Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Big 12 Expansion -- Part 5: The minutia of a bold expansion

Here is the promised 5th article in the series.  As I mentioned last time, it was accidentally wiped out so I am re-writing it from scratch, so good for you it will be much shorter.

I am writing this in a question and answer format so it will be easier to sort through.

With no further ado...

Is there no 1-2 member expansion you like?

As a Big 12 advocate?  No,there isn't.   None of them are going to make UT and OU look at this conference any differently in 8 years.

If it goes that way, As a fan I hope it will be BYU and Houston as all-sports members.  Why?  BYU because they deserve to be in and bring the most value ---even if it would be a shadow of what BYU should be --- and Houston because they would address the A&M issue which is eroding this conference and because I always loved "Phi Slamma Jamma" and would be excited to see if UH basketball would finally get some traction behind Kelvin Sampson in the Big 12.

What do you mean by "manage the now"?

I mean, don't be deluded by what you think you deserve as "The Big 12".

You have a ticking timebomb in your GOR expiration date.   Your media footprint is a basically 1/3 of the size of the other power conferences so a conference network would only generate a fraction of the money that other conferences are pulling.  And you cannot create one anyway because of the LHN.

Most of your schools recruit poorly.

OU is frustrated with recruiting issues and lack of interest in expansion by the rest of the Big 12.  They would probably love to take Kansas to the PAC-12 today.

Your pool of candidates is BYU and a lot of schools that don't measure out as power conference caliber.

You have a lot of problems.

You cannot afford to think arrogantly.

Roll your sleeve up and do a methodical analysis on what the best collection of schools available is to fix your weaknesses.  Then figure out if the schools should be long time members (full or Olympic-only members) or potentially just members for the next 10-12 years (football-only associates).

All you really have to do is address most of the weaknesses,  let everyone catch on over the next 8 years that you are stable, and then wait for the ACC deal to expire and conference realignment at the power conference level is on again.

Didn't the Big 12 blow their opportunity to dump the LHN when UT AD Steve Patterson was fired?

Who knows.  One thing that was clear on Patterson was that he was all about the money.  Likely a good financial deal could have gotten done just by showing him a financial upside,  but really he lost the president months ago, so it may not have been approved.

The New AD is a Orangeblood through and through.  He is a friend of Dodd's but I don't want to paint him unfairly as overly devoted to Dodds --- likely to protect the LHN as Dodd's legacy.

The New AD has a degree in math and a law degree.  That mix suggests someone who does quickly get to the bottom line.

UT can't go to another conference with the LHN intact.   UT likely would have issues as an independent.  The LHN has had some limited success, but if UT's partner pulls the plug in a few years, all of this is for naught and UT looks like a bunch of schmucks.

There are reasons to be receptive to a face-saving escape from the LHN.

Wouldn't the Longhorn boosters revolt?

A lot of Longhorn fans are very tired of the LHN.  They have to hear from their Aggie friends how smart they were leaving the Big 12 for a conference were no one has their own network.  They have to see that really everything has gone right for the Aggies since they left.  TAMU owns Texas recruiting.   They are getting great coverage in Houston and pretty good coverage in DFW.  It looks like they may be on a path to win a national title in football one of these years and their basketball is on the rise too.

There is no comeback to that.

The LHN is a bitter pill for a lot of Longhorn fans.

Selling the LHN to the Big 12 would be a needed tonic to those conversations.

Could BYU keep their basketball in the WCC?  Could they keep their Network?

No and No.  To make a 6 team western division viable with three lesser basketball programs, you need at least 3 tourney-level teams.  The Big 12 is not going to add say UNM or UNLV (not up to power conference snuff academically)  as Olympic-only members just so BYU can keep an athletic affiliation with Christian schools.

You can't go to UT and get their sports network from them while BYU is allowed to keep their sports on theirs.  If BYU wants to broadcast non-athletic events on their network that's fine, but BYU has to toe the same line as UT if this conference is going to make it.

Why non-football members?

Very simply, it widens your pool of potential candidates to deliver target markets...

