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June 8, 2010

Expansion Blender

Filed under: Conference,Money — Chas @ 10:15 am

I prefer to try and weave the various stories I gather into some cohesive post that has some flow. I just don’t think this group is possible. And I think my computer would shut down if I tried to open more tabs and links to put various narratives. So it is time to bounce, mash and blend through the links.

Let’s start with Jim Delany, super-evil-genius. At least that is the theme of this story.

It’s clear now that Delany used opposition to a football playoff not to preserve some bit of “tradition.” His expansion plans clearly indicate he cares nothing about that. It certainly wasn’t done for the sake of aiding Big Ten football, since a playoff with on-campus home games likely would’ve helped his teams.

The goal was to starve out the Big 12, Big East and even the ACC of the hundreds of millions a playoff would’ve given them and thus turn the future of college sports into a battle of television sets.

Delany couldn’t assure that the Big Ten would’ve done well in a football playoff. Maybe the league would’ve succeeded, maybe not. With 26 percent of the nation’s population, tradition rich clubs and its own cable network though, the Big Ten will always dominate if everything boils down to TV revenue.

It was a genius, cutthroat throat play. He set the terms of the game so he’d win. The Pac-10, led by aggressive new commissioner Larry Scott, is taking advantage also. I’m not blaming Delany here. I may not believe a 16-team Big Ten (or Pac-10) is in the best interest of the league’s current members (or the NCAA as a whole), but it’s not that big of a deal to me. Whatever happens, happens. Besides, it’s not Delany’s fault he’s smarter than the other guys.

Apparently Delany has been operating with a secret plan for years that included manipulating his fellow conference commissioners to sew the seeds of their own destruction by not supporting even a “plus 1″ national championship system.

Has he been smart enough to take advantage of things? Yes. Has he had more foresight and vision than most of his counterparts? Without a doubt. That does not make a super-plan conspiracy to destroy other conferences and form a super-duper power conference years in the making.

I’ve had an evolving viewpoint on Virginia Tech since ACC expansion in 2003. Back then, they were pure opportunistic, lying, honorless scum. They made strong declarations of how they wanted the Big East to survive and pledged absolute loyalty — up until the Virginia governor and ACC politics allowed them an invite to the ACC. Then they jumped and claimed they weren’t doing anything wrong. That they were going to the conference where they belonged — both geographically and with rivalries.

Over the years, I have softened my view a bit on them. It’s not like the Big East treated them that well. The basketball power structure that treated them (and Miami, WVU and Rutgers) like second-class citizens. Refusing to fully admit them into the conference for the 90s — and thus hamstringing their own efforts to improve their basketball side. Then there is the realistic self-interest, self-preservation and stability that makes sense. Even more so, now.

That said. They still look like opportunistic, ungrateful freaks at times.

Most of you will be quick to point out that Virginia would have to accompany VT to the SEC because in 2003 then Governor Mark Warner forced UVa to support the Hokies membership to the ACC. I disagree. VT/UVa will not have to be a package deal, because Virginia Tech won’t feel political pressure to include them. Why? Because it’s obvious life would continue on normally for UVa in a post apocalypse ACC, a conference they helped found. The Hoos ultimate goal of winning championships in all sports (read those that don’t matter) and competing for a Directors’ Cup will remain intact and unchanged. They also value their history with the Tobacco Road schools. Furthermore, against weaker competition, they may actually win a couple of more football games a year. Bonus.

Being a member of the SEC, the premier college football conference, would provide more national and regional television exposure (CBS, ESPN, ABC broadcasts), increased recruiting clout and revenue (dump trucks full of money). Critics will argue that our 10 wins in the ACC equate to 7 wins in the SEC. Sure, an ACC school winning 10 games against a SEC schedule is daunting, but I think it’s obtainable once we’re on an even playing field. As a member of the SEC we’d commit ourselves to a higher level of excellence under a greater pressure to succeed. To be the man, you gotta beat the man (Woo!).

It’s fascinating. They were part of an ACC expansion that was aggressive in moving for football, and now they are completely unsatisfied there because they feel all things in the ACC are NC-centric and pure basketball.

Why doesn’t the ACC expand first to avoid an SEC raid?

Because John Swofford is spineless and the Tobacco Road power brokers are old, short-sighted and stupid. How’s that for an answer?

What happens if the SEC takes four ACC teams?

Then the ACC has two choices. It can either add four teams to get back to 12 or add eight to go to 16. Well, I guess there’s a third option, which is do nothing so the Tobacco Road folks can get their precious round-robin basketball season back. And because that’s a really dumb option, it means it might be the most-likely one.

If the ACC decides to add four, my preference would be Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. If it has to add eight, I would prefer South Florida, East Carolina, Louisville and Cincinnati. That would be a full merger with the Big East with the addition of East Carolina.

