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May 31, 2012

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.





I always think about the conference expansion from the perspective that Texas is using. Why make your conference so difficult that you can’t consistently compete. The Big East in the past and the ACC now, just had/have to be respectable enough to still be a major conference. An easier path to the title, more flexibility for non-con games (with the smaller conferences) was always a plus to me. I could care less for a conference title game. Imagine Pitt in the Big Ten. Would we consistently beat OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, PSU? Hard to believe we would. Lets grow to be a big fish in a just big enough pond.

Comment by PittDan 05.31.12 @ 9:53 am

We are indeed lucky to be in the ACC across all sports. It’s a good fit (unless the fb team metamorphoses which is highly unlikely).

Comment by steve1 05.31.12 @ 10:01 am

Keep in mind since Title 9, a university has to pay for “all sports” travel and that includes the girls bball, softball, track, swimming and diving and tiddlywinks teams. Penn State forgot that and if you look at their sports budget their travel money has x5 from before they joined the Big Ten.
ACC is perfect for “all teams Pitt” as the farthest away to travel is Florida.

Can we all try to be happy with our new conference. I am!

Comment by Dan 72 05.31.12 @ 10:29 am

The acc is a good fit and i am glad we are there as long as fsu or vt or the u do not leave at least as far as football goes.
becuse they would be replaced bye ucon and some one else from big east which would be good for BB but would bring down the football foot print.

Comment by Frankcan 05.31.12 @ 10:49 am

Hopefully, the ACC settles down and we get the conference we will be paying for ($5M? $10M? $20M?). But, I still agree with all above, the ACC is the perfect fit for Pitt. The FB is a step up for us and the competition level will allow us to be successful. The BB is excellent, enough said. As long as we keep two of the three big names in FB(Miami, FSU, VT), we will be OK. I would hate to loose Clemson simply because they have great tradition and a great fan base. But from a FB perspective, their team has not been ranked in the top 15 in 21 years…how is that a crucial loss to the ACC in FB? If the objective is to win a National Championship, then the ACC provides us with a far better opportunity to do so. For those that say “We could not win the lousy BE much less a National Championship”, keep in mind that the lousy BE was hurting our recruiting and our attendance. I can’t guarantee that things will pick up once we are established in the ACC, but I think that it will. I just have to believe that it will be easier to sell the ACC to a kid than it was to sell the BE. I also think that it will be easier to sell season tickets for an ACC schedule than a BE schedule. Of course, no matter the league, if we don’t win enough, even fans that purchased tickets will not show up. I just have a good feeling about this move to the ACC and how it will give a boost to our recruiting and attendance for FB. Playing Duke and NC in BB every year is just a really sweet bonus!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.31.12 @ 12:33 pm

Loving the optimism here today fellas. Thanks for a good read w/ sources as always Chas. ACC here we come baby! The Gold and Blue Shall Wave Forever. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Gordo 05.31.12 @ 12:38 pm

Nice shot at Todd Graham here:
link to espn.go.com

Got a good laugh at this one, plus there’s an added shot at WVU thrown in for good measure

Comment by Dan35 05.31.12 @ 12:49 pm

There are many reasons for the expansion talks to come to a halt. None of the conferences want to be the first to get to 16. If so, their respective hands are tied to maneuver if a better deal comes about from a competitive standpoint.

Secondly, they diminish the finances by adding teams right now. If each conference is happy with their additions and feels their financial model is correct, adding new teams to it now will not increase their payday. Two to three years from now, that changes. Adding the right teams in three years allows for the appropriate number crunching by the media and if all goes well, an increase in revenues can be accurately determined. The media is rolling the dice right now financially and the landscape towards risk aversion is starting to change. Media is becoming more risk averse and it is in their best interests to see if they can make money as things sit right now, versus throwing more money at an unknown quantity.

It’s all about finances and for the last few months the entire talk was about conferences this and conferences that. Noone looked at it from the media side as everyone thinks it is just an open checkbook. They media outlets are not guaranteed a winner, so they need to step back. They aren’t going to ante up more until they know they can make it.

So the expansion hiatus is a good thing for all parties. The conferences so that they can re-evaluate all the changes they have made before making more, and the media for the reasons just mentioned. Now let’s go get some players!

Comment by dhuffdaddy 05.31.12 @ 12:51 pm

Just throwing this out there.

From reading a lot out there, and from a lot of comments other than people like us, it does seem
that the ideal model for a conference number is right around 12 financially.

Lots and lots depends on things I know, but a lot coming from Texas that I’ve read, and Chas has posted seem to favor this number when all said and done.