Moves into Illinois and Missouri amount to competing with the Big Ten and the SEC.  Neither state generates a ton of football talent.  Rather than enhance the perception that the Big 12 is at a permanent competitive disadvantage, it makes more sense to take the back door in to state-wide relevance in those two needed states in sports where it is easier to compete.

While people may scratch their head a little over adding UIC over say Illinois State or Northern Illinois before looking at the numbers, no one would question St. Louis over Missouri State.

Why add St. Louis?

Adding a school in Missouri would dramatically help the Big 12 leverage the TV value of Kansas and Kansas State which are right by the Missouri border and have a ton of alumni in the show me state.  It pulls the conference footprint closer to the rich east Arkansas/Memphis recruiting area and some decent recruiting spots in Illinois.  (In recruiting terms it is great for basketball.)

Should St. Louis play FBS  football?  Should UIC?

I think more detail is needed in these questions.   "Should St. Louis consider playing FBS football?"  Absolutely.   Playing football  in today's environment means you can potentially make money and you aren't going to get left behind should the power conferences do some kind of split.

The Rams are about to abandon a 20 year old stadium built for an NFL team.  The Edwards Jones dome is located 3 miles (9 minutes) from campus.  There is only one FBS team in Missouri, a state of 5 million.

SLU basketball is already at Big 12 levels.  SLU is a distant outlier in a conference that pays very little.  Any move that could secure a sensible footprint is worth considering.

With a $25 Million Big 12 TV check if they should get that, modifications to the dome would be covered.

Need more concessions and fewer luxury booths?  Get to work retasking areas.

I would think ripping out the end zone seats and moving the walls in would create a more intimate collegiate feel and reduce capacity to about 45-50,000 --- about perfect for SLU with it's basketball fanbase combined with jilted Ram fans.

Parking would need to be locked in at low rates before any deal is signed.

"Should the Big 12 invite them for all sports?" is another story.

The idea of adding another school that would default to pull talent from Texas seemed against our philosophy.

Adding a team that hasn't shown anything is not done by power conferences.

Plus the very idea of football at SLU is a radical idea --- one sure to derail the message that big change is needed in the Big 12 --- so I left it out.

But absolutely SLU should look into it.  Stadiums are the biggest expenses out there for football. 

With the Rams pronouncing the EJD insufficient, the NFL will not allow another team to move in.   That stadium in now worthless to St. Louis unless SLU takes it over.

SLU may inherit one that would be among the best in the Big 12.

UIC is a similar distance from Soldier field, but I would not champion them playing football.   UIC is better suited to handle football than the other Illinois options, but their yields seem much less secure as they would be competing head to head with the Bears for public sports dollars.

What about the UC schools?

Well...All three could play football and graduate to the Big 12 in short order.  All three have all the right elements ----lots of people around, good recruiting, large enollments, wealthy alumni --- but lack the stadiums.

Their value today is basketball, academics, and recruiting.

This is something I could see happening though.  Inland Empire investors want an NFL team.  Would they prop up a Big 12 UC riverside team by helping fund the stadium to make their point of strong financial support?

If Riverside moves up, Davis would likely feel motivated.  If they do, would Irvine?

It is all down the road stuff, but is a big reason why I would plant my stakes in the west with those three schools.

Are three FBS schools enough to maintain western relevance?  Are they enough to restore BYU?

"Yes." to the first question and "Not on their own." to the second.

You have to realize that everything is spaced out in the west.  There is a lot of empty space between cities.  BYU, CSU, and SDU are pretty strong brands which can cut the conference a media and recruiting path westwards (although the UC schools will help a lot in California with recruiting).

As far as restoring BYU,  I think BYU needs to take some of that on themselves by scheduling OOC games vs their rivals, in front of heavily Mormon fans out of state, or in Los Angeles.

And I think all 3 western candidates need to pick up 13th games with Hawaii.

BYU needs a king's schedule.  This to me is a very nice BYU schedule.

UNLV or Arizona State
Boise State
San Diego State
West Virginia
Colorado State
Texas Tech
Texas Christian
Oklahoma State
Kansas State
Iowa State

Why Hawaii?

