Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Big 12 expansion rumor update.

Did you ever want to know what exactly is going on behind the doors at big 12 headquarters?

While a ton of information about the Big 12 (and every conference) stays behind closed doors, every school has a few fans that for some reason or another have access to a lot of information that goes on behind closed doors.

I tracked two of them down that I had read a couple times before and have prepared this article from their leaks for all the hard core Big 12 realignment curiosity seekers.

What is really going on in the Big 12 over the last year?

What you are about to read is the full, awful, horrible truth.

60-80% of this is absolutely 1000% true. 


So with no further ado...

What happened behind the doors of the Big 12 in the last 13 months.

October 2014 - UT and Fox have clandestine meetings.  Fox tells UT the next Big 12 contract will be significantly less and the Big 12 shares will not match other power conference shares.  They encourage UT to join the Big Ten.  UT is content owning a conveniently local conference and getting payouts that match any school's.  (Fox is in a partnership with the Big 10 on the Big 10 Network which uses the Big 10's tier 2 rights. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation from other sources that Fox will be a major player for the Big 10's tier 1 media rights when the conference's current deal with ESPN ends after the 2016-17 season.)  There is a general feeling that OU knows the score.  Oklahoma and West Virginia are keeping lines of communication open with the SEC.  It may not be OU's leadership's preferred target, but the SEC has been consistent with their appreciation for the Sooners.  ESPN learns of this latest instance of unrest and makes some gestures to try and keep UT and OU in the fold.   They allow the floating of the idea of converting the LHN in large part into the Big 12 Network to get the attention of the Big 12.  Tensions in the ACC over ESPN dragging their feet on the formation of the ACC Network also has ESPN's attention.  ESPN would advocate improvements to the Big 12 (expansion) in the next few years.  Both Network partners have at this point confirmed the Big 12's current membership will not yield competitive payouts at the power conference level.  BYU and Cincinnati are considered frontrunners in Big 12 circles, but the ACC's unrest noted by the Big 12 membership.  Thoughts of an ESPN failure to launch an ACCN causing the ACC GOR deal to fall by the wasteside in the near future, opening the door to potentially poaching the ACC of Florida State in a few years has a number of Big 12 schools preaching patience.  The conference has options. The thought is that if the conference added BYU (football only) and Cinci to yield a title game, the added net for each Big 12 school would be about $3-4M more...

November 2014- The thought in the conference as the month opens is that the Big 12 will not expand for a couple of years.  The membership anticipates better candidates who would move the media value of the conference substantially at that point and make a Big 12 network viable. Per one of our tweeters, ESPN internally expects a loss of 75% of cable & satellite subscribers by 2020.   How that would affect the Big Ten Network in particular could be game changing.

December 2014 -On December 7th, the Big 12 has a collective meltdown when their worst case scenario presents itself and TCU and Baylor are passed over for the playoffs.  The conference does not get the $14 M playoff payout.  The moment of realignment that I often talk about is near.  The rank and file are ready to admit BYU (football only) and Cinci (all sports), then all of a sudden a new plan is introduced to lure in Arkansas and LSU.  It is likely put forth by UT to blunt expansion efforts.  Some or all of the membership (likely lead by OU) is sold on the fact that this strategy is totally viable.  The membership decides to do their due diligence trying to lure in LSU and Arkansas. Memphis realizes they are likely out again so they throw out a ridiculously conference-friendly offer where essentially the Big 12 membership would get them for free for a number of years and Memphis would pay a buy-in fee for the privilege (!)  (It is noteworthy that this is very similar to the package that Memphis offered the AAC years ago.)   Memphis rightly plays off the short term thinking of most Big 12 members.  The offer makes an impression.  UT is considered the only school against expansion, but every school favors different strategies. There is no consensus.  The conference membership is fairly unified that playing a CCG with 10 members would create a real competitive disadvantage vs. other conferences.   Everyone sees the need for at least an expansion to 12 for playoff reasons.  Two big 12 schools are in particular (likely TCU and Baylor) are enraged with the commission and want to fire him, likely over the derailing of realignment and the lack of a conference title game. Ultimately they are sated with the idea that if Bowlsly doesn't land a good TV deal back in return for the new members, the other schools will back their play to oust him.   UT is also dealing with the impending reality that there is real traction with ESPN to use conversion of the LHN into a Big 12 Network as a tool to keep the Big 12 together (OU is the most likely to leave if things go south).  To join the Big 10, UT would have to give the LHN up anyway. UT isn't headed by the borderline deranged DeLoss Dodds and isn't winning enough to have any leverage to change that conversation.  Fox advises the membership they will financially support expansion if sufficient value is added (+1 time zone and a 25% increase on footprint population ...about a 10M person increase.). UT AD Patterson pushes out the idea that the Big Ten will expand again and destabilized the ACC.  No one's buying it.  BYU allegedly offers to join the Big 12 but keep their existing TV deal until the Big 12 deal is up.  The only revenue BYU would pull from the pot would be bowl revenue.  The Big 12 would be able to add the value of in conference BYU away games to the portfoglio that generates the revenue that pays the other Big 12 schools. The idea is to offset Memphis's offer.   (Note: This would make sense if BYU was only being considered as a football only possibility. There are two possibilities that would dictate that.  The most likely scenario is that the Big 12 schools do not want travel to Utah in general, so a football only trip once every 2 years is all they will tolerate.  The second is that BYU sees a ton of value in their affiliation with the Christian schools in the WCC.  Given how the greater American Christian community has historically viewed Mormonism, an agreement that allows BYU to blend into the greater Christian majority in any way may be something BYU may strongly desire to retain.)   Adding a football-only member is generally not what conferences want to do. With the Memphis offer, finances could direct the conference to add UC and Memphis as they are comfortable in-footprint all-sports options.  Financially the Memphis offer balances the perceived superior value of BYU and is "easier".  This BYU counter-offer may amount to BYU's best offer possible as a football-only option.  The BYU counter-offer does not trigger an immediate invitation.

January to June
(What I was able to work out: Gridlock on what schools to include leads to no schools being invited. In the interim, the conference arrives at a strategy of back loading their schedules.  The concept is that if they have 4-6 schools that are undefeated or 1 loss teams prior to the first playoff committee meeting, the Big 12 should have 4-6 schools in the top 15.   This should create a scenario where the committee would be forced to include a Big 12 team despite lack of a conference title game based strength of schedule push in the last week.  It appears that the effort to land LSU and Arkansas quickly fail, but OU's leadership continues to believe it is a viable strategy if UT will surrender the Longhorn Network.)

July 2015 - OU, frustrated by the lack of expansion, threatens to leave the conference, including UT and OSU if there is not expansion soon.  OU wants 12 schools by the end of the year and the LHN addressed by 2017.  BYU and Cinci favored in the conference,  Memphis next in line...OU doesn't have a path to any other power conference without UT... besides the SEC.  OU has boosters who would like to go to the SEC, but OU's leadership sees the bigger picture. The perception is the Texas schools think OU to the SEC is going to happen one day soon anyway so they are blowing off OU's threats. West Virginia and Virginia Tech have made overtures to the SEC about being #16 if OU leaves.   Some members of the ACC and Big 12 have the idea that if there are more defections from each conference, there is a great likelihood of some kind of merger, something that has been discussed in the past.   In theory the best media values in each conference playing ofdff each other could make a enough value to create a conference network that generates shares similar enough to UT's LHN payouts that would make UT keeping the LHN a non-issue. (This is probably a play left from the Deloss Dodds playbook. Dodds once spent about 5 minutes on tape talking about a conceptual UT/ND/ACC merger. It is very enlightening. The concept was touched on in an article of the time.  Expanding on this is on my list of articles to complete soon...keep reading!) ESPN executive alleged to have told one of our tweeters that ESPN is trying to kill the Big 12 in order to drive down total expenses and keep Papa Disney happy. KU, KSU, ISU, OSU, TCU in support of OU push for expansion.  WVU on the fence. Tech and Baylor waiting on UT.  UT against it. (8/10 votes needed for expansion.)  Expansion and reform (re:LHN) are hot topics.   Tech backs UT's non-expansion stance.  ESPN preparing to announce launch of ACCN (winter 2016 launch).  UT AD Steve Patterson got into a shouting match with OU's Boren.  Told him OU should leave if unhappy and that ESPN will look after UT.  UT will have a very lucrative home after the BIG 12. UT's president contacted OU and assured them there would be expansion by at least two and that UT would prop up B12 network creation efforts by supplying some more UT content. (This would be the second time in a few years where a UT president would have to rush in to repair the relationship with OU after a dismissive UT AD alienated OU.  There is a good chance Patterson gave away UT's backup plans. There is a very good chance this is why Patterson is no longer the UT AD.)  Fox has offered to help create a B12N, but ESPN would have a lot easier time orchestrating it.  ESPN would prefer to see the B12 go away though, so less interested. There is a lot of work needed in terms of recovering tier 3 media rights for a B12N.  Expansion with more than 2 members would bring more needed content and help a lot along those lines. Georgia Tech and North Carolina State asked Big 12 about possible addition if ACCN doesn't happen.