Why is it no one is ever satisfied unless they feel their school is the center of the conference? Unless bucketloads of cash are being thrown at all members.

Jumping to Pac-16 possibilities. If you think the other Texas Big 12 schools want Baylor with them, well...

Baylor offers nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  It is a mere leech.  Well, OK, it seems to offer one thing: political expediency for the mass of pro-Texas, pro-A&M and pro-Tech legislators who seem to lack the testicular fortitude from preventing this from happening.

Despite what our school’s leadership might say, fans of Texas do not want Baylor tagging along.  [Author’s Note: please, readers of BON, if I am misrepresenting anyone’s position with that sentence, please chime in!] And I would guess that UT’s administration really doesn’t want Baylor either.  There’s a reason why Texas and Texas A&M originally thought that they, and they alone, would be leaving the SWC to join the schools of the Big 8.  I would also guess, given the surprise inclusion of Tech, that backroom negotiations had already worked out the optimal solution from UT’s perspective with the original leaked group of six teams.

I don’t presume to speak for Aggies and Red Raiders and Sooners and such, but I cannot imagine that any of them are really thrilled.  And if those who participate on message boards are good indicators for the general feelings among a school’s fanbase as a whole, you would have been shocked to see how quickly opinion switched from being almost universally positive (Colorado!) to negative (Baylor?!?) among your conference’s schools once news of the proposed forced substitution emerged.

Here are some of the e-mails that Baylor regent and high-powered lobbyist Buddy Jones has been sending to marshall forces to the side of Baylor. I’m alternatively annoyed that some private school could be that powerful to possibly pull this off, to impressed, to more than a bit jealous. Kind of wishing Pitt had or would use that kind of effort to at least make sure Penn State was pressured to support Pitt into the Big 10 at all costs. Yes, I know that PA politics and power are far different from Texas — and most of the time that seems to be a good thing.

The SEC should be concerned about the way expansion may go. If the Big 12 is blown-up, they are limited to only reinforcing present markets, and not getting any of the big names — Texas, Texas A&M or even Oklahoma.

Seeing the Pac-10 suddenly show foresight and aggression is a bit jarring, but impressive.

For an idea of just how bold some conferences are thinking, check out this recent quote from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott:

“I think we’re going to be the first collegiate conference to really have an international marketing plan, which I do envision in the future will include broadcasts of our contests and games internationally as well as competitions.  You’ll see our student-athletes playing in an organized way in Asia.”

The SEC has said that it wants to maintain the status quo.  It isn’t looking to expand and it doesn’t want to be proactive on the issue.  Slive and the SEC’s presidents have said that they prefer to take a wait and see approach.

Meanwhile, the Pac-10 has hired CAA — a Hollywood agency — to help draw up expansion plans and lead its future marketing efforts.  The Pac-10 wants to present itself as “a league of the future.”  It’s even thinking globally.

Like the NFL playing football games overseas and NASCAR running races outside the United States, the Pac-10 is turning an eye to the vast untapped markets beyond our country’s borders.

University officials across the country may still tell you that college sports is not a business, but that’s a bit like me saying, “I’m not old.”  I don’t want to be old, but I am.  Academicians might not want to consider sports as a business, but if it walks like a duck…

The ACC may have shored things up with its new media contract, but it still at risk from an SEC raid. As there is an argument for the SEC to get more money from their deal.

Entering the SEC would immediately bolster the quality of this inventory; removing BC, Maryland, Wake, Duke, UNC, NC State and UVA and replacing them with the current SEC slate is an instant upgrade. The possibility of games against Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, Bama, LSU and Arkansas as replacements boosts the television draw.

Not only does this make Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and Miami more valuable a commodity it also creates a position where ESPN can flood their primetime and midday regional lineups with more quality match ups AFTER CBS takes their first pick of the midday game. More quality match ups = a higher asking price for advertising = more revenue generated.

This means ESPNU and ESPN3 will be showing more Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and ACC games while the SEC can put the major powers, new and old, on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2; more attractive options to advertising buyers. In short, moving Vanderbilt-Kentucky to ESPNU to show “new inventory” such as Clemson-Tennessee or Georgia Tech-Alabama creates an environment where ESPN has more reason to increase their premium ad-rates.

So while Slive will have to do his due diligence in deciding to pursue expansion it does seem to be plausible for the SEC to bolster their revenue package. The question is does the increase in inventory and improvement in quality of inventory truly warrant a $68 million per year in additional revenue. If that answer is no then we’ll likely see the SEC stand pat BUT if that answer is yes, then ACC look out as the SEC stands to gain power by raiding the ACC.

I’m not convinced, but it may be the SEC’s best bet if the Big 12 doesn’t survive.

