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June 2, 2010

Expansion Chatter Round-up

Filed under: Conference,Media,Money — Chas @ 10:12 am

The Big East meetings came and went without anything happening. Not that anything was actually expected, but before every conference meeting there seems to be this silly expectation that something might happen.

Speaking of which.

Big 12 officials, including the board of directors, will be discussing issues related to “conference membership,” according to the agenda. With Missouri and Nebraska at the center of Big Ten expansion scenarios, some fret that the Big 12 will be cannibalized for parts.

Expect Beebe to push conference loyalty. One possibility, he acknowledged, would be legislation that would stiffen the penalties for schools to exit.

The odds of such legislation passing would be slim and none. Colorado, Mizzou, Nebraska and even Texas and Texas A&M would never support that.

If the loyalty card is all the Big 12 can try to use to keep their members from bolting, then they are in worse shape than the Big East. Then again, their options at keeping members are as limited as the Big East’s.

In a way it has to be more frustrating for the Big 12. They have a solid conference. Teams with history. 12 members. A good football and basketball balance. All these things going for it, and they are as likely to be picked apart.

After all, if there is an expansion domino effect, the SEC would also play a role in picking over the Big 12 carcass. Especially if the rumored reports are true that the SEC does have clauses to increase payouts in the TV contracts if they add more teams.

The question, though, is who would the SEC actually seek to add? The more this is about money and markets, the more it seems more reasonable to assume that if the SEC were to go to a 16-team expansion it would be with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. Especially Texas.

Texas seems at least willing to listen a lot closer to expansion options.  An SEC expansion that brings A&M — for Texas state politics — and possibly Oklahoma — keeps a rival — would make a lot more sense.

Really, aside from the geography and/or the desire to render the ACC completely irrelevant in the Southeast, what is the appeal for the SEC in any combination of Florida St, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech? They don’t add new markets. They don’t make the league significantly better.

The SEC can just sit back and figure out options. They win if nothing happens. They don’t have to expand unless they can go big.

Then there’s the Pac-10. Which seems to have people all over the place.

No expansion?

The Pac-10 is already a Super Conference, one that doesn’t need to expand to get more attention or to make more money.

When the high-powered minds come together in San Francisco this week it’s almost certain they will absorb two things: (1) expansion to Utah and Colorado can’t improve their financial lot; (2) the most significant predictor of future financial success isn’t expansion but rather the ACC’s recent deal with ESPN.

Two weeks ago, the ACC and ESPN agreed to a $155 million-a-year deal that more than doubles its old arrangement of $67 million annually.

The ACC more than doubled its media value without expanding. That’s what appeals to the Pac-10.

And here’s the key, expansion-related comment [Pac-10 Commissioner Larry] Scott made in Oregon: “What’s going to add value are schools that can deliver major audiences in key markets that have strength in football and basketball.”

That’s not Utah or Salt Lake City. The big unknown is how much Scott and the Pac-10 presidents value the Denver TV market. Is it enough to give Colorado, which is not a national power in any sport, an equal share of future TV booty?

Or maybe they will.

Scott isn’t saying too much about expansion, at least not in detail. But he’s clearly intrigued by the idea of adding two schools, or even more. More important, the league’s presidents apparently are, too.

They’ve hired Creative Artists Agency to explore the subject, and the timetable is right now, because any decision must be made before next winter, when the league opens negotiations on a new television contract.

And Scott understands the only thing at stake in all of this “is the ability to compete financially” with other leagues.

Something is clearly expected out of the Pac-10 meetings later this week.

On Monday, in Wellesley, Mass., UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau participated in a Q&A with the Cal Alumni Club of New England, and sources say that during that meeting, Cal’s top official revealed several tantalizing tidbits in regards to the possible expansion of the Pac-10 Conference.

Birgeneau confirmed that the chancellors and presidents of the Pac-10 member schools will be holding a conference meeting on June 6 in San Francisco, and said that he would be “surprised if something did not happen that revolutionized college athletics.”

Birgeneau said that expansion is a real possibility in the near future, and that the Pac-10 is seriously considering “a couple of schools, at least one of which meets the academic standards of the rest of the Pac-10.”

It could be expansion or a Pac-10 Network announcement.

So after all of this, is it really possible that the most dynamic conference meeting could be the Pac-10? Talk about your paradigm shift.

A couple additional tidbits. It isn’t easy trying to play with the big boys when you aren’t really there.

Public schools competing in the Mountain West Conference, on average, shell out $1,177 per student to subsidize their athletic programs, the costliest of the 11 conferences in the NCAA’s 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision, according to a report released Monday.

That number is much bigger than per-student subsidies in the six power conferences enshrined in the Bowl Championship Series and illustrates the inequities that abound in intercollegiate sports, according to the report’s authors.

“Rich, famous and athletically well-known schools have only been trivially impacted at the institutional level by the explosion in [athletics] costs, while a significant number of schools that are, on average, poorer, less prestigious, and athletically more marginal have been clobbered,” says the report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), a Washington, D.C.-based market-oriented think tank.

The MWC, home to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University sports programs, and the Western Athletic Conference, the stage for the Utah State Aggies, don’t have access to lucrative revenue streams enjoyed by big-name conferences like the Big Ten, said report co-author Richard Vedder, CCAP’s executive director. So these “wannabe” conference schools are forced to tap institutional resources, taxpayers and students in the mostly vain hope of competing with the nation’s best football and basketball programs.

CCAP’s blog post on the study has a link to the study (PDF), but I couldn’t get it to open. (Link fixed. Thanks to KeithS)

Finally, an interview with Ohio State’s AD on expansion is well worth reading.

…So, yeah, at the end of the day, for some reason, if something was strange and Gordon and I felt it was not in the best interests of Ohio State, we would wield our strength in the room.

PD: So expansion requires a vote for admission, but it sounds like what you’re saying is if there is expansion, it will be a collective agreement, not an 8-3 vote where a school squeezes in.

GS: We’re all going to have to feel good about it, because we’re all affected.

PD: And if you or Gordon stood up and said this is not right for the Big Ten?

GS: I’m 100 percent confident my colleagues would say we can’t do this. And my guess is in that scenario we wouldn’t be the only ones. It would be Penn State or Michigan or somebody else. I can’t even imagine what that could possibly be where it would be one significant institution with our brand saying this is not right, what you’re doing to us. I can’t imagine that, because we are a major part of the brand.

PD: Because you won’t be doing anything where you decrease revenue by expanding.

GS: Which is why we might not.

It is all about the money.





The PDF file of the study opens up if you lop the %20 off the end of the URL

link to centerforcollegeaffordability.org

Comment by KeithS 06.02.10 @ 12:20 pm

Hmmm…very interesting interview with the OSU AD. I think that part of what he may be saying is they may not want too many new big fish swimming in their pond. For example, what if the conference did get ND and Texas, might the OSU, Mich, PSU profiles go down a little? Because trust me Gene, If ND or Texas come in, you would be making some room on those shelves at the front of the store!

Comment by HbgFrank 06.02.10 @ 1:01 pm

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