With Big 12 and SEC meetings this week, expansiopocolypse talk picked up in the lead-in to the meetings. The meetings themselves were not supposed to result in any changes, but the chance for the media to talk to coaches and ADs would keep the story going.
That story has been a dud. The SEC has nothing to say on the matter. They just expanded to 14, so there really was no way that they were going to be doing anymore expansion. The Big 12, ah, now that should be where the story was.
Or not so much. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds said last week that he felt that there was no need for any expansion right now (unless Notre Dame came calling). Outgoing temp Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas also suggested strongly that the Big 12 would be best served to stay settled and stabilized for a while after all the upheaval to the conference over the last couple years. Even the newbies at TCU want to wait. Heck,the incoming Big 12 Commissioner has been on record for over 2 weeks as saying he is no hurry to expand.
Now that the meetings are underway, any cracks?
Well, if you consider Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville a power broker, then sure. He wants it so that there is a conference championship and divisions.
“I was at Auburn for 10 years and we won the SEC title one time but we also won five West Division titles,” Tuberville told Chris Level and Aaron Dickens on their Lubbock radio show ‘Tech Talk’ on Double T 104.3 FM. “That gives everyone the opportunity, top to bottom, to say, ‘We’re fighting for two titles.’ Either east or west, north and south and also the overall champion. I think it just gives players more opportunities to say they accomplished something. If you’re a western or eastern division champion, that’s huge.
No. It isn’t for the players. It’s for the coach. Tuberville survived at Auburn for 10 years in no small part because he could claim “division titles.” And he got nice raises for it. Imagine if it had been an SEC without divisions. Tuberville coached Auburn when Bama was down and LSU was the only other threat in the West. Georgia, Florida — and even Tennessee for the beginning of Tuberville’s time — are all in the East.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma who was rumored to be in favor of immediate expansion seems to have backed away.
The Oklahoma athletic director said his school is “open-minded” about growing beyond 10 members, but he wants a strategic approach toward any expansion. Translation: making only moves that would add to the growth and stability of the Big 12.
For the first time in a long time, the conference is operating from a position of strength.
Time is now an unexpected luxury for the Big 12. The league is no longer merely reacting with its survival at stake. Why foreclose any possibilities with a quick decision?
“We’re not in a position where we have to do anything right now,” Castiglione said. “We’re in a good spot right now. We do have a model that works. And it may be a model that works exceptionally well going into the future.”
That’s the thing. Time is on the side of the Big 12 right now. There is no threat to their conference for the near time with the grant of rights agreements between members. And they have other issues. They don’t have their new TV contract finalized. They have two new members for this year to integrate. A new conference commissioner.
Expansion is not necessary for the Big 12 right away. Adding teams might expand the revenue, but they might be better served by waiting until after the SEC has their contracts revised from their own expansion. Would going to 12 significantly increase the money per school? Is a conference championship game going to be worth at least $12 million alone?
Of course, I’m biased. I want to see the ACC not have to lose members. So, other views might help.
Over at the Texas blog, Burnt Orange Nation, there is an outstanding piece that sets out why Texas probably has little interest in expanding the conference right now.
To the extent one understands Texas to be uniquely positioned in all this, the operative questions are quite different. Instead, the primary question is whether expansion strengthens our long-term position, in ways compatible with our revenue model. After the last round of realignment, there shouldn’t be any doubt about our long-term plan, and it isn’t a race to build the biggest, bestest super-conference. Texas wants a solid, stable, beneficial partnership that allows it to capitalize on its opportunities as the biggest, bestest brand. (Hello, Longhorn Network.) In other words, Texas isn’t betting its stakes on being a big fish in the biggest pond; it’s betting its stakes on being the biggest individual fish it can possibly be. And that’s a crucial point to keep in mind when evaluating whether Big 12 expansion is something Texas is likely to embrace.
SEC and Pac-12 homers each like to mock Texas fans by noting that if Texas really wanted the money and best competition it would be in their conference. There’s a bit of truth in that trolling. Texas is looking at things from only the Texas-perspective. They don’t need to be in a deeper, bigger, richer conference. They already rake in more money than anyone else. They have a solid path to the coming playoffs. So, it doesn’t serve their interests to be in another conference. The other part is: does it serve their interests to make the Big 12 bigger?
They’ve gotten the conference stable. They stand to make over $35 million/year on average with the Longhorn Network and new Big 12 deal. The Big 12 revenue model will give them more money from the playoffs if they make it. So, for Texas does it make sense to add teams like FSU and Clemson to compete and add another layer to make the playoffs with a championship game? Or is the present competition enough?
But in the status quo, and to the extent none of those hand-forcing circumstances unfolds, I’m a lot less inclined to see why Texas would be eager to expand the Big 12. I can understand why Florida State would want to leave the ACC. I can also understand why Florida State would, in some very important ways, make the Big 12 stronger. But when I focus singularly on Texas — its position, its interests, its long-term bets… I find myself back where I was in the last round of realignment: unconvinced that Texas would, or should be, interested in making such a move.
Read the whole thing from Burnt Orange Nation and some of the comments. Very, very good stuff.
Back to the ACC side of things. Believe it or not, not every FSU and Clemson fan is gung-ho for the Big 12 (or even the SEC). Here’s a Clemson piece on why they should stay in the ACC.
David Teel who covers the ACC for the Daily Press (with an obvious focus on Virginia Tech and Virginia), has been one of the regular writers against ACC expansiopocolypse. He has a column exploring various ACC myths including getting Pitt and Cuse, the power on Tobacco Road, FSU’s faults, the conference is all about basketball.
MYTH: ACC schools don’t support football enough.
FACTS: The collective ACC will never match its Southeastern Conference neighbors’ passion/obsession for football. But ACC schools have hardly neglected the sport.
Florida State, Virginia Tech and reigning champion Clemson clearly qualify as football-first athletic departments — the Hokies rarely stop improving facilities — and fan bases. Moreover, Virginia expanded and renovated its football stadium before building a new basketball arena and plans an indoor practice complex.
I’m old enough to remember games at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium where we had to wipe condensation off the press box windows and conduct home-team interviews in virtual closets. The Tar Heels have since spent tens of millions on football facilities. Ditto North Carolina State.
Neither school has reaped extraordinary dividends, but the Wolfpack (2002) and Tar Heels (1997) have cracked the Associated Press’ final top 15 more recently than Clemson (1990).
Even Wake Forest, which no one will confuse with a football school, has upped the ante, in not only facilities but also salary. When Arkansas courted Deacons coach Jim Grobe in 2007 — yes, an accomplished SEC program tried to pilfer a coach from an ACC school that in 2006 won its first conference championship in 36 years — athletic director Ron Wellman raised Grobe’s annual salary to more than $2 million.
The fact that Wake has become mediocre to competitive in the ACC seems to be treated as part of the problem in the conference. A team that has been an afterthought for decades in the sport finally starts to compete within the conference — and even goes 10-9 in non-con games and bowls against BCS teams over the past 6 years. Hence the constant cracks on FSU which has lost 4 of the last 6 games against Wake. It’s one thing if a school of size and some history like UNC or Virginia are decent. It’s something else if tiny Wake Forest or — god forbid — Duke actually improve.