Thursday, February 18, 2016

Big 12 expansion: Coming soon.... (pt. 3)

Lets get to the evaluation part of this 3 part series.

In part one of the series, we looked at what we speculated was happening and ended that discussion with some highlights from our leaks in the distant tail of the conference.  They made several predictions and some interesting observations.

Part two of the series was largely hijacked by articles featuring the first-person perspective of OU president David Boren, the head of by far the second most powerful institution in the Big 12.  These articles give a very clear picture of where the conference is today and how to interpret the views from the conference tail.

I don't think some of our leaks details/predictions will prove correct, but I do think there are a lot things there that just make sense.

In part three we will reflect on this data and interpret it.

"Sensible Stuff" (well... to me anyway)

It appears that Boren has "won" his battle to convince UT and the Big 12 membership not to embrace blind fealty to not expanding. 

It looks like the conference is prepared to accept the findings of the firm they hired. IF the firm says expansion is lucrative, the Big 12 will expand.

Boren likely feels good because he knows the financial argument will favor of his plan (which, tooting my own horn, mirrors the core pillars of the plan I pushed for the conference a few months back.)

I think surprising expansion candidates will emerge.

I do think the potential of the ACC and Pac-12 destabilizing a bit in the next 3-8 years is what is driving current Big 12 behavior.

In general, it is very possible that ESPN may not have a serious motivation to back the survival of the ACC by delivering what they essentially promised the ACC membership in a quality ACC Network.

It is also entirely possible that the basketball/academic core of the ACC has a price that the Big Ten might meet very soon.

I think the PAC is not as stable as it looked a few years ago due to the NFL returning to LA and the troubles the conference has had with revenue generation for their network. 

I think there is every reason to think that Arizona State and Colorado could be in play in a few years...and that that possibility might be really blunting support for Colorado State specifically (and San Diego State to a much lesser degree) as candidates for the Big 12.

The idea that ESPN under a Disney financial crunch might pass on the Big 10...?

I can buy that, too.

I believe ESPN is constantly weighing the benefits of the Big 12 survival vs. the ACC's survival. 

I can buy that such a big decision as the survival of a power conference may effectively be balancing on a much smaller financial decision by ESPN. ("If we are just going to support one new conference network, do we turn the Longhorn Network, an economic loser for us, into a Big 12 Network --- something we can profit on --- or do we take the ACC third tier rights ---much of which we already own --- use them to create an ACC Network and pay the ACC more money for the privilege of we said we kind of told the ACC membership we would?").

Let's talk about the scenario MHver3 volunteered of a tsunami of realignment

But I think what is being predicted by MHver3 in terms of fallout, is being predicted to fall far too cleanly, giving the wrong conclusions.

It doesn't take into account potential plan distortion due to  the national title game caliber play of FSU and Clemson (or the possible emergence of Va Tech, NCSU, UNC, and Miami) potentially making the ACC seem worth saving.

It doesn't account for the changing whims of ESPN and the networks and the personnel at UT, OU, the rest of the Big 12, FSU, UNC, and in the Big Ten.

I believe that,  just like in 2010 when the networks were strongly encouraged to pay the Big 12 to keep the conference together and keep payouts relatively stable in the other conferences, every step of the way the networks are going to try to put the breaks on this kind of movement to mega conferences.

Even with ESPN's Disney-specified financial limitations, networks will give some conferences concessions to try to keep them intact and stave off the era of mega conferences ---  with it's projected huge payouts. 

Still...lets play this out.

What if the ACC collapses?

The Big Ten

The most likely course for The Big 10 is to sweep down for AAU schools Georgia Tech, UNC, Duke, and Virginia.  I can totally buy they would be targeted.  There is way too much smoke there. 

The Big Ten need recruiting territories and North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia are three talent rich states. 

That is a very big score for the Big Ten that would leave the conference at 18 members. 

18 is a fine stopping point, but... so is 20.

I can buy that at TV payouts in the neighborhood of $50 to even $60M per school, there would be mutual interest between the ACC 4 and the Big 10.  But...

Lets be clear here.  The targeted ACC schools have the leverage here, not the Big Ten.

Surrendering NC State to the SEC in order for Duke and UNC to get into the Big Ten gives the SEC ownership of North Carolina's football talent and resigns North Carolina's keystone schools to football irrelevance forever. 

