I’ve not been a proponent of expanding into 16-team conferences. The success of SEC athletics programs has been unquestioned.
As previously blogged, you either expand for money or survival. Everything being equal, once a conference heads down the slippery slope, they may as well do it big.
Since school’s positions and information leaked to the media have changed daily, I’ll recap.
The Pac-12 Conference
The Pac-12 doesn’t want to expand less than a year after shaking up college athletics by almost decapitating the Big 12. In the end, only Colorado and Utah left their conferences to join the then Pac-10.
Because Larry Scott was so aggressive in his attempts to expand last year, he can’t be seen as making the move to finally finish off the Big 12. This is why he has remained mostly quiet after Oklahoma’s talk of keeping open their options.
Oklahoma senses, as soon as this academic year, the demise of the Big 12. They’ve decided to be proactive in the expansion process this time, all with hopes of finding a chair before the music stops.
The fate of Texas also lies with Oklahoma, but not nearly in the manner described by the media. The Longhorns have the muscle and financing to join Notre Dame and BYU as football independents. If Texas moves in that direction, though, they still have questions that need answers.
1. Which BCS conference does Texas ally itself for sports other than football?
An expanded Pac-12 is out. The school presidents should demand nothing less than full membership. After all, the unequal conference revenue sharing and The Longhorn Network have brought us to this point.
You can count out the SEC. If Texas wanted to be a member of the SEC, it would have already happened.
The most logical destination is the ACC. The issue then becomes one of costs.
2. What are the costs associated with joining a conference for sports other than football?
They are significant. The Big Ten schools are mostly located in the Great Lakes region; most Big East football-playing schools are in the northeast part of the country.
Of the BCS conferences, that leaves only the ACC as a feasible destination. Florida State is the closest school to Austin - at 800 miles.
Even with the revenues from a new television network, travel costs - especially for non-revenue sports - will skyrocket. Not being within driving range to any future conference opponent as a vagabond is probably the major stumbling block preventing Texas from playing as an independent in football.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are, in essence, bystanders. Their fates are tied to the decisions of Oklahoma and Texas. Thank you, state politics.
The SEC was on the outside looking in last year when talks of conference expansion came. They now find themselves deep in the conversation.
Texas A&M got tired of being Texas’ little brother and came calling. I can understand why, and don’t blame them. You can only stand-by and watch the rich get richer for so long. And when the richer is your hated rival…
Adding just the Aggies brings about its own set of questions that need answers.
1. Who is next?
Having an odd-number of teams in a conference with divisions won’t work, so at least one more school will be asked to leave their conference and join the SEC.
2. Where does that school come from?
If you’re adding only one school, logic dictates adding a team to the SEC East. If the SEC were to add Missouri, the divisions would be geographically split 8 to 6.
There isn’t a lone school in the SEC West to move into the SEC East without damaging some storied rivalries. Auburn is closest, but you’d have to split them from Alabama. No chance that happens.
3. The better question: where do those schools come from?
Let me state my opinion here. The Pac-12 wants to be where the SEC is in terms of football; the additions of Texas and Oklahoma will get them there. However, the SEC probably wants to be where the Pac-12 is in terms of non-revenue sports.
If you’re the SEC, you already play in the most difficult football conference in the nation. You don’t want expansion to make the football schedule any more difficult.
If you’re the SEC and a) expanding to get better at non-revenue sports, b) without making the conference football schedule more difficult to navigate, and c) looking to re-work a TV contract, you look at inviting schools from the ACC.
Reducing the Competition
Schools eliminated because they’re already within the SEC footprint: Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson.
School located too far north: Boston College.
Schools with athletics programs that aren’t good enough: Maryland and Virginia
School that is too small: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons undergraduate population is ~7,000 students. That is 60% of the enrollment of the SEC’s smallest school (Vanderbilt, ~12,000 students).
This leaves four schools to choose from. North Carolina and North Carolina State are probably tied together because of state politics, leaving us with Duke and Virginia Tech.
Duke is an original member of the ACC, but they’re a private school so the state politics of departing wouldn’t be an issue. They add no competition in football, but basketball and non-revenue sports are some of the best in the country. This allows SEC entry into the growing North Carolina market.
Virginia Tech is one of the newest members of the ACC. Their football program doesn’t make things easier for the other SEC members, but the Washington, D.C. TV market would be a great addition.
If I haven’t been clear in my previous blog posts, let me say I’m not at all a fan of the NCAA. I think it’s totally unworkable. To me, it doesn’t make sense to have a one-size-fits-all association.
Does anyone really believe a university president at a D-III school should have the same weighted vote as a university president from a D-I school?
I think it’s laughable that a non-BCS school is considered a BCS school’s peer, not to mention the equivalence with which a FCS school is given.
Since I’ve made it clear I’m not a fan of the NCAA, what’s my plan?
Word from the Big Ten is they don’t want to expand. I believe the reason has more to do with finances than genuine want. The Big Ten simply isn’t in a fiscal position to allow for expansion; they’re handicapped by their existing network.
The conference’s primary football and men’s basketball TV rights are held by ABC/ESPN and CBS. Have you ever looked at the offerings on The Big Ten Network on a college football Saturday? The best games are on ABC and ESPN. The slimmest of pickings are all that’s left.