My question, anyway Swofford thought this might happen, and if we lose two, something they knew was coming and they’re happy to have us and Syracuse their, and possibly that’s it??

I was an early proponent for 16 team super conferences, strictly from a fans point of view.

Many seem to feel, that it is not going to 16, would be to unwieldly, not the bes ROI, scheduling nightmares, and olympic sport nightmares.

Now, I don’t give him alone that much foresight, but, “let’s build up our numbers in case we lose a few down the road”, is not that far of a stretch for a group of administrators. I think if 10 of us got together, we’d probably say something like that over a beer.

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 3:08 pm

If we lose two and stayed at 12, maybe ESPN doesn’t hardball us either with a re-negotiation and the remaining schools get a little more money a piece??

Just throwing it out there for something to bs about. Only a thought!

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 3:10 pm

Dan i could go for it as long as the ones that left werent the football schools but they would be the only ones to leave so no way .
if it were wake forest and nc state that that left that would be ok but it wont so know way
cant lose vt or fsu or the u that would take to mutch away from the football side of things.

Comment by Frankcan 05.31.12 @ 3:33 pm

Oh, I’m in total agreement Frank!!! I’ve said many times, from a selfish stand point, I don’t want FSU and Clemson to leave. I want to see them at Heinz Field, and my sister lives by Clemson, so I want to do road trips.

Hopefully it bottoms out a bit. Like some of the fellas said above, when the bean counters really get involved, there is going to be a lot of thinking going into whether a move is really wise overall.

Seems like some of the push back, or at least industry bean counters I’ve seen quoted have also said, when this is all over and done with in 5-7 years, conferences will end up being at 10 or 12, back to what they were initially.

Only time will tell, I don’t want to lose them either brother, but, like Chas’ and some other people always say, “nothing we can do about it anyhow”.

Hopefully it dies down for a few years.

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 4:19 pm

@Frank, make sure you click on Chas’ links, especially the Clemson piece. Guy has some good points. “we are one of the big boys”. What are we doing here, we have rivalry’s, championships in all kinds of sports, lacrosse, baseball, volleyball, with the acc. etc. etc.

Maybe cooler heads will prevail, but you know, someone will think an extra million now is worth it, not see the overall picture and, wham, they’re gone.

We’ll see.

Hope all is well Frank!

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 4:24 pm

“I just have a good feeling about this move to the ACC and how it will give a boost to our recruiting and attendance for FB.”

HgbFrank, did you have a discussion re: your feelings with any Boston College fans?

Comment by BigGuy 05.31.12 @ 5:50 pm

CLEMSON has major problem with swim team and no pool, they are not going any where.

Comment by paul shannon 05.31.12 @ 5:52 pm

DAN all is well hope it is with you also.
i think it will be good to play boston in football agein and the u it should be great fun to play the acc teams i cant wait i am so glad WVU is going away. cant wait for the first maryland game . or the duke game in BB it cant happen soon enough for me.

Comment by Frankcan 05.31.12 @ 7:37 pm

@Dan35 the WVU one was cool for sure but my favorite was the one on ND…

Notre Dame – Write up 95 reasons he doesn’t want to go to Notre Dame and nail his list to the front door of the university.

Comment by Kenny 05.31.12 @ 8:42 pm

Big Guy…BC’s football program has never reached the heights that Pitt has. We know that if we put a good product on the field, we will sell tickets…I don’t think the same is true for BC. The fact is that BC has had a few pretty good teams since joining the ACC and they still don’t sell tickets. Also, BC is on an ACC island, that can’t help. Time will tell, but I think the move to the ACC will make it easier to recruit good classes on a regular basis. Put a good product on the field and we will see 50-60,000 at the games…I know it because I’ve been there for games like the one against Cincy a few years back. It is not just the ND or WVU type games that can pack the house. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.31.12 @ 8:53 pm

A few years ago when it appeared that the Pitt Football program had turned the corner, I was hoping that Pitt would get an invitation to join. Looking back, I realize it would have been for Pitt to sucessfully compete in the Big Ten. Now that they going into the ACC, they will have a basketball conference that ahould be much better fit for them, and a conference where they better chance of being successfull in football. Go Panthers!

Comment by Justinian 05.31.12 @ 9:57 pm

The two biggest items coming, that I’m sure Chas and Reed will cover at appropriate time, and one question for Chas, Reed or anyone else, that I haven’t seen asked anywhere.

1. Will an at-large team be allowed into the playoff format. (I believe this will be a yes, otherwise about 70 other teams will be filing a lawsuit, along with Senators and Reps getting involved.