Because that potentially offers a scenario where the network could purchase those @ Hawaii games from UH or the MWC for rebroadcast on the Big 12 network.  Those games add another week to their seasons and puts another familiar rival on all 3 school's schedules so the change is not as jarring to their fans.

From a conference perspective, live content on your station when all other conferences have stopped play for the day is a good thing.

I would make it a concession to get invited.

Why stringent requirements on BYU but not on CSU or most of the other western schools?

Well, it is more that BYU had the most that needed to be corrected in order to achieve peace in the conference.

The other schools have issues that need to be fixed as well.

SDSU has their student to teacher ratio.  CSU has built a smaller stadium than a power conference would desire in an effort to create ticket scarcity.  I can go along with that conceptually for the next 7 years or so, but the plans need to be tweaked to allow an easy expansion to 50,000 within the next decade.

I DID kind of advocate the UC schools fire their coaches and hire proven tourney level coaches... I do think the UC schools need to invest more into promotion and ticket sales if they moved into the Big 12, but that is my opinion.

You mention Cincinnati as one of the two best schools the Big 12 could add...and then you don't advocate adding them!  Why no Cincinnati?

I would say that you could file that under conference identity and value added simply not making it worthwhile.

Look at where Cincinnati is in relation to the football powers of the Big 10 (Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State) and Notre Dame.  Now figure in that Ohio only produced 94 3 star or better players, of which 17 were blue chippers.   Now add in the fact there are 6 MAC schools in that state nibbling on the 3 star players as well as nearby Big 10 also-rans Purdue and Indiana.

That is not a scenario that promises to yield blue chippers for UT and OU.  Nor does it look promising for any of the other schools in the Big 12 with the exception of neighboring West Virginia(and obviously Cincinnati would get a recruiting bump as well).

You can add a Florida giant as a football-only member and get West Virginia the same bump while securing talent for the rest of the conference.

Cincinnati is another school far from the conference's footprint.  There is no Indiana candidate unless you want the embarrassingly named IUPUI University.  I had to press to come up with an Illinois candidate!  Adding Cincinnati seems like compounding the conference's mistake in West Virginia.

You think adding West Virginia was a mistake?

In another situation?  With say Pitt, Louisville, and Cincinnati at once in 2010 or so? No.

At that point? On their own?  Yep.  Wrong move.

I think if the choice was waiting 30 months and adding Louisville ---who thought the Big East exit clause was too toothy to escape ---- or adding West Virginia, whose lawyers wrote the exit clause --- I wait for Louisville.

Louisville and West Virginia are very similar candidates.  The differences are what stand out to me.

Both have influence over a region of about 4 million poor people.  Kentucky has a population of 4.3 Million and is gaining numbers.  Only half of West Virginia's core of fans are in-state.  West Virginia has a population of 1.8 Million people and is losing numbers. If you are getting a $1 plus per customer carriage fee on a conference network, Louisville is worth twice as much in that initial measurable.

Louisville basketball is a king under Rick Pitino.  West Virginia basketball is at regular tourney appearance level, but there really is no comparison.  Imagine having Kansas and Louisville in the same conference....

Louisville is much closer to the Big 12 footprint.  If you had added Louisville, you could have had much better access to Memphis and Nashville recruiting.   Louisville certainly would have been able to recruit Tennessee and Kentucky.

This is not to say that West Virginia was a worthless add.  They have a tremendous top notch fan base and a very competent athletic department.  

I am merely saying adding a school from a state that produces little to no three star or blue chip football talent to a conference that already has a shortage of that, for conveniences' sake, was not a good idea.

West Virginia makes perfect sense in the SEC where their travelling fans would be properly valued and their fire would be at home.  The SEC footprint is so talent rich that West Virginia could tap it with no issues.

West Virginia is totally power conference worthy, they just weren't a smart add given the needs of the Big 12.

Would the Big 12 ever go to 16?

It isn't their first choice, that is for sure.  Conferences tend think in terms of single school additions as a default.  Looking at what is needed and what big group of schools provides that appears to be a pretty alien thought process.

