.  What about the future?

If we’ve learned anything since the College Football Association went to court with the NCAA and won schools their own broadcast rights in 1984, it’s that the landscape is ever-changing.  Over the past 30 years we’ve seen hundreds of more channels spring up.  ESPN is now a multi-channel empire.  Mergers and acquisitions (like ABC/ESPN and Comcast/NBC) have impacted the marketplace.  The Turner networks now own a large chunk of the NCAA basketball tournament.  Millions of Americans now receive their television signals via home satellite systems.  Schools like Texas and BYU have own networks.  Conferences have their own networks.  Notre Dame’s home football schedule is aired on NBC.

Change, change, change.

So what the devile will the media universe look like in 2023?  Already people are watching games via the internet or even on their smart phones.  In 1984, TV on a handheld mobile phone would have seemed just a half-step shy of “Star Trek.”  And most people would have asked, “What’s an internet?”

Schools and conferences today are making decisions based on current technology, but technology has never evolved more quickly in human history than it is right now.  And what content-provider — be it a television network, an internet company, or something we haven’t even dreamed up yet — will be trying to create a foothold for itself ten or 20 years from now by getting in on the college sports industry?

It’s not only possible that new media entities might try to bust up a few conferences, it’s probable.  “Come with us, dump the losers in your league, and we can make you even more money!”  Television is pulling some of the strings today.  There’s no telling what will be pulling strings — and paying billions of dollars for the right to do so — tomorrow.

 

4.  History

In 1894, a chemistry professor at Vanderbilt helped found an organization called the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association.  That forerunner of the modern conference began with seven member institutions — Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Sewanee, and Vandy.  A year later, Clemson, Cumberland, Kentucky, LSU, Mercer, Mississippi State (then known as Mississippi A&M), Ole Miss, the University of Nashville, Rhodes College (then known as Southwestern Presbyterian), Tennessee, Texas, and Tulane joined in on the fun.

By 1921, the SIAA had grown into a 30-school monstrosity.  So 14 of those SIAA schools met in Atlanta on February 21st of that year to discuss setting up a new, smaller conference.  Part of the reason — schools wanted to play their conference rivals more often, which was impossible in a 30-team league.  Also, the SIAA’s presidents couldn’t agree on freshman eligibility or whether or not athletes should be allowed to make money playing summer baseball.  (Re-read Reason #1 above.)

In the fall of ’21, the Southern Conference kicked off on the football field with 14 members (Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee).  But once again, school leaders voted again and again to expand.  By 1928, the Southern Conference was up to 23 members, including Duke, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Sewanee, South Carolina, Tulane, Vanderbilt, and the Virginia Military Institute.

Wanna guess what happened next?  Yep, in 1932, at a meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, 13 Southern Conference schools announced they would be leaving to form a smaller conference.  The 13-school Southeastern Conference was born.  Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt were the original members.  By 1966, Georgia Tech, Sewanee, and Tulane had left, leaving a 10-team SEC in play until 1992.

As the SEC put down roots, the enormous Southern Conference continued to shed schools like a tree losing its leaves.  Seven members left in 1936.  Then the eight-team ACC was formed from former SoCon schools in 1953.  That split was precipitated by a debate over whether Southern Conference schools should lift a ban on postseason play.  (Did we mention Reason #1 above?)

 

You see, many of the same schools expected to end up in a super-conference by 2014 or 2015 have already experienced life in such enormous amalgamations.  No one at those institutions seems to remember that because those primordial behemoths were relatively short-lived.  Schools would form conferences.  Those conferences would grow.  Internal rifts would form.  Schools would break away to form smaller leagues.

Life is easier when you’re partnered with a smaller group of like-minded people.  And today’s presidents will eventually learn that lesson just as their predecessors learned it between 1894 and 1953.

So if you don’t like the idea of 16-, 18-, and 20-team conferences, just be patient.  For as surely as we’re about to see a few of those super-conferences emerge, we’re just as sure to someday see them break apart again.

You’ve now seen the reasons why we believe that will happen.  Here’s guessing philosopher George Santayana would ask you to pay special attention to Reason #4 on our list.  After all, it was Santayana who wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

 


75 comments
Roggespierre
Roggespierre

It looks like ESPN is going to pick up its option to match the bargain basement deal that the New Big East struck with NBC Sports.  This is not surprising - it's cheap content.  I look anticipate lots of SMU, Tulane and East Carolina on Friday nights.  http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/8972975/big-east-conference-espn-finalizing-7-year-130-million-media-deal

 

The important question is what this means, if anything, with regards to the ACC.  Is ESPN less inclined to help the conference stay whole?  Does this deal matter at all?