The Big Ten Network is already in 73 million TV households. It has clearly been successful for the conference. That success is also detrimental. Because it has been successful, there are too few new subscribers available for expansion. If you remember from an earlier blog, subscribers equal revenues every month.
So the Big Ten already has: 1) a national network and 2) twelve members with an equal share. If they were to expand, where do the new revenues come from? The answer is likely nowhere. That means the current schools will have to accept a smaller piece of the same-sized pie.
Are the ACC and Big East really in a position to expand? Sure, but not in any meaningful way. In fact, both of these conferences may see current members leave for greener (more money) pastures. If Duke doesn’t move to the SEC, look for West Virginia to take the final opening.
So, yes, I said secession. It’s time for the haves to secede from the have-nots and the NCAA; and I’m not referring to the rumored four, 16-team super-conference model.
How does a new, 32-team association sound? I’m referring to a newly combined SEC/Pac-16 conglomeration that makes a clean break from both the NCAA and BCS.
What does a conference stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, and possessing 56% of the nation’s population, look like?
An Expanded Pac-16 Conference
What would an expanded Pac-16 look like? I believe in simplicity and natural rivalry.
Pac-16 Coastal Division
2. Washington State
4. Oregon State
Pac-16 Inland Division
2. Arizona State
6. Oklahoma State
8. Texas Tech
This divisional grouping, for you nostalgia buffs, sees the return of the Pac-8 in the Coastal Division. The six newest members of the Pac-16 - five from the former Big 12 - reside in the Inland Division.
An Expanded SEC
What would an expanded SEC look like? Again, simplicity and natural rivalry.
SEC East Division
3. South Carolina
7. Virginia Tech
8. Duke or West Virginia
SEC West Division
4. Mississippi State
7. Texas Tech
With this divisional grouping, the current members of the SEC remain in their divisions. The four newest members - 2 from the ACC or 1 each from the ACC and Big East, 2 from the former Big 12 - are placed in divisions corresponding with geography.
Taking It to a New Level
Our new super-association is more than a football and basketball conference. Within its 32 teams reside six of the Top 10 - and sixteen of the Top 25 - universities in the previous two years of Director’s Cup competition.
There is enough quality and depth within these athletics departments to turn some non-revenue sports into revenue generators.
That said, I spend my time - and I’m sure you spend your time - thinking about football. What does this new association mean for football?
Firstly, since it’s no longer under the auspices of the NCAA, we schedule (and keep that money) within our association.
Secondly, the college football season runs 15 weeks - 1st Saturday in September thru the 2nd Saturday in December. Interesting enough, each conference has 15 potential opponents. Of course I’m going there.
Each school plays all the teams within its conference every year. The odd number of games means schools will alternate between 7 and 8 home games per year. Traveling one extra weekend a year is made up the following year.
Thirdly, no more bowls. If you’re going to play a 15-game season, you have to compromise somewhere.
Fourthly, it’s playoff time. The top 2 teams in each division (4 per conference) meet in an 8-team playoff.
The division winners host the opposite division’s runners-up on campus in the quarterfinal round. The conference semifinal round takes place at neutral sites; the SEC in the Georgia Dome, and the Pac-16 in either Cowboys Stadium or Farmer’s Field (soon to be constructed stadium in downtown LA).
Fifthly, we crown a champion without the need for polls or computers. Since we haven’t had any bye weeks, our final week of the season happens to fall during New Year’s Week. We keep a modicum of tradition and make the permanent site for our championship game - winners of the SEC and Pac-16 - the Rose Bowl.
I envision ten total networks: national networks for both the SEC and Pac-16, and eight regional networks consisting of 4-team pods.
1. Washington & Oregon schools
2. California schools
3. Arizona schools, Utah and Colorado
4. Oklahoma & Texas schools
5. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Duke/West Virginia
6. Tennessee schools, Kentucky and Virginia
7. Alabama & Mississippi schools
8. Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and Missouri
These networks would generate $1 to $1.5 BILLION in revenue per year. That’s just the TV deals. Revenue not included in this figure are streaming or mobile rights. Also missing are rights to a Saturday Ticket satellite TV deal. There is plenty of room for growth in my conservative TV money projection.
There are significant revenues generated from other sources (playoff, national sponsors, school paraphernalia, booster donations, etc.). The NFL alone has 22 official corporate partners, including Pepsi, who signed a 10-year, $2.3 billion licensing agreement this week.
If you divided the low end - $1 billion - in TV revenue equally, each of the 32 schools would derive $31.25 million per year just from TV. That’s slightly more than what the Pac-12 teams are expecting under their new contracts, and 1 ½ times what the SEC teams receive.
If only $25 million per school is disbursed, the other $6.25 million can be used for other needs.
A portion of the $200 million per year not disbursed could go into an athletic facility upgrade fund. If a school needs money to build a track, indoor practice facility, women’s gym, or even a study hall/learning annex for athletes, they can make a withdrawal from this fund and repay it over 5 years at market interest rates.
Has your school been hit by state budget cuts? It’s finally time for some athletics departments to pay their schools instead of the other way around. The University Athletic Association at Florida has given more than $50 million to the school’s general fund since 1990.
Money can also be set aside for athletes without degrees, and whose eligibility has expired, so they can earn a degree.
I have more ideas but I’ve prattled on enough… until next time.