August 2015 - Big 12 expansion committee looking at 2 all-sports members in east and 2 football-only in the west. B12 EC told 8 group of five schools (SDSU, BSU, BYU, CSU, Houston, Memphis, Cinci, and UCF) there will be 2 all sports members added soon --- possibly with 2 more football-only adds --- and that they need to show what they would bring to the table (support for big games, etc.). The Big 12 members want to see "how these school perform under pressure"....(Crazy, huh?)  News that Pac-12 and ACC schools are having trouble with cost of attendance numbers have UT pushing for no expansion using the argument that other schools might be available from within the power conference ranks.Notre Dame talking to other conferences.  Some thought ND is being disingenuous. (How this might work...It the B12 members thought ND might be available, they might not do a large expansion.  The status quo has the Big 12 is a worse position than the ACC.  One of the tweeters feels this is what occurred with Louisville.) Cinci & UConn talking to ACC. (Should the ACC take Cinci off the board it could remove allegedly the most accepted candidate on the Big 12 list.)  BYU tells the Big 12 they want an all-sports offer or nothing.

September 2016 - B12 EC has contacted all candidates.  WVU president confident that expansion to 12+ soon.  Fox helping conference run data. Committee impressed with Memphis. BYU has a lot of support.  Baylor pushing Houston. Tweeter thinks ESPN is manipulating BYU to demand all-sports entry.  (The thought is again the Big 12 leaders' lack of desire to travel to play western schools.) Cable subscriptions to fall by 50% in next 5 years. Disney ordering ESPN to cut costs. ESPN has given UT the impression they would be willing to sell LHN to someone else.  Financial pressure could change the status quo dramatically.

October 2015 - If Big 12 happened today, it would be Cinci and Memphis. Memphis has said will not take a cent from big 12 for 5 years AND will volunteer to pay an entrance fee. (Very believable...Memphis used the same kind of concessions to stack the deck for their admission into the AAC.) $50 Million entry fee (Wow.) WVU president strongly plead to the other schools for expansion. ACC not expanding unless Big 12 schools available. B12 Commissioner knows conference must expand.  UT trying desperately to kill expansion effort. Effort to move MNF to ABC ledger to free more money for ESPN. Cinci preparing future schedule for future move to Big 12.  AAC looking at 2 teams from the west again.  Dissenting leaks from B12 --- some say 2 likely adds, some say 4 candidates alive. Cinci has a pending offer.  Memphis is leading for #12.  BYU and UCF still alive. Contrary opinion from the other tweeter. 3 members of B12 EC want expansion as does Kansas and ISU.  Big 12 to stay at 10 unless miss the playoffs; then expansion is on.  B12 doesn't want 10 or 11 + CCG as the schedule would be prohibitively tough and hurt their playoff chances. Big 12N discussion happening in conference and UT participating positively. Primary threat to the Big 12 is PAC 12. Officials at some ACC school have used the term "power 4" to one of our tweeters inferring that ACC is not part of ruling elite.  ESPN appears soft on starting up the AACN.

November 2015 - FSU concerned about ACCN delay.  Off the record officials from NC State and VA Tech say ACC GOR not binding.  ACC GOR has an opt out if no ACCN. Conference design issue in ACC --- two teams in ACC deliver 90% of ratings. 7 private schools having trouble with cost of attendance financing...If Big 12 misses playoffs again, expansion schools will be announced before New Years Day. Big 12 administrators are again disappointed with playoff rankings. Thought is that the schedule backloading did not work at all and that the Big 12 will again get passed on championship game weekend when all the other conferences get a strength of schedule bump.  Current thought there will be a 2 team expansion this year and a 2nd expansion after the Big 10 gets their new contract. (The thought being if the Big 10 needs more schools for some reason, Their moves might free up some strong options for the Big 12.)  ACC shares look pretty small on review.  difference of opinion from our tweeters.  One thinks OU is solid for the length of the GOR even if they are unhappy.   B12 backing away from expansion again... B12 officials very impressed with Memphis.  Boren and Gee pushing for expansion.  No other schools all too excited about the candidates. Pressure from UH supporters angering UT and Tech. Big 12 EC (Boren -OU, Starr-Baylor, and Gee-West Virginia) narrowed the field to BYU, Cinci, UCF, and Memphis but no one could agree on which two.  Then UT pushed for the inclusion of UH (surprise!), saying the only way UT votes for expansion is if it includes Houston. Those are their terms.  There is thought their terms have killed expansion. So the B12 EC is recommending the admission of Cinci and Houston. (Seems possibly like UT again trying to kill expansion.)  Starr has been pushing Houston for recruiting in Houston, but really to have another Texas school to hopefully keep UT in the conference long term. That doesn't mean there are the votes.  Right now 7 schools in their heart of hearts would like to vote no on Houston.  If the committee doesn't have the votes for Houston they won't submit them to the presidents for a final vote.  Votes are likely there for 2--- Cinnci and Memphis/BYU. Houston candidacy getting leaked by UT in order to rile up UT boosters and make efforts to bind UT to accept UH too costly for politicians who may be on the take for UH leadership.  Governor Abbott (UT guy) was allegedly willing to go along if no heat.  Now he is out.  Likely no expansion until 2017. ESPN trying to get the ACCN off the ground but having trouble.  Talking to UT about joining ACC and converting LHN into ACCN ---killing two birds with one stone.  This will free up money because ESPN will not renew Big 12 TV deal with no UT.

So what to make of all this...?

In looking at rumors, you have to understand that even the most plugged in of us (=all of fandom)  all only really gets to see a tiny picture of the discussion on realignment issues. There are 5 power conferences encompassing massive geographic regions.  We maybe have a good grasp on one.

Even our local one is largely a mystery in the conclusions it reaches until after the fact when motivations are explained.  Every voting school has an agenda and to some degree (or to a huge degree) they will play "survivor", viciously manipulating their conference mates (and leaks like our tweeters) to try to achieve their goals.

I really don't doubt much of the information I mined from the tweets at all.   I am sure a lot of it is totally true or at least is participant's view of the truth.  There is usually a lot of back and forth and changing of positions in realignment discussions.

And frankly most of it makes sense.

When I look at things I am looking at the general course of things rather than the specifics.   If you look a the specifics too hard you need unquestionably "reliable rumors" and that simply doesn't exist.  If you look at the general direction you can have stuff that is 60-80% accurate to the perceptions of the group  and have a decent feel for the room.

I can totally buy some of the details... BYU may have totally been the victim of poor timing.  If Memphis really did offer a sizeable ($50 million ???  That may be a suspect number.) buy in and no share for 5 years, their short term value to the Big 12 --- which itself may only be around for a short term ---blows the doors off BYU's short term value (especially BYU as an isolated football-only member).

And finances are not the whole story.  Memphis brings recruiting.  If you add Memphis there is a great chance that recruiting gets a ton better at the conference's 4 poor football recruiting schools (Kansas, KSU, ISU, and WVU) as Memphis may be close enough for all four of them to mine for three star supplemental talent.  Plus schools like OU and Baylor may be able to pull 4 star talent away from UT and the SEC.