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

So, what does this mean......that we should not go past 16 teams.....or is 18 the extreme max?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

The primary goal should be the long term stability and profitability of the SEC.  If that means NC State and Virginia Tech then that's the smart move to make.  Regardless of what preferences any of us may have when it comes to basketball or markets, if any of those schools upset the apple cart then the move won't have been worth it.  NC State and VT are great additions.  I wouldn't be disappointed at all with them.

frug
frug

 @23451bum

"... when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor merged with the old Big Eight." False. Both conferences ceased to exist when the Big 12 began. Conference records don't predate the start of the conference in 1997, which wouldn't be the case if it was in fact a "merger"

Actually you are both right.  The Big XII began as an expansion of the Big 8 with all four Texas schools (starting with Baylor) applying to, and being accepted by, the Big 8.  It wasn't until the first conference meeting the schools voted 11-1 (Nebraska was the holdout) to reject the Big 8 history and establish a new conference.

 

(PS.  For some reason I can't respond directly to your comment so I had to make a new post)

KurtJohn1
KurtJohn1

You sound like one of those crazy liberals that believes the pie is only so big and if Alabama takes a bigger piece than Miss State can't get more... I would throw a few names and question your intelligence, but you are making a better case for why Miss State needs to grow their fan base and increase their stadium.  They can use some of that shared revenue from the SEC tv contract to build a better game day experience.

 

The merging of the conferences is similar to the AFL and NFL merging into the NFL today.  Sure the Buffalo Bills don't make a lot of game day money compared to the Dallas Cowboys, but that shared TV revenue allows them to continue to innovate to try an improve their situation (like more games in Toronto for the Bills or more Neutral site games for Miss State or any other "have not")

23451bum
23451bum

Thanks for repeating the NU and aTm revisionist history. Let's start with a few factual errors: 1. "... when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor merged with the old Big Eight." False. Both conferences ceased to exist when the Big 12 began. Conference records don't predate the start of the conference in 1997, which wouldn't be the case if it was in fact a "merger" 2. "Since then, no Big XII school has done more flirting with other conferences than Texas." False. The entire Big 12 instability began with Missouri's flirtations with the B1G in 2009. That was an unrequited love dating back to '93. It must really hurt to know that the SEC was MU's far distant second choice. You are also ignoring OU's complete willingness to accept a PAC 12 offer - which was ever offered when UT refused to leave the B12. This was in addition to the reported 2010 SEC offer to OU. So 'splain to me how UT wins the flirting title? 3. "Heck, the league office itself moved from Kansas City to the Dallas area in 1996..." Since there wasn't a merger, the office didn't "move". Seven cities were considered. The city with the most Fortune 500 HQs, with the most non-stop flights - including to within 75 miles of EVERY member school - was selected. Not choosing Dallas would be like choosing Hattiesburg over Atlanta if the SEC ever chose to move their HQ. 4. "... its own Longhorn Network and drove a final wedge between itself and several other ex-Big XII schools". Make that exactly one - the newest SEC members. First, the LHN post dated the departures of CU and NU. What eventually became the LHN was offered to be equally shared with aTm for exposure for non-revenue sports. The aTm athletic department, then running so deep in the red they had to borrow money from the university, passed. Frankly, I think even UT was shocked over the ESPN offer. But that money was just another reminder to aTm that once again, they were little brother. And that reminder, and the potential of seeing the LHN every time they scrolled through the program guide, was just more than they could stand. Did they make a good move? Too early to tell. Get back to us in ten years. You have a great blog. You don't have to draw your analysis from dubious facts.

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

I agree, John. Marriages of convenience remain amicable so long as the union remains convenient. And not a minute longer.

frug
frug

<i>If you think most schools of the Big XII are jealous of Texas and Oklahoma now, just wait and see how schools like Iowa State and Texas Tech will feel if more big-money programs land on top of them in a new wave of expansion.</i>

 

Are you really suggesting that TTU and ISU would leave the Big XII? Does anyone really believe being the richest schools in C-USA is better than being the poorest in the Big XII:?

JRsec
JRsec

I'm not saying never again, but I am saying it will not happen for a few decades.  Those that breakaway into the super conferences will eventually form a league or association.  This time divisions will be formed that will be regional.  The cut in overhead and the profits will keep them together for sometime.  The paradigm shift will be large enough that a new overarching culture will be formed.  It will take time for that culture to deteriorate, especially in an era of economic uncertainty.

DanHogan
DanHogan

 @Roggespierre The assumption is that the ACC is not ready for them yet.  It sounds like they explored that back when the C7 news first broke and it wasn't possible then.

DanHogan
DanHogan

 @Roggespierre I actually hope that the nBE gives this contract to NBC.  The BE does deserve some level of coverage without being totally washed to the side by the big 5.  And if the BE is able to pick up Army, they'd be able to maintain the coverage to the Army/Navy game and all of the stuff that goes around it.  On the flip side, it provides just a little more competition to the WWL for the sheer volume of sports coverage.  That, and there will finally be some other coverage on NBC other than Notre Dame.  Maybe, some day, they'll finally be forced into a 3:30 timeslot like the rest of us are. 

