Thursday, June 10, 2010

More on Conference Expansion

So, if I didn't bore, confuse or frustrate you enough with Parts One and Two, I have a few further thoughts on conference expansion, both from competition and academics points of view.

First, let me say that there is no way the crap being floated about the Pac-1x pushing for it's two division champs being granted AQ status in the BCS will happen, unless they are trying to kill the BCS.  That'd be a deal breaker of the first order under the current system.  The only way that'd be granted would be if the SEC and probably the Big Ten and ACC get the same deal.  If you are keeping score at home, that is all but one of the current BCS slots (Pac-1X, Big Ten, SEC and ACC with 2 each and Big East with one) and that is before whatever happens with the Big 12 is spoken for.  Remember, contractually, the Big 12 has a spot at the table though 2013.  That is the biggest reason I can find that the Big 12 will remain a viable conference, even if there is an exodus to both the West and East.  I grant the possibility of the new Big 12 losing AQ status, but the best shot any conference that isn't currently an AQ (including, presumably a revamped Big 12) is to cherry pick the strongest athletic programs West of the Mississippi and create a new conference, something the MWC was essentially trying to do with the overtures to Boise State.

Also, The Senator was spot on with is assessment of the comments about the Pac-1X's possible push for two AQs.  I have given some thought to who that Big 12 coach might have been and narrowed it to Tubberville, who's university administration is just stupid enough to think that'd fly or Dan Hawkins, because he seems to be Mike Leach's heir apparent for off handed remarks.



Second, look for the BCS to expand to at least five regular bowls and the National Championship Game.  I guess that could open the door for three teams from a conference making it (or maybe, just maybe, two AQs from conferences). For a while, I would have thought the Chic-fil-A Bowl had as good a shot as any, but with the Jerry Jones' new shrine to the Dallas Cowboys stadium, I'd say the Cotton Bowl has the inside track.

Third, IF the Big 12 dies, the real question is who becomes the power player among the remaining conferences without AQ status? As it is, the MWC and WAC are duking that out, with C-USA somewhere in the mix.  I'd look for the MWC to bring in at least the two Kansas teams and Boise State.  Fresno State would be a possibility as well.  While the idea of playing a conference championship game in Denver in December doesn't appeal to me, they would also have the possibility of having it in San Diego (San Diego State is a member school).  Remember, if total Armageddon happens and the Big 12 goes away,  there remains the possibility of putting together a conference that could gain AQ status via other means, including putting together enough TV viewers/football umph to get a seat at the BCS table full time.  While I don't think this is ultimately what will happen, as I believe the Big 12 will find a way to live on, the possibility exists for a new MWC to step into the breech, if they add the right schools.

Fourth, it is a mistake to totally dismiss the academic side of this discussion.  For purposes of my charts, I didn't take academics into account too much.  I did think about the ramifications of adding certain schools and where those schools stand in the general academic hierarchy, but I didn't think like faculties do.  That is to say, I didn't think any school with a lower ranked program than what I teach in isn't worth of consideration.  It is dangerous, however to simply assume that this isn't part of the equation.  In my recent visit to Columbia, home of the University of Missouri, there was a palatable excitement over joining the Big Ten.  That excitement wasn't universal, but one theme was: The value of a Mizzou degree going up if they joined the Big Ten. 

It is hard for me to fathom that, especially since I consider my Georgia degrees more valuable than the degrees from all of the SEC schools except for Vandy.  I wouldn't doubt for a second if a Florida, Alabama or LSU grad felt the same way.  The idea of University degrees having varying value is an important consideration in a number of things, especially grant money and corporate/alumni giving.  So while all of this is about money, don't assume that sports money is all that is on the table here.

Fifth, I still see no reason for the SEC to try to expand.   The only teams out there that would make sense to me are either completely un-interested (Clemson, Georgia Tech, FSU), un-interesting (Miami), too politically hard to get (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech) or undesirable (Louisville).  Mike Slive has built the SEC brand in a way that other conferences envy him/them.  IF Texas and Texas A&M come calling, then you have to talk, but not if it means taking four other schools.  I guess I could be convinced if it also accompanies an earth rotationally changing event like an NCAA mandated playoff, with divisions of eight or more getting automatic slots, but that is so far above my pay grade, it just makes my head hurt.  Come to think of it, my head doesn't hurt at all about that, because I can think of about $100million reasons for certain schools to create a new entity that could give a crap about the NCAA. 

Finally, we are approaching the 'deadline' imposed by the Big 12 to swear allegiance to them.  Don't look for Nebraska of Missouri to do so.  I don't think it'll have the immediate result of the conference falling apart, as I think Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick will have a heart to heart before the Big Ten issues any formal invitations.  To me, Notre Dame's lack of a public role is the most intriguing thing about this whole scenario.  Swarbrick has very publicly stated that he wants to keep Notre Dame independent.  The Big Ten has very publicly stated they want to expand.  While there are reports out there that they are 'in negotiations,' there have been no credible leaks (as much as you can have those) indicating they are ready to join together.  The reports that Notre Dame, along with East Coast teams (Maryland and Rutgers, today), are joining doesn't jibe with what I believe to be either the money or academic arguments for expansion.  Notre Dame gets the Big Ten into the New York, Boston and DC markets, and does so with just 12 teams in the conference.  Remember, $$$/12 is always more than $$$.25/14 or $$$.5/16.

It should be an interesting few days, to say the least.

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