I can buy that before the UH nonsense occurred there were basically 3 tolerable candidates (Cinci, Memphis, and BYU) effectively competing for 2 slots in this go-around.  (Seems like there was no eye-popping candidate team 14 to allow 4 schools to be added.) Cinci may be the most universally approved candidate.  I can buy that effectively they may be pretty much invited and that is distorting what is going on a great deal.

I think a two team expansion is a poor idea.  I think if you were going to add two in this go-around and I was on the committee, the strongest program (BYU) would be in.  Now it may be that there is legitimacy to the idea the network partners want a 10 Million footprint population increase.  I think you have to try and make whoever you can get approved meet the short term goals of the conference --- getting schools into the playoffs and propping up UT and OU.

There is no guarantee this dysfunctional lot will agree on expansion in any coming year.

One would hope BYU wises up and hires someone to do a hard PR push to UT and  the Big 12 member schools over the next 2 weeks. I have a feeling if they do not get in now, they may never.

The candidates recommended were Cinci (who everyone in the Big 12 apparently likes) and Houston for #12 which appears to have been the fifth ranked candidate (or worse) and appears to have little support.

I am frankly very disappointed that SDSU apparently didn't even make the first cut.   I think that is the prejudice against travel to the west and it is very short sighted.

K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple stupid.

There is a lot of over thinking in this segment (and really this article) on expansion.  Expansion requires 8/10 votes.  So any more than 2 "NOs" and a school is eliminated. If the thinking gets too convoluted, just remember that.

You have two firm NOs (UT & Tech) who are likely firmly against any expansion because that is UT's position.

If you take nothing else out of this article, that is a strong takeaway.

Starr pushing Houston would be totally in character. I also don't think UH's failure is a done deal. This is EXACTLY the ACC VA Tech scenario --- 2 firm "NOs" and a decider (Baylor).

If UT did push out UH now, that could make some sense if Starr was planning on using the Houston gets in as (?) team 14 or Baylor will be the third vote blocking any expansion effort strategy during the actual voting process.  UT pushed the issue now when Houston doesn't have the support yet to even get submitted for a vote.

It is kind of a weird "force the issue" strategy.

There is some thought that TCU is out on UH as well over Texas 3 star recruiting and that may be relatively firm.

If the Big 12 doesn't get a playoff invite, Starr could get his scenario (they just have to get TCU not to vote no).  If the Big 12 does get a team into the playoffs, it is unlikely this scenario happens.

It makes my head spin too.

Who provided all this information? 

I pulled it from tweets from the much maligned West Virginia pair of tweeters --- the Dude of West Virginia and MHver3. The Dude meanders from subject to subject so I only followed his tweets back to October, MHver3 is more realignment focused in his tweets (and took a 6 month hiatus) so I pulled 13 months.

The combination is jarring enough just going back a few months as these two don't seem to agree on much.  The merging of their content into an easy to follow timeline proved tougher to do than I anticipated when I started the article. I apologize to you readers for my lack of skill.

For some, the fact that I sourced either one of these guys makes their brains explode.

Bear with me.

Both guys' goals and methods for exploding brains are more misunderstood that truly evil... :)

Both of our WVU guys clearly have some perhaps strong, perhaps not access to the West Virginia tail of the Big 12 footprint.

Does WVU control the conference?  No.  So how accurate are their presentations going to be taken if read as predictions?

Does it mean the things reported actually happened?  Often to most of the time, I'd say yeah, but sources tend to release those things that help their goals.

So even if we get the truth, we only get part of the truth?  Yep.  Very common.

Does it mean the info is bad? Not at all.

It is all in how you sift  through it.

I filtered the data for what I considered logical motivations. 

So who are these guys who's actions explode heads?

I'm going to weigh in with what I see...

The Dude of West Virginia is a guy who tries to "tweet responsibly".  That term right there should explain why someone who clearly tries to do things right is constantly having his credibility challenged. My head almost exploded typing it.

He is a realignment guy trying to directly apply investigative reporter skills.  He want confirmations on everything before publishing. The trouble is that sometimes one source is all you are going to get on a realignment leak.  And sometimes the real poop from one source is a 1000X better than the company line from everyone else.

But to him, credibility in each tweet is more important than being first.

He is local news.

Or some might see him as the old curmudgeon mourning the death of "The Local Newspaper".

MHver3 is a guy who doesn't care about vetting nearly as much.  His philosophy is "I heard it, I put it out there.  You decide if you want to believe me.  I don't care about an individual reader getting his panties in bunch --- I have plenty of readers. And I don't care about The Dude's stupid rules."

He's blogger, really more of a tweeter, to the core.  He's the AP wire.  Effectively anonymous.  A huge source of stories with no context provided to tip the reader in helping them to evaluate the quality of the data.

Predictably he drives The Dude nuts.

Two realignment guys with polar opposite methodologies that don't lend to mutual respect, with presumably some different and some shared WV sources, pushing out media in exactly the same way.

Both West Virginia guys.

Both consumed by breaking realignment news via twitter.

Constantly lumped together in discussion due to the similarities. (And I lumped them together here...)

You can understand the constant bickering.

A lot of people who actively follow and write about realignment and are "respected and responsible" will quietly follow these guys and occasionally base articles off a line from one of their tweets.

People who are curious about realignment, but aren't junkies like myself will explode over anyone sourcing this duo.  They think it is irresponsible.  In an emotional way, these critics don't want to read about what almost happened because "DAMMIT, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!".

These readers want their realignment packaged nicely 5 minutes before the story breaks and "Dammit, it better break!" 

That is news reporting, not rumor reporting.

The West Virginia duo don't do much news reporting on realignment.

I don't do much of that either! 

After years of writing, I have come to realize my skillset pretty much limits me to being an editorialist.  I look at a ton of different sources (even diving into the often irresponsible and unverified twitterverse sometimes) to spur the ideas that become my editorials.  I try to explain my takeaways based on my knowledge and then get at anything I think needs a good scrubbing.

Articles like this show I don't mind staying up for 48 hours filtering through years of tweets deciphering what might plausibly be real and what is probably garbage or actively leaked disinformation to put together rumor content for a nicely packaged, fan friendly article.

But I hope this article also shows there is a place for these guys too. 

I for one appreciate what they both bring to the realignment community. 

Thanks guys.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Indians, Redskins, Braves....Oh My!

I am going to touch the third rail of political correctness in Sports today --- mascots and brands that reference Native Americans.

You can't write about it without being deemed a callous, unthinking, unapologetic racist or a pandering, effete political correctness whiner. (...Can't we all just get along?) But, as I have been meaning to write this article for a couple of decades now, "Let's git 'er done."

(Although I will admit, I am considering not responding to this article at all.  My interests are realignment.  This is just an article that has demanded me to write it for 20 years, so today, I am writing it and permanently exorcising it from my head.)

Stanford (1972) Eastern Michigan (1991) and St. John's (1993) were early schools to dump native American-related brands.

Starting around 1990 or so University presidents en masse across the US began joining efforts to remove even the most innocuous Indian related brands from their universities.  I am going to call that "PC crap" for the most part, because anyone who is honest about it would totally say that was driven by university leader's desire to be politically sensitive ----even when no one was voicing complaints about certain nicknames.

So much of that offends me to the core.  It would be one thing if you happened to have a really offensive brand and as a university president you were really being a leader who stands on principle.

Lets say for the last 200 years you were the say "the Puerto Rico State Indians" and your women's teams were called the "Squaws".

I had a mechanic who was Native American and he told me that someone told him, "I saw your squaw (referring to his wife)".  My mechanic told me he almost dropped that dude on the spot.

Squaw today does not have the same connotations it used to in American society.

I certainly get if in that scenario --- an embarrassingly offensive name --- a university President might want to apologize and change the name of his teams.  I could totally get it if that kind of scenario was so embarrassing that the president chose to change the men's teams' brand as well.

I could totally get if a university president had a team called the Indians and it offended his sensibilities as a career-long academic because ....Native Americans aren't from India! (Surprise!)

(It's like me taking a wrong turn on a vacation and arriving in Atlanta and saying, "Wow!  The native population is fascinating!  I'm going to call them ...Canucks!"  And then keeping it going for hundreds of years....just because..."Eh... Good enough."