It frankly is an idea that even fans ridicule.

But I think there is a compelling argument that the Big 12 membership needs to grow out of that thinking.

Is it wrong thinking when everyone else has at least 12 members, the Big Ten and SEC has 14, and the ACC has 15?  When does is become OK to advocate for a superconference?  Only after the Big Ten officially goes to 16?

We are already in the era of superconferences.

We are just not at that point where 11 or 12 matter.

In the next article I will discuss what this type of bold expansion potentially sets up.


  1. Big 12 should add BYU, Colorado St., Houston, Memphis, and Cincinnati for ALL sports.

    Then, get football scheduling and broadcasting deals with Hawaii and Army. (12pm ET and 10pm ET kickoff spots for the media deal or Big 12 network).

    Add the Las Vegas, Holiday (or Poinsettia, if needed), Armed Forces, Military, and Hawaii Bowls to the Big 12 lineup.

    Forget the California and Florida schools...for now.

    This expansion would expand and fill-in the Big 12 footprint in a manageable way that actually adds value - the 5 listed schools would be competitive in football and basketball right away. All 5 are instant NCAA at large candidates....instead of long term projects like UIC, UC-Davis, etc. that currently compete at Horizon, Big West, and Big Sky levels.

    Have some OOC Big 12 basketball challenge tournaments in Chicago and St. Louis with Kansas, Iowa St., Cincinnati, Memphis, and other Big 12 schools involved. St. Louis would be a nice venue for an occasional Big 12 conference bball tournament. That will make a bigger impact in those markets than UIC and Saint Louis membership.

    With CCG de-regulation (ie, best two teams play for conference championship), split the Conference up in the following scheduling divisions:

    NORTH: Kansas, KSU, ISU, BYU, CSU
    SOUTH: Texas, Oklahoma, Tech, OSU, Houston
    EAST: Baylor, TCU, WVU, Cincinnati, Memphis

    This gets UT and OU in DFW each year with the Red River rivalry game and one in Houston each year (with intelligent scheduling).

    4 games intra-division and rotate 5 games against the other 10. Play everyone in conference at least once every other year - and in Texas at least once per year (with intelligent scheduling).

    For basketball, intelligent scheduling leads to nice road trips. (ie, WVU and Cincinnati, BYU and CSU, plenty of 2-game Texas options, etc.)

    WVU, Cincinnati (and Army) open up options for the 12pm ET timeslot. BYU, CSU (and Hawaii) open up the 10pm ET timeslot.

    BYU, CSU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston (and Hawaii) are accustomed to playing occasional games on Thursday and Friday nights.

    BYU has a state-of-art broadcast building for home games and HD truck and equipment for road games. This and the LHN equipment can likely provide plenty of equipment and expertise in helping to establish the Big 12 Network and provide content.

    1. Hey thank you for your thoughtful response. I certainly do not believe I have all the answers, but I hope you will take my response to your post as I intend it --- a sign of respect for your work.

      I think an expansion to 16 teams ---regardless of which 6 you chose out of today's pool of legitimate candidates is better than a 2 team expansion.

      15 is almost as good. :)

      Your proposal does some nice things. In general, I conceptually appreciate the three 5 team divisions, but I think the Big 12 would probably go with 16 in an 8/8 split. The troubles I see with 15 is that OU and Texas would likely rather play TCU than Tech as the recruiting return is better. This would force Tech into the north (which you could just rename the west). I think Tech would push back on that a lot. I do think that would probably be quite good for Iowa State though as in the East they could legitimately have a real shot to recruit the region around Memphis.

      Academically I think it's problematic. Houston and Memphis would be the two lowest ranked schools at the power conference level. The Big 12 already has like 4 of the 9 lowest ranked schools. That is not a recipe to keep UT happy.

      I think you vastly underestimate what St. Louis could bring to this conference in particular, but I'll have to ponder the media value of a Chicago Big 12 tournament. It is an interesting thought. I still think having a member in Illinois offers much better media value though.

      Really out of the box thoughts. Thanks for posting!

