Monday, June 14, 2010

Reports of Big 12's Demise Were Apparently Exaggerated

I wrote Friday about the impending demise of the once-great Big 12 Conference.

Spoke too soon.

Instead, the Big 12 is alive and very well Monday night, thanks to a decision by Texas to stay put, pushing aside the advances of the Pac-10 conference.

It wasn't long after that we found out lapdogs Texas A&M and Oklahoma will also stay in the Big 12.

(OU fans are probably cursing me. With all due respect to Texas, I never thought I'd see the day that A&M and Oklahoma just bowed their heads and went the way of the Longhorns. Rivalries be damned, it just looks stupid to me.)

In the end, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has found a way to at least keep a ten-team league together. That's big, because most people who have fake Twitter accounts created in their name aren't having it done for the good of the world.

(The latest, by the way, from the "Fake Dan Beebe" account? "OK, I'm actually a little worried now. UT, A&M and OU all have announced they are staying. KSU, BU and ISU are oddly silent."

Good times.)

This is good for a number of reasons. The Big Ten can stay at 12 teams, with the addition late last week of Nebraska. They fit the Big Ten, and they'll benefit from losing 14-13 to Iowa and Wisconsin all the time, as opposed to losing at home to Iowa State or having Kansas beat them by like six touchdowns.

(How stupid is Nebraska going to feel after that first 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten season? And you know it's coming. Nebraska stopped being this elite, unbeatable, legendary football power like a decade ago. It's just that no one bothered to tell Nebraska. The Big 12 North can cast quite a spell. Hell, look how competent Kansas looked for a few years.)

How close did we come to the end of the Big 12? Dr. Saturday sets the timeline.

Thus concludes the dramatic, week-long Big 12 Missile Crisis, just hours before the apparent dismemberment of the league: By all accounts, the Texas Board of Regents was fully prepared to vote the Longhorns into the Pac-10 on Tuesday, followed by Texas Tech and then Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Don't let the stunning reversal over the last 24 hours paint that narrative as mere smoke: Larry Scott was in Lubbock, Oklahoma City, College Station and Austin over the weekend with invitations in hand. Texas A&M's commitment was in flux, but as for the Longhorns, Sooners, Cowboys and Red Raiders, the wagon train West was packed and ready to roll.

That's close. And it didn't happen.

Congrats to Beebe, because he figured out a way to make it work.

The math nerds in college sports are probably having a field day with this. The Big 12 has ten teams. The Big Ten has 12. The Pac-10 has 11. The Atlantic 10 has 14 teams in many sports and 15 actual members.

Of course, conference names are nothing but a form of branding. The Big Eight changing to the Big 12 was the last major league to go through a name change.

(Stop it, Conference USA fans. You're not that big, yet.)

We might not be done with change.

The Big Ten should stay put. So should the Big East, ACC, SEC, and WAC. But the Mountain West may lose Utah (to the Pac-10) after gaining Boise State. The ripple effect of that could send TCU packing back to Conference USA, where they have a better TV deal and the Horned Frogs could reunite with Houston, SMU, and UTEP.

Would there be more movement among the BCS leagues? It's possible, but not likely.

As for Texas, don't salute their nod to tradition or their smarts for not wanting to schedule regular trips to Corvallis, Pullman, Eugene, and Berkeley. They are getting a lot of money from the Big 12, thanks to their stupid unequal revenue arrangement that acts as if their league would exist in its current form without the likes of Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State.

(Does Northwestern pull in less coin than Ohio State? Nope. Nor should they. Leagues are a partnership, and giving the big dog special treatment only makes it more difficult for others to emerge as a contender.)

Texas is doing this for money. They'll get more money from the Big 12, and they'll have the right to start their own television network, with a chance to make even more money. Had they joined the Pac-10, they would have been forced to turn their video inventory over to the league for the Pac-10/16/whatever Network, which was to launch in 2012 and probably still will.

Beebe pulled this together, but he had to get on his knees for the Longhorns to make it happen. Give him credit for that, because it had to be a pride-killing move.

Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and the rest of them are just pawns.

Texas is the king, and don't you ever forget it.

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