JRsec
JRsec

 @Roggespierre It does matter.  I would speculate that it means that they are more likely to keep the ACC whole, but that furthermore, should the ACC expand to 16 or more schools to try to stabilize further I would look for those additions to come from the Big 12.  ESPN will be much less inclined to pay more for Cincinnati and Connecticut in the ACC when they own them for a song in the nBE.  

 

In my estimation the real sticking point for the Big 12 dissolution is litigation happy Baylor and T.C.U..  No conference is better structured to handle those two schools than the ACC.  

 

If I'm ESPN I might broker a cooperation between the SEC and ACC in expanding with Big 12 schools.  If the ACC would thin its footprint by allowing Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to move to the SEC without penalty then the ACC could expand with Baylor, T.C.U., Texas, one of Oklahoma/Kansas, one of Oklahoma State/Kansas State, and Iowa State.

The SEC could take Texas Tech, one of Oklahoma/Kansas, one of Kansas State/Oklahoma State, and West Virginia.

 

With only one exception (one of Kansas State/Oklahoma State) the ACC will gain academic strength and add 4 states to their market footprint without losing any.  The SEC will add 5 states to their market footprint without losing any.  The ACC would be at 18 plus Notre Dame.  The SEC would be at 20.  And more importantly ESPN would now have solid control over 39 teams in two super conferences plus the Big East inventory for midweek games.  FOX would have the Big 10 and part of the PAC.  Plus if the ACC had Texas teams they might find an even easier way to get to 18 plus 2 partials by taking B.Y.U..  Just thinking out loud. 

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @Roggespierre 

Interesting stuff.  The Big East really blew it a couple of years ago when they rejected ESPN's original contract.  That league has paid for it ever since.  I also find it interesting that the length of the deal is smaller than the typical contracts out there.  Either ESPN feels there will be more movement and is reticent to commit to the BE for any longer than 7 years OR they anticipate some sort of ACC/BE merger and just want to keep the BE contract in the fold in order to make future negotiations easier.  That would be my take.  

 

The article also stated that ESPN's deal on the SEC Network should be completed in the coming weeks.  Hopefully, we'll get some concrete numbers pretty soon.

JRsec
JRsec

 @AllTideUp Stability and profitability might have to come from the West if ESPN decides that they can't afford to lose that product to the East.  Still the smartest move for the ACC would be to cut N.C. State and Virginia Tech loose to the SEC and then partner with the SEC to take in the Big 12.  The SEC could take either Kansas or Oklahoma, and Kansas State or Oklahoma State while the ACC took the other.  The SEC could take West Virginia and their choice of Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, or T.C.U. and the ACC could take Texas and the remainder.  4 teams puts the SEC (with Virginia Tech and N.C.State at 20.  By letting N.C. State and Virginia Tech go the ACC can take 4 new states with 6 teams from the Big 12.  They would then have their choice of Connecticut or Cincinnati if N.D. could be persuaded to join fully to make 20.  They need Texas to prop up their television contract and ESPN I'm sure would like to own the Horns outright.  With K.State, Texas, T.C.U., Texas Tech and Oklahoma State the football credentials of the ACC would go way up and a potential network arrangement could be worked out more equitably with the SEC.  The cross conference rival weekends would be tremendous.

 

It's a network war right now and this kind of move would seriously improve ESPN's position.  Just food for thought.

23451bum
23451bum

@frug From Wikipedia "Although at the time of its formation the Big 12 was composed of the old Big Eight plus the four Texas schools, it regards itself as a separate conference, not an expanded Big Eight, and as such does not claim the Big Eight's history as its own." Only because the Big 8 joined in toto does this "merger" myth survive. It was the first TV driven realignment move because the old Big 8 schools recognized that the #21, 31 and 45 TV markets didn't have the negotiating power you have with the #5, 10, and 37 markets added to the mix. Those markets were the Texas schools' negotiating power and why they didn't have to "join" the Big 8. As events have proven, the Texas schools brought more if what matters than number of members.

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

 @KurtJohn1 And you sound like one of those crazy zealots of the extreme right and left (both sides have them) who read only what they want to read and ignore context. No one's arguing that income should be artificially leveled anywhere. He's pointing out that organizations will do the same things individuals do in free markets: exercise ambition and seek greener pastures. Texas AM did it. Was that crazy liberalism at work? (Actually, it was. John Locke would have approved).

