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MU’s Alden Says He Expects More Conference Shuffling

Just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about conference realignment…

Earlier this week, Missouri AD Mike Alden dropped a bit of a bombshell saying after the NCAA athletic directors’ meeting in Dallas that more shuffling, moving, expanding, contracting and conference realigning is probably on the way:


“I think, and other people probably would agree with this: We haven’t seen the end of conference realignment.  This ain’t over.  There’s more coming.  I believe that.”


Great.  So now we know what rumors we’ll all be chasing next spring and summer.

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Notre Dame To The ACC, Exit Fees Rising, “VT/NCSU To The SEC” Rumors As Dead As We Always Said


For all those who claimed Clemson and Florida State would definitely fly the ACC coop and join the Big XII along with Notre Dame, well, uh, the college landscape is about to shift in the opposite direction.  In a big, big way.

Notre Dame will depart the Big East and head to the 14- (and soon to be 15-) school Atlantic Coast Conference.  The Irish had played in the Big East in all sports but football.  They had agreed to face three Big East members per year on the gridiron.  In the ACC, Notre Dame will also be a full member in all sports except for football.  But the Irish will play five ACC teams per season.

“We have monitored the changing conference landscape for many months and have concluded that moving to the ACC is the best course of action for us,” said Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick.

What’s it mean?


* The Big East just lost a little more lustre.

* The ACC just landed one of the biggest brands in sports.  Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and the other “football-first” schools in that league will love the opportunity to occasionally clash with the Irish at home and in South Bend.

* The ACC will also increase its exit fee for any school wanting out to a whopping $50 million.  Again, for those who came here and blasted this site during the offseason because we dared to call all those “FSU/Clemson to the Big XII is a done deal” stories poppycock… we expect you to come back to our comment boxes and apologize as so many of you promised at the time to do.  (Actually, no, we don’t think a single one of the folks who attacked this site will man-up and admit that they were totally wrong.)

* To add another pair of annual games to its schedule, Notre Dame will have to say bye-bye to some old foes.  Purdue?  Navy?  Southern Cal?  Michigan or Michigan State?  Something’s gotta give.

* The Big XII will remain a 10-team league for the foreseeable future.  For all the bluster of Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, he’ll never see Notre Dame join his school’s league.  (Sorta like he can’t even see his own Longhorn Network on television.)

* You can also put to bed all those “Virginia Tech and NC State to the SEC” rumors that so many sites have floated out in order to grab pageviews.  Ain’t happening.  And, yes, we also called malarkey on those when they first started to percolate.


The college landscape is changing again.  Just not in the way that many people expected.

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Six SEC Squads In Sporting News’ Top 25

The Sporting News is the latest publication to toss up its preseason Top 25 rankings and the SEC nabbed six spots on the list.  And since Missouri and Texas A&M aren’t among those ranked, no one can say, “Yeah, but they’ve got a 14-team league down there.”

Nope, the six ranked teams — including #1 — are all schools that were in the conference last year, too:


1.  LSU

3.  Alabama

9.  South Carolina

14.  Georgia

18.  Arkansas

25.  Florida


For the sake of comparison, here’s the breakdown by conference:


ACC — 4 teams

Big East — 1 team

Big Ten — 5 teams

Big XII — 4 teams

Pac-12 — 4 teams

SEC — 6 teams

Independents — 1 team

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New Feature: Lookin’ For Insults

I’ve decided to start a brand new feature here at that we’ll call “Lookin’ For Insults.”  Whenever we get a particularly daft comment or email that claims I or another of our writers insulted some school or some coach when we actually haven’t done any such thing, I’m going to post it on the homepage for all to read.

We’ll start with a pair of fans who took offense to a piece written on Monday regarding the SEC’s decision to add Missouri and Texas A&M.  Those folks read that post and found insults toward their favy-wavy schools… even though there was nothing actually offensive, insulting or derogatory about their schools in the story itself.