I think most could get how that could be taken as being kind of dismissive of a people.)

Universities are the homes of higher learning.  I would totally get it if a president didn't want to have his University's brand tied to an obvious error that went arrogantly unchanged for years. 

(That Columbus....What a jerk.)

What I don't like is the reality of these brand changes.

I don't like it when the thought process is, "Eh...It's kind of last century.  We should just change it now so no will give us crap about it in the future."  You can't tell me that most of the changes of the "Indians" brands that occurred were not exactly that!

Not some principled decision to remove a brand that has become offensive (like the Redmen) or because a familiar but wrong term in American history is embarrassing brand name for a university devoted to finding truth, but rather for no good reason at all.

What has happened is that this trend has been embraced AS IF it truly was an altruistic effort to write a wrong against a people.  For the last decade any university with a Native American related brand was seen as backwards in their thinking.

Public primary and secondary schools feel immense pressure to conform to this now engrained thought that any reference to Native Americans as school brands must be seen as offensive.  I think I read that California has now legislated that their schools must abandon those names.

I am immensely bothered by all of this.  The culture now is such that if you were in charge of naming a new elementary school's athletic brand and you lived next to Native American community of which you thought very highly, you could never even think about naming the brand after that community.

Now lets be clear,  I am talking about a scenario where you do it right.  You go to the community and tell them the situation, what you think of them, and politely ask if you can name the kids' teams after them and they are totally jazzed and tell you, "Sure, you can!"

Society would never let it happen.  People in power behind closed doors would say, "What happens in 15 years when one of the 3 year olds in the community is a now a college student and decides he doesn't consider it a tribute?"   So in spite of the fact that maybe everyone in this area might be for it, it would never be approved.  To me, that is a sign that the movement is out of control.

Now some might say, "No native American community would approve of that!"  To them I say, "Look at Florida State."  Having your specific tribe affixed to a high power university can be kind of cool. 

I don't think it is out of the question at all that while a native American community might not like brands like "Indians" or "Redmen" and might prefer no mascots, they might be pretty jazzed to have the local college use their specific tribe name in a tributary fashion for their sports teams.

Why not change a name from "Indians" to the name of a local Indian tribe if the idea is embraced by the tribe?

Well... because you can't in this environment.

Recently this kind of PC badgering affected the University of North Dakota.  UND has long gone by the brand "The Sioux".   In 2005, the NCAA passed a rule forcing schools to retire any and all Native American based brands. (Why exactly was this required?)

After going back and forth on this, UND was allowed to sue the NCAA.  Things were immensely contentious between the NCAA and UND.  It should be noted that during this period UND suffered a lot of hardships.  They were shunned by conferences over the name controversy, creating financial hardships for their program.

The NCAA agreed to allow UND to keep the brand if the three native Sioux communities in the state signed off on it within 3 years.  I am frankly a little surprised UND would have signed off on this deal if they didn't think they had the support of the tribes.   (Frankly a slightly more lax version of that rule along those lines would have been the correct rule for the NCAA to pass in the first place!  "If you use a native American-based brand, you need to get approval from a local tribe to continue using it."  Done.  Accomplishes all the goals without making things contentious or steering behavior.)

The Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux Tribes approved the continued use of the brand. The third tribe did not.  (The jaded part of me wonders if the NCAA had a role in steering that vote.)

The end result was that a brand most of the UND students, the state population, and the state's Sioux population supported as a non-offensive tribute was forcibly ripped away to satisfy a position NCAA power brokers didn't have to take.  (You can get a sense of how unappreciated this action was by the community when you read the full history of this on the Wiki page.)

That is just wrong.

These efforts have a huge financial impact on schools.  Eastern Michigan has had eroded support since giving up their "Huron" brand.  That school was financially marginal at the FBS level before shedding it's identity alienated a chunk of their boosters and alumni who were proud of the name and the positive connotation the reference to the tribe brought to the school.  EMU fans were proud of the school, the athletic program, and the association to the tribe.

But again...I am not against retiring names that truly are offensive to a group.

The Washington Redskins.... As someone who is part minority myself, I have always found that grossly offensive and cringed that Native Americans have had to see that term hang on...specifically because of the NFL's Washington team.

It would be like naming the team the "Washington Noble Savages" and then not understanding why people would take offense as a term that wasn't cool to use from the start, aged poorly.

"It's not racist,  ...It's Historic."

I have hears some crazy assed arguments but that may be the worst.  The "yeah I know the term WAS at one point racist, but we have such a history with it in the NFL..."

Are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth?

It's totally racist! For most of the term's existence since being adopted by white America (...lets say for 200 years) it's been a racist term.  In fact, in it's day it was one of the worst! It was simply adopted in a time when society felt it was OK to casually use those.

(You know the crazy thing about it?  The term was super offensive in the 40's and 50's and as a whole, society stopped using it ....with the lone exception of as a reference to the NFL's Washington team.  Now here's where it gets crazy.  The Native Americans who had to deal with all the racist stereotypes and endure people with blackened souls spitting out "You effing, drunk Redskin!" --- For the most part...have passed on.   Most of today's Native American population has only heard the term used reference to the NFL team!  And a lot of them are Redskin fans!  I'll freely admit perhaps in some ways I am the dinosaur here, clinging to the idea that once a term goes racist, it cannot and should not be eligible for redemption --- but I still think it should go.)

In it's day, it was spat out just as hatefully as "Nigger".   I have to think that if the team had been named the Washington Niggers, there is no way today's primarily black pro football players would allow it to continue.

That suggests it's OK just because there aren't a lot of native American pro football players?  There are just so many ways this fails the sniff test.

(Some will condemn me for pointing out the obvious, but there are some really weird parallels between the transitioning of the connotation of "Redskin" and the mutation of the super offensive "Nigger" to the trendy new hotness "Nigga".  Just saying...)

How right does it seem to have a team with a name that a good chunk of a population group feels has been used to describe them in a derogatory manner, being owned by and making millions for a guy who isn't of that race?  Again if you remove an appreciation for the NFL team on the field and just evaluate it on the terms of this paragraph, it is a total failure to pass any test of decency.

And if the Redskin's organization had gotten out ahead of this years ago rather than clinging desperately to their semi-disgusting brand origins, they might have been able to just change the name only.  They could keep the logo and be the "Washington Chiefs".  That fits for DC.

Or the "Washington Braves". The logo looks like a Brave.  Say "Yeah, the Redskins brand in the way we have always used it was meant to be a tribute to hard working Native Americans and we don't want to get away from that sentiment --- so from this day forth we will be the Washington Braves!"

Big Kumbaya moment. Historic enemies hug. dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

If they had done that back in 1983-1995 or so,  90% of their critics would have bought jerseys the next day.  Washington could have had a huge financial windfall.  Every fan with Redskin stuff would either save it as collectable, value-building memorabilia or burnt it as semi-embarrassing racist stuff ---then they'd all go out together to buy the same dang thing with the new brand on the back to wear at the games next season.

But the Redskin organization dug in and created the shit storm we have today by being intractable.  Now we have intractable people on both sides.

Today it would be extremely difficult to make that kind of change.

And the Redskins aren't the only pro team I have issues with on Native American brand terms.

I don't like the Cleveland Indians brand on a number of levels. 

Their cutesy mascot, "Chief Wahoo", harkens back to some offensive cartoon stereotypes of Native Americans in a bad era for race relations in this country.  ...And Native Americans aren't from India! (I'd actually be a LOT more tolerant if they had been called "the Cleveland Injuns" as I am pretty sure no one in India was ever called an Injun...If we are going to be slightly offensive ---and I am not sure if Injun was ever considered a slur --- let's at least be clear who our team is supposed to represent/"honor".)

I'd frankly have a lot less of a problem with something like this....

Makes sense.  Slightly cool. Not really offensive to anyone...

Now you may argue that I am being "inconsistent" here.  I hate Wahoo but I am OK with objectifying Indians from India.

It's not inconsistent.  It's sensibly drawing the line at douchebaggery.  I have no problem with the objectifying of peoples.