TigerinMO
TigerinMO

 @23451bum This is complete fiction regarding Missouri. The president of Texas A&M said PUBLICLY that Texass' flirtation with the Pac 12 predated Missouri's discussions with the B1G. Missouri is often used as the whipping boy in this for one simple reason: Texass is arrogant as heck and thought that Missouri would NEVER leave the Big 12 because no other conference wanted it. How wrong Texass was. Instead, Missouri was courted as a B1G member (albeit with JUNIOR status and reduced revenue, a bad deal that Nebraska accepted when Missouri balked). Texass was stunned when the SEC took Missouri along with A&M. Texass never thought that would happen. Because of Texass' misjudgment, the Big 12 lost what was far and away its second largest media market (Missouri) after the state of Texas. So the B12 ended up losing its second largest media market (Missouri), its third largest media market (Colorado), allowed the SEC to get a major foothold within its largest media market (Texas A&M in Texas) and lost is second or third largest major national brand (Nebraska, second to Texas and perhaps Oklahoma). What did the Big 12 "gain" back with its expansion? TCU, which brings NOTHING, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, to the TV footprint, and West Freakin' Virginia, a tiny, distant market. Big 12 people don't want to admit it, but so far that conference has lost tremendous ground in realm of eyeballs for TV.  And that, my friends, is what conference realignment is all about

TigerinMO
TigerinMO

 @frug They wouldn't leave the B12 for CUSA. That's absolutely correct. However, Kansas and Iowa State, both AAU members, are prospects for the B1G if it continues to grow. You can bet that either of them would jump at that opportunity. So the arrogance of saying, "They don't have anywhere to go, so we can continue to abuse them," is not always true. That arrogance is what broke up the B12 in the first place. That said, you are probably right about KSU and Baylor. Hard to figure where they could go to improve their lot. But the rest of the B12, including Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, OU and Oklahoma, are likely to have options in the future. Time to cut back on that B12 arrogance if you want to hold that conference together.

DanHogan
DanHogan

 @frug This is actually a pretty good point.  To argue instability, you have to show how that unhappiness could lead to change.  I don't think we have any cases where low-earners and low-spenders have wanted out from under their current home.  Schools like TTU, ISU, or add to the list Purdue, Vandy, and Wake Forest are still much better off in that higher earning environment.  Now, having low-earners in a large pool with high earners might be enough to make the big money schools look at making a change in some way.  Texas has already built their own network making many of its mates look for other homes.  (And I think the part-time addition of Notre Dame to that conference will give Texas a model to follow for their future.) 

 

Now, the break-up of the 30-member conference should be a warning, particularly to the Big Ten's plans.  A 20-member Big Ten could easily break into 12 and 8 (looking a lot like the current conference alignment) or 11 and 9 (losing Penn State to the east).  That's my main fear for the B1G growing past 16 right now..

larryphelps20
larryphelps20

 @JRsec Think of what the B1G seems to be attempting in terms of the character Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Why did all the other dons envy him so much? Because he had all the politicians in his grasp. And therefore he had all the influence and power to do as he wished. How does this relate to the B1G you might ask? Well, look at who they have added and are likely to add in the future....large, public, land-grant universities. So, look at the B1G's additions over the last 20 years: Penn St, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. That's 4 new state flagship universities. That's also 8 additional US Senators. Now granted not all of those Senators are on the 30 member Senate Appropriations committee, but they still have influence. Who else is the B1g rumored to be after from the ACC....UNC/UVA/GT/Duke. Well, that's 2 more flagships and 2 elite private schools w/ prodigious yearly research outlays. So, if the B1G were to add those 4 they'd be getting 3 additional states and 6 more US Senators. If the B1G were at 18 schools w/ the above additions the B1G would have 14 different states w/ 28 US Senators.

 

So, why does all this matter you ask? Well, when it comes time for the appropriations committee and their subcommittees to divy up the annual dollars dedicated to universities and their various research endeavors this will come into play. Say the University of Maryland was competing against another school for research dollars in a given research project and only one was going to be allocated those fundsd. Don't you think Barbara Mikulski of Maryland would actively be soliciting her colleagues w/in the committee to support allocating those funds to big state U in her home state? Of course she would. So, she knocks on the door of Tom Harkin of Iowa or Dick Durbin of Illinois or Mike Johanns of Nebraska and says, "support UMD for this research grant and I'll give Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska strong support in allocating funds for their research ventures". Having over 25% of the US Senate sympathetic towards your conference's research desires is a big-time plus for the B1G. And while yes, on the surface it seems awfully Machiavellian. It also follows the old adage of "it's not what you know, it's who you know".

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @DanHogan Okay, but what exactly does that mean?  Football, after all, is the most difficult sport to incorporate due to its long lead times for scheduling.  But football isn't part of the equation for Notre Dame.  How can the ACC not be "ready" for the addition that was supposed to stabilize the conference?  I would think Swofford would be bending over backward to accommodate Notre Dame next season.

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @JRsec Those are good ideas, but I'm not sure that ESPN has that kind of power.  It's influential, to be sure, but is it really THAT influential?  Convincing schools to join the SEC would not be difficult.  Convincing the SEC that it should take, say, Texas Tech?  That might be tough.

 

Texas alone would seem to be just as powerful as ESPN, and it doesn't appear to be motivated to move anywhere.

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @AllTideUp Yes, the Big East blew it big-time.

 

Some day this will make for an incredible HBS case study examining the power of network economies.  UConn football and basketball is worth less than $2 million per year as a member of the Big East.  If it were a member of the ACC, the exact same product would be worth ten times that amount.  Truly amazing.

ezgame
ezgame

 @SouthernBoiSB   It's gotta be much simpler than that?  I think MrSEC is stating that expansion will never die (kinda indirectly)?  Thinking about how history repeats itself...  Conferences expand, then for some reason divide, then they gobble up schools to expand again, then divide.  It's a never ending cycle?