  2. Not sure I understand what you mean by "restore BYU". Maybe you talked about it in previous columns what what needs "restored"?

    1. I talked about it mostly in the fourth article. IMO, BYU is weaker today than they were at their end of their MWC run. Like Texas, BYU is in essence a regional brand. Without a complementary conference, that brand is weakened.

  3. Thank you for the detailed articles.

    I find the portion relating to population of exiting B12 schools, # of 3,4,5 star recruits in those states, and their lac of population growth compelling.

    I find the emphasis on academic standing for potential expansion candidates far less compelling. If there is anything we have learned over the past 10-20 years, isn't it that academics and athletics should be viewed separately?

    North Carolina, the bluest of blue bloods academically, basically has committed academic fraud with their athletes for 2 decades. Top basketball recruits leave after 1 year, top football recruits after 3 years. Almost none of these ever graduate. 700 basketball players transfer each year. I don't know how many scholarship football players do. They aren't transferring to go to better academic schools, they transfer for playing time.

    And a key part of academic rankings is how peers view each other. What has been found is that for the schools who have graduated to P5 status like Utah, suddenly are viewed better academically by their piers.

    Just seems your emphasis over all 5 articles on academics of expansion candidates is dated and not as applicable as it had been. It's population and TV sets now more so than academics.

    Again, appreciate your articles and look forward to your response.

    1. Great Post, and thanks for reading!

      I too find the academic angle duplicitous. A school like Utah moves into a more academically respected home and profits immensely. When Utah got into the Pac-12, the value of a Utah degree was suddenly consistent from California to Washington to Colorado. How much profit did that alone create?

      But the value that created that association is built on a system that, as you pointed out with the UNC example, is immensely corrupt in academic terms!

      I have an article I am working on that you will love that tackles the big concept of dumb football players at academically lauded universities in (I think) a very stunning way.

      The idea that the academic association thing is a dated idea is both a valid criticism and IMO a wrong one at the same time. I'll use OU for an example to explain this seemingly bizarre statement.

      For OU, with their leadership's dreams of AAU membership, academics and research are a HUGE deal when shopping for a long term home. But on the same token OU realizes the Big 12 probably isn't that home and football DOMINANCE is their ticket into the long term home they want. OU would vote to admit Boise State into the Big 12 if Boise had a recruiting territory OU could mine.

      This is where we are at today. Most of P5 realignment appears done for the time being. The conference most likely to have realignment, the Big 12, have two kings in UT and OU who are trying to get what they want out of it and 8 schools who frankly may just about be topped out. There is no common ground there. The realignment motivations of almost any Big 12 school share almost no common ground.

      I really appreciate your post. Very thoughtful and interesting.

  4. They already said that No Western Schools will be added. That means BYU, Hawaii and other schools west of the Oklahoma. That would stretch the Big 12 way too far apart. The top candidates for football would come from the east.

    East Carolina
    Northern Illinois/Old Dominion/Houston or Temple
    Iowa State
    West Virginia

    Oklahoma State
    Kansas State
    Texas Tech

    As for academics rankings? New Mexico, Colorado State, Cincinnati, Houston, UNR, Hawaii, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, U. Mass., UConn, UCF, USF, Old Dominion, Memphis and several others are very high or high research institution. Many of these schools including New Mexico ranks higher than TCU, Baylor and some other Big 12 members. Some are ranked ahead of Nebraska. I am sure that these schools could boast the Big 12 up some.

    Colorado State is building a new stadium for being attractive. They could not expand on the old stadium anymore.

    Boise State wants to expand their stadium to 51,000 by 2017.

    1. Thanks for posting.

      In general I only do predictions for fun. I have no supernatural powers in that regard, so why bother?

      I write about what I think is smart strategy or sometimes I try to peel back the covers on a subject. Predictions are usually pretty pointless.

      I don't recall anything official saying Big 12 realignment will happen only with eastern schools, but in general, that is conference CW and CW does rule the Big 12. Plus, there is a lot of very believable smoke that their network partners would strongly prefer eastern expansion.

      But I am the Sports MINORITY REPORT! I say we go West, lol!