I think the problem is having a problem with that.  That is sports branding.  You have a team borrow a name as some kind of tribute. 

It isn't that any use of a people as a brand is offensive.  Is it offensive to Steel workers to have a team named the Steelers?  Were they asked first to make sure it didn't offend them?

Are country folk up in arms because Dallas' football team is called the Cowboys?  Are they marching in the streets because Rowdy is a caricature who just begs to be punched in the face?  None of the guys I grew up with had any issue with me being a Cowboys fan...and I am far from a Cowboy.  (Now mind you if an NFL team had a brand name of "The Hicks" or "The Rednecks", I would similarly feel empathy.)

But the point is, there is fair territory.  If someone named a team "The Rastafarians" and the fans all smoked out and wore obnoxious fake dread hats and dashikis, I am not going to be out there protesting it all with signs.  People like wearing costumes and role playing.

I tolerated "Cool Runnings" for God's sake!

Nothing will be perfect in life.  Occasionally people dress up and accidentally offend.

...There is a point at which you are just being a total pussy.

Let's get beyond that.

You want "Redmen", "Redskins", and "Indians" (specifically in reference to you) gone as sports brands, I have no problem with any of that.  But let's agree that a threshold or boundary for fair usage should exist.  I would submit the above trio as a good demarcation point as far as abusive territory goes.

Let's admit that there is nothing wrong with the Atlanta Braves brand or the Kansas City Chief's brand.

At all. 

Nothing offensive there.

It's a direct equivalent of the Texas Rangers or the London Monarchs.

Those are jobs.

Likewise if Sacramento or San Antonio should ever land and NFL team or San Antonio A&M should ever play FBS football and they want to call the team brand "The Shamen" (or whatever the plural of shaman is...) they should totally be able to do it without asking anyone for approval or getting any crap.  It is just sensible.

And let's really be enlightened and say if a tribe of Sioux want to say, "Hey X University, if you want to use the Sioux name as a tribute, we think that's cool."  Why not just let them?

To do otherwise is just being overly sensitive.

Finally while I would totally agree some brands should go, I would argue there is a value to Native Americans in having Native American tribe names as brand names in sports. 

I would argue removing these brands aren't just removing offensive caricatures from sports teams,  they are also removing prominent historical markers of Native Americans existence from the larger American Society.  White America's arrival on the continent and has already consumed most of Native American society.  I would make the argument this ill-conceived PC BS's primary function is rubbing more of Native American tribes' stories out of history, not correcting wrongs.

When our kids come across the Florida State Seminoles they look up who the Seminoles are and they learn.  I think that is a good thing.

Frankly if at some point a tribe should WANT to ensure their place in this world is not forgotten decades from now by having a sports team named in their honor, it would be nice to see an environment evolve that would actually allow that --- An America mature enough not to lose it's shit over such an offensive idea as to name a team in honor of a people.

My shameful secret past (...I wrote for Bleacher Report...)

Hey guys....I have several new articles that should hit this week, but in the interim, I wanted to provide you this link of my older work.

For years I wrote realignment articles on the best platform I could find.  Unfortunately that was BleacherReport.

Bleacher Report started out as a place fans could write.   They allowed people to work on their skills in a variety of news writing formats.   I chose to write editorials (sports and the business of sports) under the name "Tobi Writes".

BR offered the opportunity for collaborative writing.  Collaborative writing tends to deliver better content in my opinion. (Sadly today, you get me...pure and unfiltered.)

It was a cool home as people training to be editors would take a look at your work and do their best to improve it.  (It was a 70/30 deal.  70% of the time I would submit an article and get back a corrected and better worded version.  30% of the time the editorial process was a disaster.  I write realignment articles that are densely packed with content.  That isn't really what BR has ever been about. So about 30% of the time they would, you know...wipe out a page of discussion on the ACC because "my article was about Big 12 expansion and that was off topic and made the article too long..."  I would of course add that back in later...)

The trouble with their original business model was the strength of their original business model --- that everyone was welcome to contribute.  Most articles were written well enough to be tolerable, but some articles were just poor articles, lacking any content or more to the point having ill-conceived arguments and unsupported content. 

BR editors could edit the sentences, but to actually send it back to the writer and say, "This is unprintable.  You need to totally rework this for these reasons..."  No.  They didn't have those powers.

So bad articles were published because that was the business model.

BR got a bad rep.

After a few years, BR revamped itself.  They decided to cut all the bad writers.  They knew they would have a huge content drop off, so they hired professional sports reporters for some content.

Every existing contributor with stats (I think it was) the top 20% in readership were allowed to continue writing.  Everyone else had to re-apply for access.

I did fairly well, but with a focus on realignment (a subject some love, but most hate), the CFL (not immensely popular in the US), the UFL (a league no one ever cared about), and UNT football (need I say more here?) my stats were not high enough. 

I did well.  I would guess I was near the threshold.  I probably averaged about 3000 reads on my last 10 articles, but BR cut with a scythe, not a scalpel.  I was competing against guys giving live breakdowns of UFC fights and whatnot --- to my perspective a type of article totally lacking in content or research, so how could it be deemed "better"?  Still, statistically they drew a ton more views.

I felt like my articles were comparatively very well written.  The content was covered in far greater detail than other BR writers.  I felt unfairly snubbed so I never bothered reapplying.

Anyway, here is my profile page and my article archive from BR.  I don't respond to any of those articles anymore, but if you want to discuss ANY of it, you can post questions/thoughts/reviews here.

Here are some (about 10-20%) of the more enjoyable articles (to me anyway) that I wrote there after I signed up 7 years ago...

DeLoss Dodds Watch: Is He Gone at the End of the Year or Not?

Time for Big East and SDSU to Be Bold

Colorado State and New Mexico Athletic Directors Plotting Against MWC?

Will Football Realignment Destroy ESPN's Sports Offerings Next?

7 Steps ACC Can Take to Prevent Being Carved Up by SEC

Tulane?! Go Home, Big East...You're Drunk!

Will the WAC Choose the Four Horsemen or an FBS Future?

45+ Mostly Western Darkhorse Schools That Could Help Save the WAC

Will June 1 Bring News of a New WAC Eastern Division?

Is Boise State Playing the Big East off the MWC ...or Vice Versa?

As Silly as It Sounds, the Big Winners in the New NBA Deal Were the Fans

12 Little-Discussed Schools That Could Make Great BCS AQ Conference Members

Why the Big 12 May Only Add One School...and Why TCU May Be the Surprising Pick

Why Oklahoma and the Pac-12 Would Be Wise to Bring Kansas and Missouri Too

Opportunity is Knocking: Why the PAC-12 should take another run at the Big 12.

SEC Expansion: Would A&M Be Trading Little Brother Tag for Also-Ran Status?

Can Texas A&M Go AWOL on the Big 12 Before the MPs Arrive?

North Texas Head Football Coach Todd Dodge Fired

Is The Villanova Invite a Power Play For Control of The Big East?

UNT Football: Time For Todd Dodge, The Overseer, To Make Some Tough Calls

The Pac-10 Should Add Hawaii, UNM, or even Texas Tech as #12 instead of Utah.

Conference Realignment: It Is Time For The Pac-10 To Sweeten The Offer

Why Exactly Does Baylor Deserve To Bump Colorado From The Pac/SW 16?

The 5 Best Stories on the Big 12 Implosion that no one is reporting.

Big 12's Best Case Scenario: The Death of the Big 12 Conference

Will DeLoss Dodds and Bill Byrne Screw The State Of Texas?

Why The WAC Should Consider a Meaner, Greener Future.

Not Good Enough For The Pac-10?

The Real Killer of the Southwest Conference

When Will Stanford, USC, And The Rest of The Big Five Stop Bleeding Money?

The Non-BCS Conferences Need To Work Together For a Better Tourney Deal

Pac-10 and Big Ten Declare War On Big 12's Financial Viability

Empire Stadium Reborn: Why The CFL BOG Will Insist It Sucks

Bad Stadiums Kill 2 in CAA; Suggestions for Maine, New Hampshire, & Rhode Island

UFL Final Attendance Numbers For Premeire Season In

25 Suggestions to Make NCAA Athletic Programs More Profitable

Will Athletic Budgets be Used to Classify Division I Schools After 2010?