Or... maybe its are just like watching an amoeba's life-cycle?

ezgame
ezgame

 @JRsec  @AllTideUp 

I think AllTideUp has it right...  I also think expansion & conference networks are keys to longterm stability (choose the right Universities appears to be next?).

.

JRsec, I think the Big12 is stronger than the ACC.  They have better FB, a better ESPN contract, a better bowl lineup, and a Grant of Rights agreement...  If I were to guess about the future, I'm envisioning the Big East & ACC combining into a new conference (once everybody is done selecting ACC schools they want)?  I also feel only 2 things can save the ACC...  1)  A similar Big12 G.O.R's agreement, or 2) Some type of OOC partnership with either the Big10, Big12, Pac12 or SEC?

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

 @JRsec  @AllTideUp 

Also, I thought the ACC was more focused on bb than fb.  So, joining the Big East as bb conference(s) wouldn't be more of their preference?

 

&, I just don't know if they would like to have part of their conference map with (SEC) states between their members.

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

 @JRsec  @AllTideUp 

But wouldn't that make the SEC look horrible because of "The Champions Game" setup just made with the Big 12?

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @23451bum  @frug This seems to be a little more than semantics and legal structuring to me.  Companies and organizations forge new legal entities even as they merge operations.  That is exactly what happened when the Big 12 was created.  The operations of intercollegiate athletics activities were unified.  For all intents and purposes, that's a merger.

 

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I think it's a bit generous to say that "the Texas schools" brought more.  If you're talking about Texas and Texas A&M, then the argument is a good one.  They brought markets, national interest, huge fan and alumni bases, and traditionally strong football programs.  Baylor and Texas Tech are another matter entirely.  If not for their political ties to UT and A&M, they could well find themselves in the same boat with Cincinnati, UConn and soon, perhaps, Wake Forest.

 

Texas Tech and Baylor are economic free riders.  They're very fortunate but they're not alone, of course.  My own favorite school, Purdue, is in the same boat.  It doesn't even deliver its own state.  It's more prestigious academically than Tech and Baylor, but that wouldn't matter if it hadn't already been a member of a stable conference.  Every conference has free riders - Oregon State, Washington State, Kansas State, Texas Tech,  Mississippi State, Purdue, Wake Forest, etc.

 

The difference is that the Big 12 has more of them.  A case could be made that every conference member except for Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas is a free rider.  Kansas is on record as having wanted to join the Big Ten, much like Missouri.  Much of Oklahoma's value is tied up in its rivalry with Texas.  That's why Texas is able to dictate the terms of the Big 12.  It's why the rest of the membership is willing to accept unequal revenue distribution. 

 

You can practically hear the other members of the Big 12 conjuring Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman - "I got nowhere else to go!"

23451bum
23451bum

@TigerinMO I saw what you did there - ".,. the Big 12 lost what was far and away its second largest media market (Missouri) after the state of Texas". Of course, that would be the #21 market - which isn't even in spitting distance of the #4 and #10 markets which just happen to be firmly in the great state of Texas. I guess you got your ordinal number skills in the same educational background that you got your spelling skills. And that assumes you believe that MU sports, especially football, delivers the STL market. I've heard it us at least up for debate. Look, you guys will be missed - the rest of the conference needed opponents that would reliably lose. Tough to sell TV rights without a Washington Generals. Problem is, in your fit of pique, you cut yourself off to the best HS talent you ever had - including the home of the best QB ever to play at MU. Good luck being Bama's bitch without Texas HS talent. And OBTW, the facts back up my timeline. You really have to find a more credible source than the Bowtie Boy.

23451bum
23451bum

@yerboyfloyd Please point on the doll where the Longhorn hurt you. Because that is easier than actually refuting anything with anything factual.

JRsec
JRsec

 @TigerinMO  @frug Kansas State would be a market add for the PAC if packaged with a brand the PAC wants.  If Snyder is still the football coach they would be a bump up in quality of play for the PAC as well.  Baylor's profile fits better with the ACC.  If the ACC hangs together picking up Baylor or T.C.U. would actually help their market interest.  They could pair one of those with S.M.U. or Rice and pick up two good markets.  The academics of all concerned are top 100 and no worse than N.C. State or F.S.U..  In fact Rice would be second only to Duke in the ACC academically.  S.M.U. would be better than N.C. State, Virginia Tech, F.S.U., and Clemson.

 

I don't think the 4 x 16 is going to happen, but if it did the Big 12 could get us there.  The SEC could shoot for Kansas and Oklahoma for two new markets, one AAU, and two national brands.  I doubt they could land both and one might be difficult depending on the competition.  West Virginia would deliver a smaller slice of what the SEC sought in the Northeast with Virginia Tech or Virginia and would be a good fall back school in this scenario.  Couple them with one of the above and you have a pretty solid 16 if you can't land both Oklahoma and Kansas.