      Seriously, I do think going East is a mistake, but really the next smart expansion decision the Big 12 makes will only be the second smart decision it's membership has ever made in it's history. (IMO adding TCU made sense given where the conference was at that moment. Other than that? Crap sandwiches for everyone.)

      The more I deep dive into BYU as a candidate the more I think they are an undisputed King in value terms. Conferences that pass on that kind of value usually regret it, big time. Ask any of the schools in the NE if they want a do-over on passing on playing Penn State in conference. Stupid always comes home to roost.

      I think SDSU has king potential too in the next 5-10 years. I don't think Cinnci or any of the eastern candidates has that, but honestly, Memphis might 20 years from now...and UCF and USF might too.

      I think the Big 12 has maybe 10 years left, so why not go west and get the now and (short term) future kings? I think it is bad logic to pass just because you don't want to go west and THAT ---pointing out bad logic --- really is the point of my blog.

      I do not like the "Very High Research", "High Research" categories, for the same reason I don't like the stuff the UH advocate suggested I use for evaluating UH and the same reason I don't like some of the ways the US news parses an otherwise quite useful ranking system with "tier2 unranked" (aka "the bottom half"). They all mislead to create comfort in academic circles. "Your school is good enough".

      These terms are the equivalent of participation trophies. IMO.

      If you want to evaluate research, Google research totals and look at the raw numbers of annual research dollars.

      You will see a direct correlation with the Big 10 and a lot of the P5. You will also see that a High Research institution is actually a fairly insignificant research total. Even VH ones research totals are pretty far down the list.

      "Tier 1" research universities are IMO the same thing. Just achieving a tier 1 research classification doesn't mean you have moved into a peer status to a school like UT or TAMU as a research school. That means you broke 100M in annual research. In research terms---"Congrats, you joined the Sunbelt!"

      Now I want to be clear. The Big 10, The Pac-12, UT, Pitt, and a few others in the P5 conferences REALLY care about research (and AAU status) as an affiliation category. Schools in the SEC do a little as well because they have been the laughingstocks of the P5 ranks in that for years before landing A&M. The ACC is more inclined to look at undergraduate academic rankings (birds of a feather), AAU status, and what candidates bring to the conference in terms of stability.

      The Big 12 is too late to the party. Dodds totally screwed the conference. The realignment musical chairs for research powerhouses is over. (funny link on this....)

    2. With regards to CSU, with apologies, I feel you are incorrect. You don't sink $200+ M into a stadium for looks. It is a large investment with a pretty clear goal. They want to be in the Big 12 or Pac-12 and nice facilities are one of the Big 12's alleged criterias. CSU's leadership's stated thought is that good football will bring in out of state students who will pay the extremely high out of state tuition. Frankly, that is true to a degree, but there is a lot more to it.

      Having a stadium far off campus defeats much of the point of having a football team at all. Much like pro sports facilities are used as entertainment anchors in upscale living communities, collegiate football teams playing in on campus stadiums are used to foster emotional ties to a university that eventually generate donations to the school. This is why CSU built the new stadium on campus. It is why Georgia State is trying to acquire Turner field for it's football team.

      I don't want to be too critical of you repeating the idea that CSU could not expand the old stadium anymore. They did say that, but that is a ploy.

      EVERY school that wants a new stadium will paint a picture of obsolescence on their old stadium. UNT did it with Fouts. Everybody does that.

      The real truth is that attendance was dying outside of town and adding 10,000 seats wasn't going to change that.

      Going by the US News rankings, West Virginia is the lowest ranked school in the P5 conferences. But they are still a National University and in the top half of that category.

      Boise State is in the less prestigious regional category and very low down in those ranks.

      Houston and UNM academically are tough to imagine. Memphis is even tougher, but they all are at least National Universities.

      I think Boise State is an academic poison pill for a school like UT.

      It is weird to me that people can throw up their arms about the distance in the west and turn around championing adding UCF, USF, Temple, and East Carolina. I mean doesn't that immediately reflect that the distance argument in the West is hollow and meaningless?