First, someone calling himself “redscribe66″ in our comment area claimed that I had attacked West Virginia University.  His comment:


“Once again.  Mr. SEC takes a shot at WVU.  The national media has stated the Big 12 improved themselves vastly as they picked up three top 75 television markets (#24 Pittsburgh) (#9 Washington DC) and #64 Charleston Huntington.  I fail to understand with the huge amounts of fans WVU has in the South (Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville and Florida) why Mr. SEC has so many issues with them.  Three quick thoughts: 1. Did SEC fans check out the Orange Bowl score, 2. Did SEC fans know WVU has been to the final four twice and 3. Do SEC fans know WVU is full of Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars and garners millions in research each year.  They know it in Dallas and we are proud to be in the Big 12 as we found a family.  Please Mr, SEC wish WVU the best as we do your conference.”


Wow.  I really must’ve crapped all over West Virginia, huh?

Or maybe I simply stated that Missouri was chosen over West Virginia for SEC inclusion because one school is located in a bigger state with more eyeballs.  Yeah, actually that is all that I wrote.  (Oh, and for the record, the site is and we have three regular writers.  No one person calls himself Mr. SEC around here).  Here’s WHAT I ACTUALLY WROTE that “redscribe66″ reacted to:


“Why these two schools? 

Last summer, West Virginia officials made it known to the SEC (and the ACC, too) that their school was looking to make a move from the Big East.  But WVU never got the nod from Slive and company.  Missouri got the final slot in the league instead. 

Why?  Eyeballs.

As we told you at the time, Missouri is simply a much bigger state than West Virginia.  More cable households and more eyeballs should increase the potential value of ‘Project X,’ mentioned above.  Those eyeballs and two large markets in Kansas City and St. Louis could help CBS and ESPN’s SEC ratings in that state.  That will be good for those networks’ ad sales and it will please the CBS’ affiliates in the Show-Me-State as well.”


“Project X” is the SEC Network, of course.  But that’s it.  That was our entire mention of West Virginia.  Damn mean of us, no?

Well, once I responded to the reader’s comment he posted a sorta/kinda apology for coming on “a little strong.”  He also said, “Many WVU fans took it as Mr. SEC was against WVU’s SEC petition because it was a second-rate school.”

Then that’s because many WVU fans were simply looking to be insulted.  This site never suggested during Expansionpalooza 2011 that WVU should be passed over because of academics.  We did, however, state that academics would be a factor and WVU’s reputation would hurt their chances of inclusion.  That’s not being “anti-WVU,” that’s stating facts.  Facts that turned out to be, uh, facts.

But speaking of folks looking for insults, here’s an email I got today from a “Roger P.” (last name withheld because I’m a nicer guy than some of you think).  In it, he makes it clear that in the same piece linked to above I also insulted Arkansas (the quote is verbatim, typos and all):


“I usually enjoy your articles.  For some reason you do not give the State of Arkansas credit for being a southeastern state.  Have you ever been to our state?  Historically, geographically, culturally we are quite Southern.

I have family in Georgia.  For some reason the people there think we are out West ,and that we ski here.  Actually, Arkansas joined the Confederacy before Tennessee, North Carolina or Virginia did.  We are celebrating our entry into the Civil War this year.  There were over 750 battles fought here.  Our people fought gallantly for the South.  Football wise–we have been playing LSU and Ole Miss ,off and on , for well over a hundred years.

You once said that having Arkansas in the SEC was a bone head idea.  Shame.  You do not seem to question Kentucky that was aligned with the Yankees and is bordered by Northern States.  Anyway, for the Razorbacks to be properly situated in the SEC was a long time wish of mine.  We were never a smooth fit in the SWC.Granted, Fayetteville is in a remote corner of our state; but, there is not another state that is more loyal to the SEC than the Arkansas people.  We find it quite off here when someone  thinks we are not part of the South —especially “midwestern”.

Give us a break ,John.”


First, someone let Roger P. know that Lee gallantly surrendered to those damn Yankees just a short while ago.  Second, I have been to Arkansas and liked the state very much.  Third, never in frickin’ history have I ever “once said that having Arkansas in the SEC was a bone head idea.”  Never thought, never said it, never wrote it.  That’s a lie.  Pure and simple an complete fabrication.  A canard.  BS.  Probably taken from a made-up quote attributed to me on a messageboard.

But let’s look at WHAT I ACTUALLY WROTE about Arkansas:


“A&M and Mizzou will help create new traditions and new rivalries just as Arkansas and South Carolina have over the past 20 years…”


Nope, that must not have been what Roger P. found offensive.  In fact, the typical insult-looker will skip right over anything that might be seen as positive in order to perceive a negative.

