After a fascinating week of panic, rumors, and closed-door dealmaking, the Big 12 will remain intact minus two teams. The worst-case scenario has been averted only two days after it appeared that it was all but inevitable. Some thoughts:
— The departure of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech to the Pac 10 was at one point considered in the bag, at least to Pac 10 commissioner Larry Scott:
Scott was quoted later saying he thought he had a deal with Texas. But UT officials apparently told Scott if the Longhorns didn’t have Texas A&M with them, it would cause too much political strife and would be a deal-breaker.
I don’t know how much I believe Texas’ claim. I would definitely believe it if the situation was more like the breakup of the Southwest Conference, with the threat of Texas A&M being stranded like Houston, Rice, and TCU were. But if the Aggies could’ve latched onto the SEC (as they were reported to be on the verge of), then everyone would be taken care of. It seems like a convenient excuse for Texas if you’re the Pac 10. If you’re Texas, it’s sound negotiating tactics. Either way, it gave the Longhorns the out they needed to grab the better deal.
— That better deal being increased television revenue and owning their local television rights. The Pac 10 could offer the former, but not the latter if it wanted to start its own TV network. Meanwhile, FOX has apparently upped the ante in what it will pay for Big 12 football, which is driving the increased revenue. Of tangential interest is that apparently NBC is also looking to expand its college football offering.
— Another part of the better deal for Texas, A&M, and Oklahoma comes in the form of, basically, extortion. Nebraska and Colorado are required to pay exit fees for leaving the conference. That money will not be split among the 10 remaining teams; instead, the five schools that weren’t on the Pac 10’s expansion list will give their share to the big three. That’s expected to be $15 million split between them, which makes for a pretty nice up-front incentive to stay put.
— Two days ago, Dan Beebe was looked upon as the most helpless, quasi-capable man in sports. Today, he’s the Anatoly Karpov of conference grandmasters. Some crow-eating might be in order for his harsher critics in the media.
— How awesome is Big 12 basketball now? A true round-robin between 10 schools including Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri, and Texas A&M? The Big 12 is now what the ACC used to be.
— Of course, while the Big 12 is still alive for now, conference expansion isn’t necessarily over with. The Pac 10 is reportedly targeting Utah, and the Big Ten has long been rumored to be looking east. If I’m the Pac 10, though, I hold at 11. Nothing against Utah, but they aren’t the reason the Pac 10 got into this mess. Texas officials are saying that they’re committed to the Big 12 for the “long term;” but the school’s leadership can change. Even if it doesn’t, these same officials appeared ready to jump ship just two days ago. A lot can happen a year or two from now. If circumstances change and this opportunity comes up again, does the Pac 10 want to be stuck with Utah? Is a championship game that important? It wasn’t to Texas and Oklahoma…
Anyway, even if armageddon is inevitable, at least it’s postponed.
Is it wrong that I spent half of the last week remembering how awesome it was that you could create custom conferences in NCAA 2001?