Could Certain Schools Legitimately Succeed as FCS or Even FBS Members?

The FBS Attendance Hall of Shame

What Would Happen If the CFL Failed?

Would The Gang Of 5 Do It Again? Could They leave the MWC for a BCS bid?

UFL moves Locomotives' Third Game Moved to Las Vegas in likely corrective action

Will the UFL's Atrocious First Week Attendance Numbers Sink the New League?

Fix Your Danged Stadium Already! (No. 1: Eastern Michigan University)

Structuring CIS for Long-Term Growth: Step Two: Expansion for Stability

Structuring CIS for Long-Term Growth: Step One: Define Revenue Sources

UFL Coaches Pass Muster... or Do They?

The UFL "Premiere Season": Why the UFL Will Likely See a Season Two

Is The UFL "The Mirror Of Erised" For Frustrated Pro Football Fans?

The CFL in Moncton: A Winning Idea

SFU to Leave Candian Interuniversity Sport for NCAA DII? It needs to be stopped.

Since When Does Roger Goodell Love Michael Vick?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Will Houston be able to use politics to force their way into the Big 12?

Several of the big time realignment bloggers have put forth the possibility of "political pressure"  in Texas forcing the Big 12 to add The University of Houston.  As I stated in an earlier article, I think it is an unlikely idea, but as a champion of unlikely ideas,  I think I have a certain responsibility to investigate how such a thing might be possible, who would be the power broker behind it, and how it might happen.

Here's one thought.

The Who

Let's talk about the Houston Cougars and Tilman Fertitta.

Fertitta may be an unknown to a lot you.  I didn't know much about him either.   He is the Billionaire owner of the Landry's restaurant chain.  It would not be misleading to say that he built that chain from scratch.  He is quite an accomplished businessman with a net worth of $2.4 Billion.

He the is the chairman of the UH Board of Regents.  By all accounts he is a powerful guy with a lot of powerful allies.

His last name may be familiar to UFC fans.  His family comes from Galveston.

(For what its worth, a UFC follower believes he has found ties that link the Fertitta family line to the Mafia ---  I am mentioning this only because I am going to delve into the wealthy and politics and you kind of have to mention that when you are talking about dealing in political influence. Damning people by distant association to criminal elements is something I have never really felt is really fair, even in situations where it is accurate---Not saying that is the case here.  People should judge you by your actions, not those of your grandparents or ancestors. Tilman Fertitta and his wife do a lot of charity work, so balance that as you will.)

Fertitta is a vocal advocate for UH.  That's an extremely admirable trait for a school that needs and deserves a strong advocate.

I think really the worse thing I can say about him specifically is that unfortunately he is sometimes probably too vocal.

He made headlines in February by telling the Houston Chronicle editorial board that the state legislature should threaten the funding of UT and Tech unless the Big 12 admits UH.

Well technically the quote was slightly more vague...his actual strategy for the state legislature which he voiced to the editorial Board was"Put pressure on the [university] presidents; say, 'If you don't do this, we're not going to fund you for this'... ....That's the way to do it.".

See....This probably sounded better in his head.  The philosophy isn't an awful one--especially for random politicians to make, but it isn't a great strategy for someone in his position to be quoted espousing.

There are only two public universities in the state of Texas in the Big 12 --- Texas Tech and UT.  So...Who's funding was he really threatening?

He went on to tell the Big 12 schools to "Be a big boy, step up and put this school that has almost 50,000 students and is so high profile, has so many of the top schools in the United States, it's a tier one university -- we belong in the Big 12, ....We're a big, major school with an unbelievable history in athletics and academia."

It certainly was an unusual ploy.  To call out the Texas schools who play at "the big boy level" about needing to man up or something (?) and...uh....reach down (?)  to help Houston, a school that has no attributes that merit them consideration from any other power conferences and finish by fluffing your numbers and achievements.  (This position in particular seems to be one that he was rightly ridiculed by a fan over adopting.)

When you tell someone to "be a big boy" you are questioning their manhood.  You are implying they have a level of fear of a situation and they are not facing it like a man.  Again, it is really horrible wording.

How do you reach a conclusion that the Big 12 not admitting Houston is because the member schools are scared of doing so?  It isn't like Houston offers some tremendous value that other available candidates do not match or exceed. It isn't like Houston is going to join the Big 12 and dominate the conference.

I think he'd have done far better to acknowledge UT as the "King of Texas Universities" (tweaking A&M a bit, currying some favor with UT alums, and ensuring the appropriate press coverage) and then use the coverage to stress the win-win potential for the state and UT in meeting their goals by the Big 12 adding Houston.

He wouldn't be the first Billionaire to be tone deaf to his own words.

What about the state?

Adding Houston appears better for the state of Texas than the Big 12 itself, but is that even something our state leadership would attempt to do?  ...In general, our state politicians don't go out on a limb to be principled regardless of political costs.  It would be more accurate to say they spend their days "out conservativing" each other and preparing their campaign points for their next primary challenge. 

Certainly adding UH would improve the value of UH degrees. That would be a move to enhance a long term position for the state.

It would be like supporting a community based ban on fracking.  Or pollution control.  Or not selling our toll roads to investors.

Lets call a spade a spade. We don't do long term planning in the Texas state government.

Now are our politicians for sale? Absolutely. 100%.  

Could Fertitta and other rich UH Boosters be buying support in the Texas legislature?  It's very possible.  There is too much smoke out there and he is swaggering too much for me to think there is nothing going on politically.

Take his latest comments "I think there's a better than 50 percent chance in the next 24 to 36 months that the University of Houston is in a major conference."

That is a confident Billionaire.

Houston's academics aren't at the level where they would get academic consideration from the PAC, Big Ten, or ACC.  Certainly you can build a compelling case for the SEC to consider them, but the SEC's expansion philosophy over the last 25 years suggests that such a move would be extremely out of character.  So he is almost certainly talking about the Big 12.

You can argue that UH is putting a real focus on trying to get into the Big 12, but isn't everyone not in a power conference?  What is the edge he perceives UH to have?  Everything circles back around to the idea that Texas politics will come into play...

But to what end?  Politicians may be happy to take a check to try to sway UT and Tech or even Baylor or TCU to add Houston.  No politician minds dangling carrots in front of UT.  But the stick?  No.  Politicians are not going to want to piss off UT fans.  That could totally end your political career in Texas.

At the end of the day, boosters and politicians who love UT and Tech are not going to appreciate what the Chairman of UH's Board of Regents had to say last spring.

UT is not going to be excited about UH.  TCU is immensely grateful to finally be in the Big 12.  They aren't going to lead a revolution against UT.  Tech recognizes their academics aren't good enough to be cavalier about their relationship with UT.  Baylor doesn't hit me as a school that wants any more Texas schools elevated to compete with them for recruits.

So how could this ever work?

The How

How exactly is he going to get the 8 votes they need for admission?  I would think OU and  maybe OSU are likely their only advocates today.

The most plausible thing I could come up with for UT would be to adopt the strategy that Virginia state politicians came up with.  They had the University of Virginia vote against any ACC expansion that didn't include Virginia Tech.

(Now this doesn't matchup with the ACC situation because the ACC was desperate to get expansion approved before the Big East figured out some way to prevent their raid.  The Big 12 is about as unmotivated to look at expansion as any troubled conference I can remember... besides the last version of the football WAC.)

If OU and Houston are allies, then presumably UH would just need one more vote to prevent ANY other school from getting the 8 votes required for admission to the Big 12.   If they could find a third school, their advocates could in theory similarly put a block on any Big 12 expansion unless UH was included.

The thing is I can only come up with one school who might consider being that third advocate.  West Virginia.  Why? Because of divisions.

The conference is not going to add Houston as a single team for 11.   If Houston comes in, the conference would likely go to 12. 

Who gets pushed out of the Big 12 south?  Possibly Oklahoma State.  That would very much hurt their football recruiting.  In that, I think already this is a tough sell.  Could the trio force Baylor into the northern division?  Possibly.  I am not sure that Baylor truly has allies. That could be a solid strategy.