So maybe this was the part Roger was bothered by:


“From a passion perspective, Mizzou fans will no doubt strike up immediate rivalries with neighboring Arkansas and Kentucky.”


Couldn’t have been that one, either.  So it must’ve been the only other mention of Arkansas in the story:


“Will A&M and Mizzou ‘fit’ in the SEC?

Much has been made of the Southeastern Conference going outside its footprint — which was the actual goal, of course — and adding one school from the Midwest and another from the Southwest.  That’s talk from people who were anti-SEC expansion from the start.  In reality, this isn’t akin to San Diego State joining the Big East.

Missouri and Texas A&M both fit the SEC mold.  They are both large state schools.  They are located in smaller towns where life revolves around their respective athletic fortunes (just like every SEC school not named Vanderbilt).  Both are already planning multi-million dollar upgrades of facilities.  And both are equal to or better in football than South Carolina and Arkansas were upon their entry into the SEC.

If messageboards and talk radio had been as big in 1992 as they are today, you’d have heard the ‘they won’t fit’ argument thrown out about the Gamecocks and Razorbacks, too.  Especially ‘Midwestern’ Arkansas.  Do you realize that Columbia, Missouri is farther east than Fayetteville, Arkansas?

Meanwhile, Texas A&M could very well have been an SEC school from the outset.  The passion, tradition, facilities and ‘feel’ of A&M and College Station all scream ‘Southeastern Conference.’

So, yes, both will eventually come to feel like fits.  Just as Arkansas and South Carolina have.”


If you can read the above section of our story without understanding that I was stating Missouri and Texas A&M will be just as good a fit as Arkansas — and that Arkansas has been a good fit — well, then you’re lookin’ for insults.  Or you’re a nitwit.  One or the other, perhaps both.  Sorry, Roger P.

The whole quotation marks around “Midwestern” when referring to Arkansas should’ve given it away that that’s what others would have said back… oh, hell, why am I explaining this?  I wrote it plain as day the first time.  People in ’92 would have called Arkansas “Midwest” or “Southwest” because they were from outside the SEC’s geographic footprint.  Heck, they did say that.  Even the writer admits his own family still says that.

But we don’t agree with it.  And we don’t agree when folks say it about Missouri, either.


My father told me long ago: “There’s what you say and there’s what they hear.”  That goes for writing as well.  I can write one thing, but a few folks so driven by fan passion will see something completely different.

Or something that isn’t even there in the first place.

Rhodes scholars and civil war battles.  That’s the response we got to a piece about Missouri and Texas A&M joining the SEC.

Thank the Lord for the 99.99% of you who don’t read every story in the hopes of finding some hidden slight aimed at your coach, school or state.  As for the few of you who are lookin’ for insults, we’ll now enjoy pointing you out from time to time just for laughs.

Rhodes scholars and civil war battles.  Wow.

When I intend to insult you, trust me, I’ll make it obvious.

(Oh, and if you intend to claim I’m attacking’s readers with this post, please note the whole “Thank the Lord for the 99.99% of you…” part.  Thought I’d point that one out before our very first “Lookin’ For Insults” piece, ya know, drew in people lookin’ for insults.)

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Big East: Syracuse Will Be Going To Arkansas For Hoops Game

On Friday, the matchups for this season’s SEC/Big East Challenge were released.  Among the games on the docket — Syracuse at Arkansas.

Shortly after the release, Syracuse officials let it be known that their school was “overcommitted” already and would not take part in the contest.  SU is in a battle to escape the Big East as soon as possible and clearly this was a negotiating ploy on the part of the school.

Well, today, ESPN is reporting that Big East officials have said negotiations between Syracuse and its current conference have “nothing to do with the actual matchup” with Arkansas.  Associate Big East commissioner Tom Odjakjian was reportedly “adamant” that the schedule released on Friday is in fact locked in, put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, etc.

Arkansas fans, it looks like the Orange will visiting Bud Walton Arena on November 30th after all.  At least according to the Big East.