 

I would think Delany would look to Kansas and Connecticut to get to 16 under these circumstances.  

 

As long as Texas was in the mix I could still see the PAC picking up Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, and Texas to get to 16.  The snag here is ESPN's control of the LHN.  If Texas could get out of that easily and wanted to go and insisted on taking Texas Tech then you could drop Iowa State and the deal still flies.

 

All it take is placing 8 for the vote of dissolution to pass which would void the GOR.  PAC gets 4, SEC gets 2, Big 10 gets 1 or 2, ACC gets 1 or 2 and its game over.  Then you have 65 teams in an upper tier.  4 x 16 plus Notre Dame.  The Big 10 doesn't lose because they have gained a larger share of New England and D.C. without a dramatic shift in AAU status for any league.  The SEC gets something with either Kansas or OU and West Virginia is at least sports nuts.  The ACC survives and gets a piece of Texas to add to a southern pod of Miami and Florida State (really just a plane flight across the Gulf) and enhances it's academics in the process.  The PAC gets the top national brand for profit in Texas (and a boatload of new problems for the left coast), central time zone exposure and three new states (maybe 4).  

 

Realignment gets killed for a while, the SEC partners with the ACC, the Big 10 with the PAC and we leave the fans alone to get refocused on the games instead of this soap opera.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @DanHogan  @frug 

 

Maryland -- a charter member of the ACC -- just left one power conference for another, destabilizing its old home in the process.

 

John

 

 

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @larryphelps20  @JRsec I'm skeptical.  Most of the federal dollars are handed out by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.  I'm quite familiar with the NSF.  It has project leaders on staff who lead the teams of experts that choose which projects get funded and which ones do not.  Those experts tend to be PhDs from universities around the country.  They converge in conference rooms in Arlington, VA and decide which projects are worthy of funding. 

 

Typically, Congress does little more than allocate bulk funds for specific types of research.  For example, much of the additional stimulus funds were targeted for alternative energy projects.  Whether those projects were clean coal research at the University of Tennessee or ethanol research at the University of Iowa were decisions that were made by academicians, not Congressmen.

JRsec
JRsec

 @larryphelps20  @JRsec Even if you do get those schools you won't get the Senators from Georgia.  They'd be voted out for favoring anything Big 10.  Bank on it!  You'll split Virginia and North Carolina.  And you haven't gotten them yet.  ESPN still has a lot to say in this matter.  Besides its the House that decides appropriations and your losing 6 - 7 seats per census.  The rust belt is on its last legs and the power to vote members into AAU may not be there as long as you think.  But dream on, you'll probably get some of what you seek, but you won't get it all.

JRsec
JRsec

 @Roggespierre  @DanHogan I read a report, and I readily admit I had to take it at face value and had no way to substantiate it, that said that Maryland's evidence included documentation that showed that Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse were not yet under the $52 million dollar withdrawal penalty that the ACC announced was applicable to all.  Now if this bit of information is true then I can see why Notre Dame would want to remain aloof until clarity over the ACC situation was established one way or the other.  It is their nature to seek any remaining path to at least partial independence before contemplating joining a conference.  If there is no penalty then they have the largess to take that year in the Catholic 7.  After all the new playoff rules will not be in affect next season.

 

So what I take this to mean is that Swafford may not have been entirely truthful about who is covered under the exit penalty and that he had hoped that the appearance of N.D.'s eventual inclusion would be enough to stave off a raid.  If that is the case, and if it is indeed true that N.D. chooses to remain outside the confines of the ACC for another year (when it is no longer necessary) that could be a portent of their knowledge of potential unrest within the ranks of the ACC, or that they are in contact with another conference before totally committing.

JRsec
JRsec

 @BonzaiB  @Roggespierre If all other factors were off of the table and I were running the SEC realignment effort I would expand by taking the four most valuable football products of the ACC:  Florida State, Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.  They are the best athletic and cultural fits for the SEC.  They are the top 4 in attendance in the ACC and are 4 of the top 5 in television draw.  They make good sense.  To get to 20 I would pursue West Virginia and Oklahoma for two new states.

 

But since academics are a leading factor and we need AAU schools to bolster our lobby for Federal grant money things will play out differently.  The SEC should go after Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke to lock down those states.  Then we should pick up Clemson and Florida State just to remind ourselves what SEC football is all about.  With three weak sisters out of the first four we will need an infusion of strength to prevent dilution of product.

 

But we won't do that either.  Our first plays will be for AAU schools and our second plays will be for new markets.  So we will likely seek to add Virginia, North Carolina, possibly Duke, possibly Pittsburgh, to move to 18 with 4 AAU schools in three new states.  Our hopes will then be to complete 20 with Texas and Kansas.  Such a move would land the SEC with 10 AAU schools and 5 new states.  But, it will only give us one very problematic football power, three basketball national brands, and one middle of the pack sports school.