(Another potential strategy could be forcing the conference to add 4 schools, creating natural 7 team divisions.  If TCU, Baylor, and Tech are facing a realignment Russian Roulette with one of the trio going north or two more schools added to the north --- BYU and CSU to keep all the Texas schools together?--- 14 could be a very real number.)

West Virginia on the other hand might really enjoy not having to travel to Texas.  West Virginia would likely do very well in a division with all the northern Big 12 schools who can't recruit at a power conference level (Kansas, KSU, and ISU).  The Mountaineers might regularly dominate the north division and occasionally score an upset in the conference title game that gets them into the playoffs.  12 (or 14) is a good number for West Virginia.

Lets say that West Virginia wants expansion and is hoping for a candidate who can help their recruiting.  That's an easy play, almost every eastern candidate would. Either Memphis or Cincinnati would be ideal, but USF or UCF would work as well. 

Today, the vote might be a light lean towards BYU and Colorado State or possibly Houston. 

If West Virginia joins an OU/OSU voting block, they can totally block that.   The only thing that would have to happen to make this a pretty workable plan is that the motivation to expand has to be there. 

I think that means the Big 12's strategy of back loading the schedules of their football contenders has to fail.  I thought back loading was fairly brilliant, but after seeing the committee totally ignore the polls leading up to the first playoff projection this year, now I question if that strategy is going to work. 

You see, the committee looks at the teams from scratch every week.  This means until the Big 12 elites plays every other Big 12 school, their "quality wins" will likely lag behind those earned by other conferences' members. This makes total sense out of the committee ignoring the polls. I can totally see Big 12 teams scoring quality wins and still floating in  the 6-10 range right up until the final week of Big 12 play.

So far the playoff updates seem to support that.  To me, I see Clemson, Notre Dame or Stanford, Alabama or Florida, and the Big 10 champion in.  The Big 12 might have to hope for Stanford to beat Notre Dame and get upset in the Pac-12 title game. Even then LSU might sneak in!

The Big 12 has been the second best conference in America for the last 2 years.   Getting passed over again would cause Big 12 heads to explode at TCU, Baylor, UT, and OU.  The conference membership  would likely want to green light immediate expansion.

UH, for it's part, would be good at football at the right time,  they have a nice new (but undersized stadium) and members of their athletic department that appear tasked with trying to get them into the Big 12, but I question if that is enough to get them in.

If the Big 12 wants to expand and they are blocked from getting the 8 votes for the candidates they prefer, I think they would concede to the minority and get the schools they can vote in to correct the situation keeping them out of the playoffs.

Pushing money into politics

Maybe we are looking at the wrong state legislatures?  Certainly one would think it would be a ton cheaper to buy influence in state legislatures in Oklahoma (population 3.6 M) and West Virginia (1.8 M)... Those are not rich states and their population bases are small.  That means there is not the scale of political bribe money floating around like there can be in Texas.


Should the conference decide to expand and should Houston's allies try to employ this strategy, what would prevent UT and Tech from just telling Houston's "advocates", "You want Houston. We will never accept UH...but we could stomach Rice."

That's not ideal for OU, but is probably workable in recruiting terms and the association might help OU's academic reputation a bit. I have to think OSU will vote with OU.  It would certainly work for West Virginia.

Buying key politicians may not keep those schools on plan.


Houston's leadership is clearly very proud of it's strategy...whatever it is. 

If anything I have hit on is some or all of their strategy, I am not sure if it is as sound as they think. 

For what's worth, I hope they get in.  I seriously doubt Big 12 expansion will mirror my idealized thoughts on the matter, so why not Houston?  I was a big fan of Phi Slamma Jamma and the Southwest Conference growing up...
I'll even throw this in. Fertitta was appointed to a term that ran from 2009-2015.  Should the Big 12 miss the playoffs again this year and immediately add Houston --- crediting Fertitta for his leadership in making UH a viable candidate --- there could be a huge personal benefit for UT's boosters. 

Pretty much everything about the Aggies' move to the SEC has far, far exceeded Aggie expectations. That suggests it is a bubble.  How long will this bubble last?

Adding Houston could and probably would hurt A&M a lot.  The SEC West is the best recruiting division in college football.  All seven members finished in the top 25 at the FBS level last year.  Losing a few Houston recruits could drop TAMU's talent to the bottom of that division and trigger a domino drop of factors.  TAMU could see a steady decline in state-wide media attention paid to the Aggies and a disappearance of their new found recruiting dominance as their records fall off.

And what does this have to do with Fertitta?  You see the guy who appointed Fertitta was Rick Perry, the Aggie Governor who largely made the Aggies departure to the SEC possible by stifling any potential political action to keep the Aggies in the Big 12.  Imagine the fun UT boosters could have thanking Aggie boosters should A&M's recruiting atrophy and they  Aggies fall back to being a conference also-ran. 

That would be delicious.

Anyway, lets see what happens in the next 36 months.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What will be the next realignment game changer in college football?

I woke up a couple weeks ago to see one of my posts went from 100 reads to over 500 overnight. It was extremely unexpected but it looks like fellow realignment watchers have discovered my new home.  Before I get started on this next post I just want to say thank you to all of you readers and posters.  Thank you. I very much appreciate your insights.

...and your readership too!

Today I want to discuss game changers in college football.  I have some thoughts on the matter that I will put out there, but to be totally honest I am eager to get this article done because really, I want to read your thoughts!

Years ago I came up with what I believe is the one main rule of college football realignment (and maybe the only one). 

The candidate who gets admitted is often not the best candidate for the needs of a conference.  It is the candidate who could capture the required votes on the day the votes are counted.

It is a rule that makes predicting realignment damned near impossible.  I mean I can lay out what I think is a perfectly logical and well thought out argument for any number of possibilities, but it all boils down to what immediate concern the voting principles feel has to be addressed on that particular day when it is time to vote.

Weird (?) decisions

TCU's athletic director Chris Del Conte likes to tell the story about how they got into the Big 12. They had the support of OU and most of the teams in the Big 12, but he was told he needed to get UT behind their candidacy to make it happen.

So he heads down to UT and catches up with DeLoss Dodds to make his case.  Dodds agrees to listen to him, but insists they talk at a bar.  After hours of drinking in a bar and Del Conte telling Dodds all the great little factoids about TCU, Dodds tells him he has UT's vote.  The whole time he has been calling Mr. Del Conte "Dell."

This craziness is repeated over and over.

The Big 12 approached Louisville in 2011 to replace Missouri.  The Big 12 was rumored to want a school to quickly accept the offer and start playing the next fall.  Less than a year is a quick turnaround that can create a lot of scheduling headaches for the conference being abandoned.

The Big East had a 27 month exit agreement in place that was considered pretty toothy.  Louisville didn't think they could exit the Big East on that schedule without incurring a ton of damages. West Virginia, whose lawyer wrote the document, thought they could.  So the ass hurt Big 12 added West Virginia as their face-saving move.

When Louisville was admitted into the ACC in November of 2012, all the money was on UConn.  If you look at the ACC membership then you look at Louisville and UConn, it is pretty easy to see that UConn is a ton more like the other members of the ACC.

But FSU and Clemson were looking a little shaky in their commitment to the ACC.  They wanted Louisville, a football school.  The ACC realized there is no replacing FSU so they went that direction.

What if that vote happens 2 years later after Florida State makes the playoffs (in spite of playing in the weaker ACC) and win the national title? Is FSU really concerned about impressions? Does the ACC really pass on UCONN after they win the men's and women's basketball titles the same year?

Moves like this are almost the norm.

Game changing trigger moments

I mention these examples because these moments of decision are keyed by the kinds of other factors I want to talk about today.  The slot in the ACC became available because basically the ACC has great markets.   The Big Ten feared that should the ACC power schools start winning again, those markets would combine with the conference's on the felid success to force a renegotiation and generate great revenue.  If that came into play, how would Penn State feel about the academically strong ACC?

Now many may scoff about the idea of any school leaving the Big Ten and the CIC, but that was the stated reason given by Big Ten leadership for doing it when they did.  Expand the footprint around the Nittany Lions so Penn State is not a geographical outlier.