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ESPN’s Katz Thinks UK-Georgetown Hoops Game Is Coming

Last week there was speculation that Kentucky would face Cincinnati in this year’s SEC-Big East Challenge.  Now that’s changed.

ESPN’s Andy Katz reports today that “multiple sources” have told him that “the highest-profile game that could occur is Kentucky at Georgetown.”

He also speculated on some of the other matchups, saying he wouldn’t be surprised to see Louisville at Florida, Marquette at Missouri and Tennessee at Notre Dame.  ”But those last four appear to be more speculation at this point,” he wrote.

The Big East is still trying to decide whether it will line up two more of its teams for the challenge this year, as the SEC has expanded to 14 teams with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.  If the Big East does not include two more squads, two SEC teams won’t be able to take part in this year’s challenge.

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Nine SEC Schools In Top 50 For Hoops Attendance

The NCAA has released the attendance figures for the 2011-12 basketball season and the football-first SEC is well-represented.  Not surprisingly, national champion Kentucky led the nation in per-game attendance with 23,821 blue-clad crazies spinning the turnstiles at Rupp Arena for each home outing.

Below is the national Top 10 followed by the rest of the SEC’s squads:


1.  Kentucky — 23,721

2.  Syracuse — 23,618

3.  Louisville — 21,503

4.  North Carolina — 20,159

5.  Wisconsin — 17,181

6.  Creighton — 16,655 (Yes, Creighton.)

7.  Tennessee — 16,543

8.  Ohio State — 16,511

9.  Indiana — 16,462

10.  Kansas — 16,445

18.  Vanderbilt — 13,698

23.  Arkansas — 13,096

27.  Alabama — 12,484

32.  Missouri — 11.830

37.  Florida — 10,434

45.  South Carolina — 8,868

50.  LSU — 8,661

60.  Mississippi State — 8,019

71.  Texas A&M — 7,383

74.  Georgia — 7,079

81.  Auburn — 6,502

91.  Ole Miss — 5,770


By conference, SEC teams averaged 11,513 fans per game, second only to the Big Ten (12,868).  The Big 12 (11,057), Big East (10,881) and ACC (9,876) lagged behind the SEC.

Football may come first in the Dixie, but SEC fans turn out in big numbers to watch hoops as well.  In total, SEC schools sold more than 2.4 million tickets to home basketball games last season.

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A&M’s Sumlin Says SEC Move Has “Separated” His Aggies From The Longhorns

One of the reasons Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference was to creep out from under the University of Texas’ large shadow.  Other reasons included: more money, a more stable conference, more national exposure to help with said creeping, and friendlier relations with its league partners.

From a football perspective, the Aggies also differentiated themselves from the Longhorns.  A&M coaches can now ask recruits if they’d rather play in the SEC — home to six-straight BCS champs and the #1 producer of NFL talent by far — or in the 10-team Big 12 with trips to Ames, Manhattan (Kansas), and Lubbock on the agenda.

Speaking on The Paul Finebaum Show yesterday, new Aggie football coach Kevin Sumlin said all of those expectations are becoming a reality on the recruiting trail already:


“Quite frankly, the move to the SEC has really, really, in the state, kind of separated us.  I think it’s really given a clear choice to prospective students and student-athletes here in the state, given that you have the Big 12, you have the Big East and the SEC and I think that there’s some clear differences between the leagues.  I’ve seen the change in recruiting.  There are guys out there that understand that the SEC is, without a doubt, the best conference, the best league to play in, particularly when it comes to football…

In some ways moving to the SEC has really separated us not only from the other schools in the state, but particularly Texas, and given guys a clear choice.  We’re not all playing in the same league.  This is a school in a state with such great high school football that gives (them) a chance to be on such a platform and compete and play in a league with the best players in the country.”


So what is it about the SEC that draws in recruits?  It’s what we wrote above, said Sumlin — a ticket to the NFL:


“I think it’s a combination of national championships, I think it’s a combination of you look at the number of draft choices out of the SEC, which clearly is the leading league in the last 10 years, you look at television exposure, player development.

Guys that obviously want to play in the NFL, the caliber of players that are in the SEC and the stigma of playing in the league has really, really benefited us, in particular, not only in the class we signed in February, but I think right now where we are in recruiting, there is no doubt it’s helped us.”