BonzaiB
BonzaiB

 @JRsec  @Roggespierre Texas in the SEC busts #1 (solidarity) and introduces #2 (class warfare) for the SEC. Nothing I have seen from Texas indicates they are used to being a "team player" in a conference. They are used to being the big dog on the porch, and I just don't see them being a real good fit in the SEC culture wise. The LHN is a stumbling block in the tv revenue sharing world of the SEC, but introducing Texas to the SEC is not a smart move culturally for the SEC. I'd rather take North Carolina, FSU, Duke and or Virginia Tech. Less revenue for the SEC, but lots more stability, which in the long run means revenue. JMHO.

JRsec
JRsec

 @Roggespierre True enough.  But, as long as Texas wants that 15 million for the LHN they will be essentially an ESPN product.  You are right about Texas Tech, but at least it's not private like Baylor and T.C.U..  I'm sure the SEC would rather have Texas but if this exercise is to strengthen the market value of the ACC then UT would have to be the choice for the ACC (and the best lure for N.D.).  If the ACC could eventually land both of those they will be able to compete.

yerboyfloyd
yerboyfloyd

 @ezgame  @JRsec  @AllTideUp While no expert on the SEC as a newbie, it seems to me the strength of the conference is the product, first and foremost.   Far above market.   The B1G's recent additions were all about markets.  Nevermiind that their already suspect football product will only deteriorate.   The SEC has never had huge TV markets (save Atlanta), yet their ratings and national interest in the league at an all-time high.  Why?   A superior product.

 

Adding schools a bunch of also-ran schools from the XII to get to 20 would be a huge mistake - the mistake the Big Ten is apparently ready to double down on in the name of gaining markets.    A strong 16 will outperform a compromised 20, nationally, in the long run, while pod scheduling will preserve most of the rivalries that would be lost going to 20.

 

The additions of A&M and Missouri was a nice balance of product and markets, far better bang for the buck than Rutgers and Maryland will give the B1G.   I trust Mr. Slive's future additions will be as equally well thought out.

JRsec
JRsec

 @SouthernBoiSB  @AllTideUp It would give them more good markets and more television revenue and it is the only place left from which they could expand (other than Connecticut and Cincinnati).  Also, the champs bowl would still be open to the former members of the Big 12.  They could get there from their SEC or ACC affiliations.  The main thing is it protects valuable sports property for ESPN and from FOX.

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @23451bum  @Roggespierre  @frug Right.  My point is that the legalities and semantics don't really matter with regards to Mr. SEC's initial story.  The effect was the same.  The operations of the Big 8 and the four schools from the SWC were combined.  The "owners" of those operations did not change when the joint venture was created.  Whether or not the schools agreed to call it something other than a "merger" is a technical and legal matter that is not relevant to this discussion.

23451bum
23451bum

@Roggespierre @frug if you really want to get into legalities, what was created was a new joint venture and the old entities ceased to exist upon the creation of that new entity. But that isn't a "merger" and the conference recognizes just that.

yerboyfloyd
yerboyfloyd

 @23451bum  @yerboyfloyd Is that you DeLoss??  Don't worry, your A&M pain will ease shortly

 

A scene from DeLoss' bedside...

 

Mack Brown:  How is he?

Bob Bowlsby:  I'm leaving a prescription for PROZAC.

Mike Slive: Excuse me, Bob, but with these particular symptoms, is Prozac the right choice? 

Mack Brown: You think Prozac is a mistake? 

Mike Slive: Well, with this kind of manic episode, I would think Librium might be a more effective management tool. 

Bob Bowlsby: You could be right. I'll rewrite the prescription.

JRsec
JRsec

 @Roggespierre  @John at MrSEC  @DanHogan  @frug Yes.  The University Presidents like to have a guaranteed revenue stream for the 10 year plans.  They feel more secure if they are locked in for longer contracts.  If it was a static or potentially down market for college sports I could understand their attitudes.  But, you have to realize who you are dealing with.  These are not and in most cases have never been business men.  They do not think in terms of production rewards.  They think in terms of COLAS.  That is why they even like the back-loaded contracts.  They see those as having built in inflation increases.  This is why University presidents need to be much less involved in any of the sports proceedings of their schools.  Athletic Departments need business persons with proficiency in sports contracts making these long term (or preferably shorter term) decisions.  The same bureaucratic shortsightedness plagues our government and the NCAA.   

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @JRsec  @John at MrSEC  @DanHogan  @frug Maryland's primary problem was very poor management of its athletic department.  It overspent on amenities that it couldn't sell.  The poor ACC TV contract certainly didn't help matters, but Maryland was easy pickings because it dug itself a hole and was fortunate that it possessed enough latent value to interest the B1G.  Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good.

 

The issue of television contract duration interests me.  Where is it written that these deals must go for ten years or more?  It seems as if conferences hold enough negotiating leverage that they could get shorter durations from the networks.  Anybody know why that doesn't happen?

