CFN Analysis - The Ultimatums
What Can The Big 12 Do To Survive?
I don't know if there's anything the Big 12 can do except put on
tapes of the 2008 season and remember how good things used to be.
Conference realignment isn't about emotion, or tradition, or appealing to some sense of brotherhood; it's about money. The Big Ten and Pac 10 have it (or will have it with improved TV deals), and the Big 12
Getting Texas to leave the Big 12 isn't like, say, Michigan being courted from the Big Ten or Alabama being given the full court press to leave the SEC. The Big 12 has only been around since 1996, and while it's been nice having Oklahoma and Texas in the same division (remember, OU used to be in the Big 8 and Texas was in the Southwest Conference), it's not like the league has formed any heated rivalries that weren't there before (or won't or can't continue in whatever shakes out in the realignment).
Basically, the Big 12 is screwed.
Commissioner Dan Beebe can throw out all the timetables and ultimatums
he wants to, but he has a has a slew of Qs and the Big Ten and Pac 10
have all the Us. (And he needs to call
himself Daniel so dumb writers like me stop brain-cramping and calling
him Don on radio shows.)
Beebe: "Nebraska and Missouri, you must tell us your intentions by Friday … or else."
Nebraska and Missouri: "Uh, no."
Beebe: "Okay, um, uhhh, please?"
Nebraska and Missouri: "Fine, we're staying."
Beebe: "You're lying."
Nebraska and Missouri: (while playing Tetris on the computer) "Not right now, Lumbergh. I'm, I'm kinda busy. In fact, I'm going to have to ask you to go ahead and just come back another time. I have a meeting with the Bobs in a couple of minutes."
It's not like the Big 12 is going to kick out Nebraska and Missouri, and it's not like the league has anything to offer if the Big Ten really does want to expand to Lincoln and Columbia.
Worst of all, the Big 12 can't do anything to be proactive. It's not like the media markets and the TV dollars are going to magically improve from out of nowhere, and it's not like the league is full of Harvards of the Midwest to improve the academic standing compared to the Big Ten and Pac 10.
If the league really wants to save itself, or have a chance, it might have to go coyote ugly and gnaw off its arm rather than wake up the uggos.
Ditch Iowa State and Baylor.
The two bring nothing TV market-wise, it's not like they've offered much of anything to the cachet of the league football-wise, and
while Iowa State has gone to a few bowls to bring in some dollars, it's
not worth giving the school an extra cut of the TV money. Divide the pie by ten instead of 12, sell the TV types on the idea of a nine-game schedule with everyone playing everyone else, meaning you'd get Nebraska playing Oklahoma and Texas every year, the lightweight in the league would suddenly become Kansas State (not that bad), and you'd have every-week excitement with no fluff.
There aren't a lot of other options. In the end, Missouri and Nebraska are gone to the Big Ten, I don't think Texas will go to the Pac 10, but I don't think they'll stick around, either, and Colorado has been desperate to get into the Pac 10 from the start of all these discussions. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M appear itchy to go do something else and aren't going to want to stick around as the ship goes down.
The Big 12 will still be around in some form. It's just not going to look like the Mountain West on steroids.
With the Big 12's deadline of Friday for Nebraska and Missouri to make a decision, what would you do if you're the Big 12 to save your conference?
If you Hook ‘Em, they will come.
More than anything else, the Big 12 hierarchy must do whatever is necessary to keep Texas in the conference. If the Longhorns take off to the Pac-10, Big Ten, or SEC, the league will head down a slippery slope and never recover. If, however, they stay put, the very worst that the Big 12 will suffer will be the departures of the Huskers, Tigers, and maybe Colorado to the Pac-10. Not ideal, but also not something that can't be overcome when you've got Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and six other holdovers.
If I'm commissioner Dan Beebe these days, I'm also being as aggressive as possible in an effort to keep the conference from falling apart at the seams. I'd do a quick history lesson on the Big East Conference, realizing that when it stood still, it got caught napping and lost Boston College, along with Miami and Virginia Tech, which was inexcusable. Beebe's taking the right approach by putting Nebraska's and Mizzou's feet to the fire with a deadline. You're either in or out and the Big 12 needs to know that answer as early as possible so it can begin putting out feelers to the likes of TCU and others.
If the Big 12 is going to survive in any state, it has to be as proactive as possible, working overtime to keep the ‘Horns from roaming to greener pastures and actively planting seeds with potential replacements. In this climate of conference realignment, if you're not the hunter, you're the hunted, a lesson the Big 12 hopes not to learn the hard way.
Dan Beebe has shown an incredible lack of leadership as the Big 12 commissioner (as shown by his refusal to adopt a non-BCS-related fifth tiebreaker to settle three-team division ties), so it makes sense that the Big 12 is drowning with Beebe at the wheel. It seems that there's little point in giving him any advice, because he'll blithely ignore it and continue to do stupid things.
For what it's worth, though, the Big 12 – aside from throwing a king's ransom at Texas – should begin to count its losses and do something the Big East has already done with pigskin and hoops.
One issue that seems to be getting ignored in this larger discussion is the notion that conferences don't have to align themselves the same ways for football and basketball. The Big East's configuration for football is manifestly different from its basketball alignment. Georgetown and Villanova and Seton Hall and Marquette aren't about to contend for a BCS bowl bid. Notre Dame seems to be just fine with its basketball life in the Big East. No one seems to have much of a problem with it.
Therefore, the Big 12 – if it can't keep Texas – needs to downscale and protect what it can. This means placing an emphasis on basketball while figuring out a way to make football work.
What would this look like? Well, on the basketball side, the Big 12 should do everything it can to keep Kansas… as a basketball school. The Mountain West might love to have Kansas in football, but as long as the Big 12 can keep KU on the hardwood, the conference would possess a big revenue-producer and one of the blue-chip programs in college basketball. Let KU go to the Mountain West or the Big Ten (unlikely) for football. Just make Big 12 basketball into a big deal, something which can be furthered by brokering a deal with the Pac-10 to keep Baylor (basketball-centric) and let go of Colorado (football-centric).
On the football side, the Big 12 should think seriously – when Nebraska bolts to the Big Ten and begins a likely exodus – about recapturing some of the old Southwest Conference. Raid Conference USA for SMU, Houston, UTEP and Rice. Make a huge push to pry TCU from the Mountain West. Keep Baylor, and you won't have the full SWC treatment, but you'll create at least part of the old Southwest flavor.
More to the point, you'll have a football conference based almost completely inside the state of Texas. That means a dedicated fan base, easy travel to conference games, and familiarity between schools. That's a formula for a successful conference on a smaller scale. (Credit for some of these ideas goes to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, who brought up the possibility of Houston going to the Big 12 this past week.