Sumlin has been appointed to run what is potentially a gold mine.  Yes, A&M has struggled in recent years and the SEC West is currently the tougher of the league’s two divisions.  An uber-quick rise shouldn’t be expected.

However, like LSU pre-Nick Saban, A&M has everything a coach needs to win if it can find the right coach to start the ball rolling again:


1.  Good facilities

2.  Great fan support

3.  A Top 20 all-time tradition

4.  A deep, deep recruiting pool

5.  A conference home that turns recruits into NFL prospects


With the right coach, Texas A&M has more potential upside than any of the other three schools the SEC has added in the past two decades.  That’s saying something.  Arkansas and South Carolina have already shown that they can be Top 10 programs.  Newcomer Missouri was ranked #1 in the nation as recently as 2007.

But none of those schools boast all five of the positives we list for A&M going in their favor.  Those schools have to work a little bit harder to win the prize.  Texas A&M, on the other hand, is just looking for the right Saban or Les Miles or Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino (minus the baggage) or Gary Pinkel to tap into all the potential.  Whether that man is Sumlin remains to be seen, but the potential for great things is there.

According to Sumlin, recruits are already picking up on that fact.

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Future SEC Expansion Will Still Require Approval Of 75% Of Presidents

Let’s make a few things very clear right off the bat:


1.  We at do not believe the Southeastern Conference has any interest in expanding again anytime soon.  Sources at multiple schools across the conference — in both athletic departments and in university administrations — have told us as much.  Repeatedly.

2.  We do not believe there are secret discussions taking place now that would lead to any existing ACC schools moving to the SEC.  That includes any combination of Clemson, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke or North Carolina.

3.  We do not believe even a full-scale collapse of the Big East would lead to further SEC expansion.  For argument’s sake, let’s say the Big 12 grabbed Cincinnati and Louisville from the Big East (to get to 12 schools).  Let’s also say such a move would force Notre Dame into the Big Ten and that Jim Delany’s league would then grab either UConn or Rutgers from the Big East (to get to 14 schools) and tap into the New York television market.  And for the sake of argument, let’s also say that the ACC would gobble up South Florida and either Rutgers or UConn (to get to 16 schools).  Even if all that occurred — and we think it’s highly unlikely all that will occur — we still do not believe the SEC would expand further.


As we’ve stated before, we believe part of the reason conference commissioners are currently pushing for a playoff and considering doing away with “AQ” and “non-AQ” status altogether is a desire to slow down conference realignment.  Most leagues have made changes in the last two years.  They would like to gauge what impact those changes will have before making further moves.  Nixing AQ status would kill off one of the motivations schools have had for jumping leagues.

All that said, conference realignment remains a hot topic.  Fans still have questions.  They wonder what’s coming down the line for the SEC and other conferences?  Next year?  Five years from now?  Ten years from now?

Well, if/when expansion ever works its way back onto the SEC’s agenda, the same rule that applied to the last round of expansion will also apply to future moves — 75% of the Southeastern Conference’s presidents will have to vote in favor of expansion.

Last summer, nine of the SEC’s 12 presidents had to vote in favor of extending invitations to Texas A&M and Missouri (once those schools contacted the league and asked for admission, of course).  SEC public relations guru Charles Bloom informed us today that “the granting of membership is by a vote of at least three-fourths of the (existing) membership” and that that rule remains in place.

So in a 14-school league, a three-fourths vote would equal 10.5 members “which then makes 11 the minimum vote total,” according to Bloom.

Why does this matter?

Last summer there was some debate over whether or not SEC members Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina had banded together to keep out Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and/or Clemson from the SEC.  Some said there was an official, yet unspoken SEC stance against expanding into states already making up the Southeastern Conference football.  Others said there was an informal agreement among those schools and that everyone suspected they would stand together if forced.  Still others said there were no such plans to block schools at all.  (South Carolina officials said publicly, for instance, that they would have had no problem if Clemson had asked for an invitation… though that could have simply been a case of saying the right things in the press.)

Moving forward, even though the league has expanded, those same four schools — Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina — could still work together to prevent one or more of their in-state rivals from joining the SEC if they chose to do so.  It would still only take four “nays” to vote down any proposed new member.