The Big 8 schools pushed for the creation of the Big 12 in response to moves made by the SEC.  The Big 8 schools were terrified of losing Oklahoma because the Big 8 conference footprint was based on an earlier travel-centric conference model in vogue in an era when attendance exclusively drove revenue.  It was not designed optimally to sell conference TV content to networks.  The SEC had twice as many TV households and could likely offer OU up to twice as much!

The Southwest Conference died for many reasons, but the one that really started the ball rolling was pro football coming to DFW and Houston.  Those teams killed paid attendance at Rice, Houston, TCU and SMU.  Those were 4 of the 9 SWC schools.  The conference struggled with that issue for 2 decades before that great conference finally fell but that absolutely destroyed the SWC business model in the days when paid attendance and merchandise sales were paying the athletic bills.

So what will be the next game changer?

Some think non-sports fans chosing to dump cable for a roku will eventually kill the cable financial model that drives collegiate sports.  Frank the Tank has written a fantastic article on that.

Some would argue that the totally unlegislated "cost of attendance" checks will allow the SEC to really entrench their recruiting dominance.  Now there is a legal avenue for the SEC to pay teenagers to ignore the fact they are going to school in the deep south.

How will the real USC (The Trojans) recruit against schools like Tennessee when the collegiate players see if they go to the SEC school where costs of attendance are actually low and the COA estimates seem inflated, a penny pinching college student could graduate with say $15,000 in his pocket from COA checks (assuming they are given full COA ---not a given) , where the same kid might leave USC $15,000 in debt due to the high cost of living in LA and USC's smaller checks. 

(I didn't chose this potential game changer because to me California living is night and day better than living in the south.  That won't change.  The SEC may use COA checks to bludgeon some schools, but the kings will be fine.)

I am going to throw out another idea. An oldy but a goody.

The NFL.

The NFL has long used Los Angeles as a leverage tool to get new stadiums built. 

"You don't want to give us a bunch of prime real estate and $500 Million to a Billion dollars for a brand new stadium?  Well...If you, (Insert NFL Community name) are going to be unreasonable, we have no choice but to move to LA."

Eventually, they get their money and their land.

That really doesn't look like that is going to happen this time. The Chargers and Rams look poised to "get their own stadiums built" in LA and the Raiders seem happy to lease from either team to get out of Oakland and the Coliseum.

There could be three NFL teams in Los Angeles.  Perhaps the proposed Los Angeles Stadium in the City of Industry  or the proposed Farmers Field in Los Angeles could re-emerge as a contended for an NFL team, but today it looks like the trio will be playing in Carson and Inglewood.

This will have USC and UCLA, both of the PAC-12's football kings (using that very loosely with UCLA based on their recent success.  Really historically they are is as much of a real football king as Texas A&M--- meaning a king in clothing but not in substance. ) competing head to head with NFL teams for fan ticket and merchandising revenue.  (Unlike TAMU at least UCLA has basketball dominance...)

Currently the PAC-12 has a significant advantage over the Big 12, but should both PAC-12 kings crash and the Big 12 kings recover, that advantage diminishes significantly.

Now USC has always had to compete with NFL teams.  The Rams were a co-tenant at the Coliseum from 1946 to 1979, and the Raiders from 1982-1994, but when the Rams moved to Anaheim and there were two NFL sucking up fan dollars in greater LA, I would allege there was a greater affect on USC.

Here are the records of UCLA and USC over the last 45 years divided into 3 time frames pre-NFL in LA, Raider+Ram Era, and Post-NFL in LA Era.

Years School Record Percentage
1970-1981 USC 109-25-4 81.3%
1982-1994 USC 94-56-5 62.7%
1995-2015 USC 181-71-1 71.8%
1970-1981 UCLA 85-43-7 66.4%
1982-1994 UCLA 99-45-5 68.8%
1995-2015 UCLA 142-106 57.3%
Now like UT and Texas A&M, when the real king is off, the somewhat king tends to be more successful.  You can see that play out here.  The last time USC had an NFL cuckoo in its nest the results were very un-USC-like.  You can blame it on coaching if you like, but I see a correlation there.

You can track the attendance here(I would have normally compiled this minutia for you readers, but I am in a computer principled standoff with acrobat reader and all the raw data is in PDF format.  :/  Today I only have the last 15 years of attendance data easily accessible in my xl spreadsheets.)

College football is viewed as lesser football than the NFL in large cities.  Unaffiliated football fans spend their football money on tickets and merchandise to the highest level of football in an area.  USC (and to some degree UCLA) will see revenue --- a lot of revenue --- lost to NFL teams.


This will be a lot more pronounced than the 1980's.  You are talking about 3 NFL teams in LA county proper!

I think USC in particular would be smart to either sick their boosters on trying to help the Rams stay in St. Louis or revamp The Coliseum to optimize crowds over the next 20 years.  (Let me know if you want to hire a stadium consultant, USC! I'll help you manage the NFL incursion...Here's a good starting point but you have to pay for what I can give you. :) )

A PAC collapse.

What happens if the PAC-12 has no kings, less attendance (weather on the west coast offers a lot of alternatives to football games), and a smaller market share than other power conferences?  Nothing good for schools like Washington State, Oregon State, and Utah.

That scenario creates a situation where the PAC-12 makes less money than the other power conferences AND they do not have the pull to draw in OU with Texas ---the PAC's demographic game-changing targets.

This is why Stanford and Cal shooting down the addition of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on academics terms may prove a fatal error for the PAC-12.   It allowed the Grant of Rights to come into existence ---a deal that makes any Big 12 acquisition tough to imagine in the next decade.  Although today's PAC is loaded with quality coaches, the conference could really devolve as a power conference if the LA schools dim in the next decade.

There is huge potential for a stalemate there where neither ruling caste in the PAC-12 or Big 12 gets what they want financially from their conferences.

And one where the PAC schools no longer have the better leverage.

This reopens the door to something that probably drove the PAC-10 to expand in the first place --- fear of their academic elite departing to join the Big 12 academic elite.

Such a move would likely cut very close to the bone.  I would not be shocked if UT's position was, "You bring your 6 best plus Colorado, and we'll bring OU and Kansas and we will recruit 2-4 we like and we'll share control.  We promise to leave out PAC poison pills Baylor and BYU."

To be clear, that would mean the PAC goes the way of the equally legendary SWC, with the research powers UT covets --- USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Washington, and Arizona, and Colorado --- walking out on the rest of the conference, just like the football attendance powers of the SWC left for the Big 12.

With UT and OU in, that conference would be looking at TV money equal to or in excess of any other conference, access to rich California investment sources, academics in the Big Ten range, and recruiting in the SEC range...without having to be in the deep south. 

UT would also gain the leverage to literally chose whoever they want in the conference.  The academic arguments they could make to SEC outliers would be tough to ignore as the financial and recruiting positions would be a wash and everything else would be overwhelmingly in the new conference's favor.

It has always been the optimal return for the USC and UT, but it is a total scorched earth policy for the PAC.  The PAC has not had to seriously consider such a proposition, but these days everyone is trying to keep up with the SEC and Big Ten's TV financials and the Big Ten's academics.

UT would likely take OU, Kansas and then offer the last two to four slots to valued rivals. 

I would think Nebraska would surprisingly be high on UT's list. Rivalries sell.  OU/NU was an exceptional rivalry and the hatred between UT and NU should be quite marketable.   Plus OU and KU will always want them back.

My guess is the UT pecking order would be Notre Dame (not off the table, but not happening as a full member), Arkansas, TAMU, Nebraska, LSU (not impossible, but unlikely) , TCU, Missouri, then Tech and OSU.

Down the road a 16 team PAC/SWC would make a ton of sense to end the kind of frustration an NFL driven weakening of the PAC might create.

PAC Division SWC Division
Washington Nebraska
Stanford Kansas
Cal Oklahoma
USC Arkansas
UCLA Texas
UC-Davis Texas A&M
Arizona Notre Dame (olympic only w/a 3-4 game football agreement) or TCU
Colorado Missouri or LSU or OSU or Tech

Potentially, three NFL teams in LA county for the next 20 years is a huge game changer.