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|
|USC or UCLA|
|San Diego State|
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.