Then there is still ND. There is all this silly speculation that ND is in talks with the Big 11. Yesterday the story was that they would go because they might be forced by a move to 16 teams in the Big 11. Now, the story is that it is because the Big 11 agrees to stop at 12? Of course, the problem with this story — ND continues to deny any and all talks with the Big 11 are taking place.

Finally, a little silly, but an argument that Rutgers may not be able to afford to make the move to the Big 11 because of the money.

The Scarlet Knights’ athletic department, which received almost half its $58.5 million in revenue last year from state subsidies and student fees, would probably earn about an extra $13.6 million a year in conference money by leaving the Big East for the Big Ten, based on current distributions.

To compete with schools such as Ohio State University, the University of Michigan and Penn State University, however, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based school probably will have to increase spending on coaches’ salaries, recruiting and infrastructure, possibly sending it deeper into the red, sports business analysts and former coaches said.

“If you are going to compete and be successful, you better have the facilities, and that’s going to be an arms race,” said former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue, now a college football analyst for Westwood One, Inc.’s radio network. “It’s the number one thing that attracts recruits.”

I have no doubt that Rutgers would still jump and yes, they would go further into debt in the short term. That said, it would be about long-term financial and conference stability. It would be a longer and harder slog to that stability, though, than I think most Rutgers fans realize.





Really good read, thanks Chas. I really don’t want to see any of this chaos, but wouldn’t it be ironic if the following scenario took place: The Big Ten takes on ND only. The Big 12 stays in tact, except for Colorado. The PAC 10 takes only Utah and Colorado. The SEC takes Fla State, Miami, Clemson, and GaTech. The BE surpries every body and takes BC, MD, VA and VA Tech….and somewhere, John Swafford sits in a darkend room, wondering how this all could have happened.

Comment by HbgFrank 06.08.10 @ 1:01 pm

I wanted to draw this link to everyone’s attention:
link to maizenbrew.com

Comment by slingstone 06.08.10 @ 2:54 pm

That’s actually pretty funny. I particularly enjoyed the new school logo…

Comment by Pantherman13 06.08.10 @ 4:39 pm

Chas, again, excellent read. As for the Va.Tech thing, and that could include Mia, B.C. and old grudges against PSU, I’ve gotten by all that, for the sake of not being at a Pitt-Buffalo conference game!!

Comment by Dan 06.08.10 @ 4:49 pm

HbgFrank – From your lips to God’s ears!!

Comment by Dan 72 06.08.10 @ 5:10 pm

kinda of stupid, but being from Brazil I’m not sure about it:
Pitt’s public isn’t it?

Comment by Pedro Salgado 06.08.10 @ 6:16 pm

Chas, there are basketball facility upgrades in the works, but that project is independent of the Big Ten. The entire premise of that argument is ludicrous. No coach is getting a new contract, and the football stadium is fine for the time being.

It is true however that the school (as of 2008, the latest year records are available from) is providing a very high subsidy to the athletic department, and that needs to be addressed. Regardless of what happens, I am fully confident that a move to the Big Ten would reduce the direct institutional support subsidy to the athletic department to some extent.

Comment by Jon 06.08.10 @ 6:59 pm

I thought all along the Big XII was a vulnerable as the Big East to all the predatory action going on, if not more so.

It looks like the Big 12 will soon be no more.

The major conferences should be investigated under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Delaney is trying to form a monopoly and may get away with it – all to preserve his precious OSU-Michigan game in November.

Let’s face it. The Big 11’s reputation for athletics is not as great as the reality of the situation. As for adding new TV sets, neither Rutgers nor Syracuse will ever deliver the precious NYC market. If they did the Big East would already have the money.

The ACC looks to be nearly doomed as the Big XII. If the SEC came calling, Georgia Tech, Clemson, FSU and UM would jump in nanoseconds.

The end result should be for Pitt, WVU, UConn and Syracuse to form a conference with BC, Maryland, NC State, Virginia and whoever else is left over after the SEC is done picking over the ACC’s carcass. Maybe they can leave out Duke and UNC since all they care about is their precious ACC basketball tournament. Either leave ‘em out or put them in their place. Duke football stinks. Temple football is much better than Duke.

Then there would be a true East Coast conference stretching from Boston to Raleigh and no more basketball schools trying to be in control of everything.

Comment by Penguins Fan 06.08.10 @ 9:44 pm

Isn’t RU the school that recently lopped 5 or so intercollegiate sports off its slate?

Comment by Steve 06.09.10 @ 6:29 am

Its nice seeing the ACC getting jerked around after they really started this whole trend of conference raiding.

In the words of the great John Lennon:

“Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”

“Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev’ryone come on”

Comment by Coach Ditka 06.09.10 @ 7:46 am

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