JRsec
JRsec

 @Roggespierre  @John at MrSEC  @DanHogan  @frug It is everything that has been pointed out, but it is still not a definitive illustration of ACC vulnerability because of the extenuating circumstances of their economic situation.  If Maryland had at least been neutral on the economic front then saying that a founding member of the conference and a core academic institution leaving the ACC was a definitive sign of the conference's weakness.  What Maryland leaving does illustrate that should be of concern to all ACC members is that we are now in an era where economic concerns can and will trump all other ties, both academic and athletic, and that a shared history is no longer sufficient to hold anyone in place.

 

All Maryland really proves to be is a test case for a bad television contract.  Not a bad one at the time it was signed, but one that was certainly not prudent given the rapidly changing nature of broadcast contracts.

Roggespierre
Roggespierre

 @John at MrSEC  @DanHogan  @frug That's the key data point, isn't it?  Maryland's move was not a case of more of the same.  It's the first shift that had nothing to do with a school that was either an independent at the outset of the modern era or an unfortunate victim of the SWC implosion and the resulting fallout.

 

This is unprecedented.

DanHogan
DanHogan

 @John at MrSEC  @frug @John, to frug's point, you've articulated a litany of reasons why conferences will not be stable for the foreseeable future with unhappy low-power members being one of them.  We've never really seen unhappy low-tier members having much of a role in this unless a segment of a very large conference decides to split away (C7) or if individual schools threaten legal action against power programs within their state (Baylor/Texas).  If anything, that second example is a stabilizing force, albeit likely a weak one. 

 

What makes the ACC unstable now isn't the fact that Maryland just left, it's the fact that multiple power conferences could very possibly be looking at add more.  To illustrate that, consider this:  if the we could all be convinced that the B1G, SEC, and Big 12 were all stable and not looking to expand we would all be convinced that no new realignments were in our future.  On the flip side, had the B1G taken Rutgers and Louisville (for sake of argument) without touching the ACC with all indications being that more moves could be coming, we'd still be talking about instability of the ACC.  Granted, there wouldn't be a test case for the ACC exit fee, but that would be just as debatable then as it is now. 

 

The main causes of instability are powerful programs or powerful conferences looking to make changes -- and you've listed a lot of ways why that will likely continue.  But, the presence of low-quality members who don't like being dominated doesn't seem to be one of them. 

ezgame
ezgame

 @Roggespierre  @larryphelps20  @JRsec   <points finger> Sequester, Sequester, Sequester............... Sequester.   Just kidding, guess I shouldn't fan the flame, I might get burned or look like a conspiracy collaborator?

.

In all seriousness, individual funds maybe safed or directed or issued by the NSF, NIH, DOE or DOD... but if a congressman has an earmark or a lobbyist or whatever, whispering sweet nothings in their ear.......  Maybe larryphelps20 has a point?  I'm sure they don't work in a vaccume, I hope?

JRsec
JRsec

 @larryphelps20 Thanks Larry, I've had the moniker JRsec ever since I've been on the internet (more than a few years now).  This is John's blog, I'm just a frequent reader and poster her and at two other sites.  And yes this is a good blog site and as you say a "great aggregator for SEC info".

larryphelps20
larryphelps20

 @JRsec  @larryphelps20 No problem. Apologies as well if I came across as being heavy handed in my analysis. Realignment often becomes an emotional thing where we feel the need to defend our team/conference/region. Hell, I know I've done it in the past and will probably in the future as well. Thanks for the blog. Great aggregator for SEC info.

JRsec
JRsec

 @larryphelps20 I apologize Larry, I truly misread your post.  I thought you were trying to get a rile out of the situation and so I was a bit defensive.  The past few days have been very stressful and I was doing this to ease my mind a bit and just took your remarks the wrong way.  The stuff is interesting to talk about and I'm usually much less defensive.  I'll look forward to another opportunity to chat.  And I hope you do have a good one.

larryphelps20
larryphelps20

 @JRsec  @larryphelps20 I'm not suggesting the B1G will get all that they want. I never even suggested any of the  above would happen. I was just bringing to the table another reason for the "why's" in what is driving conferences to expand. In this particular case the B1G. And I obviously wasn't suggesting that all Senators or congressman from a given state will automatically support research $'s to be allocated to universities that share conference affiliation. Although I guarantee this happens more regularly than one would like to think. I am suggesting that all else being equal why wouldn't polticians work in concert to better their conference brethren knowing that support will be reciprocated for their state's institutions.

 

Maybe I'm misreading you, but you seem a bit defensive for some reason about this. I guess as fans since this is out of our control it might be frustrating. However, having a dialogue about the how's and why's all of this is transpiring is interesting. If this is going to devolve into "your region of the country is dying and nothing but a barren wasteland of empty factories" I guess I'll be on my way. I have little interest in arguing w/ strangers. I do like your guy's site to get the feel of what's happening in the best conference in the south. Have a good one.

 

 

 

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