2. If they go with top 3 highest ranked conference champs plus an at large….or….taking the top 4 ranked teams, the biggest question of them all, will be, who is on this selection committee?? Who does the rankings. What weights do they give different items.

a. they could say there is going to be a chance for everyone with an at large, however, if the rankings are weighted, for perhaps strength of schedule, who gives the opening rankings?

i.e. Will the top ten always start out with Alabama, LSU, Texas, and Oklahoma always in there because of the conference they are in?? Everyone else will have a tougher time, and really, it will be stacked against everyone else.

Keep your eyes wide open for who is on the selection committee. (That’s what some of the conference commish’s are saying they would like, a committee) no computers etc. etc.

Some others are saying you go by rankings.

Either way, who will be doing the rankings, or, who is going to be on the committees??

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 10:29 pm

Question for Chas, Reed or anyone else.

Whenever the appropriate time is for the ACC to raise exit fees, (winter meetings??), isn’t then when they raised it to 20M?? I digress.

When the time comes, I only say this jokingly. Why not raise the exit fees this winter to say, 100 million???

I believe they only need a 9-3 vote. Put it on the agenda. You want to see who is in for the long run, and who is having secret meetings.

Especially, since it seems the Big 12 is going to wait a few years before doing anything.

You have FSU and Clemson in there for probably a few more years. (if they ever go at all).

Ok, 50 million. Whatever. Make it so the people that are staying, are staying.

Make people stand up, and back their talk that they aren’t going anywhere.

I started this question out half comically, but, now that I think about it, Swofford would have to be nuts to not be trying to gather the 9 votes and committments for the next meetings.

Hey, even 35M, 30M, get em for what you can.

Some hedged on 25M last year, so they did 20. I bet all of the people that are staying, and have now seen what is going on, won’t be so wishy-washy on jacking up the exit fees.

I’m not a lawyer, but, I don’t know how, for example, FSU and Clemson could fight this down the road, because their official and public stance has been “we’re happy with the ACC”, and “we haven’t had any talks with anyone else”, so how could they say “the ACC did this to stop us”.

The ACC could say, “we took you at your word, this has nothing to do with you, just the longevity of our conference”.

Jack it up Swofford, at least if anyone leaves, every school hits a little jackpot!!!

Comment by Dan 05.31.12 @ 10:39 pm

I like that most of us are coming around to seeing the ACC as a really good fit for Pitt. I think things would work out even if Clemson and FSU did leave, which is sounding unlikely in the near future. Should that happen there are some pretty good prospective replacements which probably aren’t too happy with their situation in the Big East. From a personal standpoint, living next to Baltimore, making the short drive to College Park for football and basketball games is exciting. Go Pitt!

Comment by opfim 05.31.12 @ 11:17 pm

the polls will still be in place and if ap and upi and usa today or who ever all have a top 4 teams that are ranked in there polls and some committee takes a conference champ who is ranked say 8th the people whould not put up with it the press would not except it i would scream my self even thou they want to play games with how they pick them it wont work if they go agenest the polls people would call it a fake so unless they can stop the polls they can forget how they pick them it will never work and they wont be able to stop the polls.

Comment by Frankcan 05.31.12 @ 11:33 pm

Lost in all the expansion stuff is the change in commercial aviation….fewer options and growing airline fees are a harsh reality. Direct flights are increasingly rare and flying your softball team from Anderson SC to Lubbock Texas, never easy before, is time and cost prohibitive. The loss of flights to regional airports is staggering.
Not really surprised about expansion talk. All it takes is a Simon Bolivar type AD at a mid major school and the BCS/NCAA could find that the big conference football teams won’t have any mid majors on their schedules. Will playing FCS schools as non conference foes cut it for the PSU fans of the world? It may come to that if the division between the haves and have nots continues to grow.
Have fun WVU on those flights to Lubbock..sure you can charter…burn thru that extra money!!!!

Comment by SFPitt 06.01.12 @ 2:55 am

Maybe the BC situation is a great model for us at Pitt to realize the restrictions we have. Note that until the last few seasons, BC has had a decade of success going back to 2000 while still in the BE.

However, despite being in a much large populated area than Pgh and higher enrollment than Pitt, they still struggle to sell out their 44,000 seat stadium .. AND NOTE THAT IT IS THEIR OWN ON-CAMPUS FACILITY yet can be accessed via their subway/transit.

But like Pitt, they are in a city with a largely successful and adored NFL team.

Comment by wbb 06.01.12 @ 8:01 am

I want to clarify what I said above (wrote it before my2nd cup of coffee.) BC has a smaller enrollment than Pitt but has more of ist alums in the immediate area than Pitt.

Comment by wbb 06.01.12 @ 8:05 am

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