Thankfully, it does not appear as though we’ll have to worry about any expansion-related issues regarding the SEC anytime soon.

Knock on wood.

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Big 12 Extends Media Rights Deal; Begins To Fix Itself

In an effort to stave off total annihilation in 2011, the eight remaining Big 12 schools decided to grant the league office their media rights for a six-year period.  Such a move meant that if a school left the league, the Big 12 would still own that institution’s media rights… making it virtually impossible for any school to bolt.

Yesterday, it was reported that the rumored $2.6 billion television deals with ESPN and Fox first acknowledged in March are indeed good to go.  While still unsigned, the Big 12′s presidents — there are now 10, by the way — have agreed verbally to those contracts.  More importantly, the league has also agreed to extend the league’s grant of rights for an additional seven years. 

The takeaway: The Big 12 looked safe for at least six years before yesterday.  When these new pacts are signed and the grant of rights extended, it will look safe for 13 years.  That’s big.

Last week, the league announced the hire of new commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  Armed with a new, rich set of TV deals and 13 years worth of safety net, his next mission will be to grow the conference.  Doing so should now be easier.

Despite wild rumors that Florida State and Clemson officials are holding super-secret talks with the Big 12 conference, we continue to believe it’s far, far more likely that Louisville will be the first school to move.  While the Big 12 is starting to get steady on its feet again — after losing major brands like Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M the past couple of summers — the Big East is wobbling like the top at the end of “Inception.”  (Yeah, it wobbled.)

Just as Bowlsby was brought in to fix the Big 12, Big East commissioner John Marinatto was given the heave-ho by — it’s believed — a bloc of presidents from his league’s non-football schools.  Louisville is an all-sports Big East school.  Reportedly, Cardinal officials weren’t thrilled with yesterday’s power play by the league’s old guard.

Additionally, political ties between Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell and Oklahoma president (and former senator) David Boren almost landed Louisville in the Big 12 last fall, at West Virginia’s expense.  So some amount of groundwork has already been laid for Louisville to join the Big 12 at some point.

Adding U of L would bring the league back up to 11 members.  Even though Big 12 power brokers have said publicly that they don’t feel there’s a need to hold a Big 12 Championship Game in football, you can be sure the money such a game would generate is indeed viewed as a need privately.  So who would become school #12, allowing the league to hold a title game?

The obvious target is Notre Dame.  Texas AD DeLoss Dodds has told everyone who’ll listen that he and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick might just be able to swing a deal to bring the Irish to the Midwestern league.  Maybe, maybe not.  Notre Dame won’t move unless it believes its options as an independent have run out.  And even then, it’s more likely the administration in South Bend would rather partner academically and financially with the more academically-respected schools of the Big Ten or even the ACC.

For that reason, we think Cincinnati is a much more likely fallback option for the Big 12.  As we showed here, the Big 12 is currently a five-state league that produces very few NFL-caliber players from within its own geographic footprint.  Expanding into Ohio and the Kentuckiana region would help on that front.  Such moves would also give the Big 12 broader television appeal, even better basketball, and some much more natural rivals for new member West Virginia.

But the bottom line is this — The Big 12 is stronger today and the Big East is weaker.  That should make it easier for the Big 12 to raid the Big East for two more schools (Louisville or Cincinnati or Notre Dame) and get back to, you know, actually having 12 schools to matchup with its name and logo.


UPDATE — Judging from comments elsewhere on the site and emails received by yours truly, I thought it might be wise to clarify what it is exactly that makes the Big 12 more stable today than yesterday.  So for those still not clear on what was written above, it’s not the big money contracts that the Big 12 has lined up with Fox and ESPN that secure its future.  Schools have been coming and going from leagues despite previous enormous TV deals.  Those are good pacts for the Big 12, no doubt, but what actually makes the league more stable is the extension of the grant of rights.  That act binds those schools together in a much tighter way.  If a school now leaves the Big 12, the league still owns that school’s media rights for 13 years.  That is what has made the Big 12 more stable, not the mondo TV contracts.  Now, you could also argue that some leagues — like the SEC — don’t have to go that route (or even have exit fees, for that matter).  But that doesn’t change the fact that the extension of the grant of rights is a big step forward for a league that had been moving backward for the previous two offseasons.

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