I think the NC keystone schools are going to demand more as their cost of admission.

Lets say the ACC's academic bluebloods demand NC State comes with them. 

"We are the research triangle." They bluntly tell the Big Ten.

What is the Big 10 going to do?    Kiss off the likely $10-15 Million each extra they were going to pocket by adding the ACC foursome?  No. 

Virginia likely only comes if Duke and UNC come and Georgia Tech isn't going alone.

UT was going to get to bring five to the PAC.  I would think UNC and Duke would want at least one.

The Big Ten will take NC State. 

This is a scenario I could totally see happening.

Now an interesting thought.  Does the Big Ten take all 5 or do they make a common realignment mistake and grudgingly concede one target school for an unwanted but required random element?

Would the Big Ten add UNC, Duke, Virginia, and NC State and pause at 18 in order to follow expansion conventional wisdom in maintaining flexibility?  That is how most conference memberships tend to think.  

Could Georgia Tech be lost to the general tendency of conferences to expand a little and then enter a re-evaluation period before the next expansion?

Should they take all five, that would make going to 20 a requirement.


I don't buy MHver3's prediction that Notre Dame and Boston College would be teams 19 and 20.  That kind of expansion is too damned tidy first off.  Realignment is never tidy.

More to the point Notre Dame's value is based on their national schedule.  In the Big Ten, the Irish are...Northwestern.  The Big Ten has never understood this. 

Throwing in Boston College would do nothing for the Irish and BC is not an AAU school, so BC does nothing for the Big Ten.

ND is not going to be #19 and, frankly, they probably are not going to be #20.

To me, that is a glossy view and ---with no offense meant --- a sloppy prediction.


A much more likely scenario to my way of thinking is that the Big Ten's ideal finishing total is 20 and target #19 is Florida.  ...Just think about it for a second.

UF is basically the University of Texas without the headaches, in a state with the same amount of talent, but fewer local suitor schools.

Florida is an AAU school.  It may be SEC proud, but they are also pretty much on an island.

The only real incentive for Florida to stay in the SEC if faced with this offer is the rivalry with Georgia.  Is it worth it vs. that joining that kind of Big Ten?

If Florida joins, the finances are off the chart. The academic prestige is unmatched ---ridiculously more than the SEC could ever offer.  And with the seal broken, anyone in the SEC would be available.

It the Big Ten can avoid NC State and Florida is #19, the options are pretty mind-blowing.

They could offer Notre Dame a membership and even with Notre Dame's desire to keep the national schedule, the money alone could make the offer tough to pass on.

AAU Vanderbilt would also be a sweet #20, giving top notch academics, great basketball, great recruiting, and bridging Georgia Tech.  If Florida's leadership could be wooed, Vandy's probably would be as well.

Even though they are not AAU, Georgia would be a fine #20.   Imagine the SEC without a member in Georgia and sharing Florida with the Big Ten.  It boggles the mind.

...Or Florida State or Miami in with Florida would be amazing too....

But I think in this scenario NC State would be team 19, making it a much more interesting question.

Does Florida join as the last member of the Big 20?   If they say no, would Vandy also decline?  Who then?  Does The Big Ten concede the AAU point one more time and add FSU?

Before you say, "Oh, hell no! Florida would never take that offer..."  Remember if they say no, they are rolling the dice they may let little brother Florida State jump into a far richer, far better academic conference.

I can't see Florida's leadership letting that happen, can you?

I think they would join the Big Ten.

And that could change EVERYTHING.


It has long been speculated that the SEC would offer Florida State a slot rather than allow the Big Ten to take them. 

I think if the Big Ten takes the academic core of the ACC,  the choice on where Florida State goes won't be the SEC's to make.

Should the SEC lose Florida, however, it would be immensely in character for the SEC to offer Florida State the Florida slot and invite Va Tech and I think Wake Forest (even though they don't fit the SEC's profile) in order to get the North Carolina TVs they have long coveted.  Wake is an academic Gem too and that certainly wouldn't hurt the SEC to add.

Should Florida State accept, the SEC remains the #2 conference in America.

The Big 12

This is where smart action today could mean the world tomorrow.

If the Big 12 can retask the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 network and take their conference footprint headcount from the embarrassingly inadequate total of today (a little under 38 Million) to a number in the same ballpark as the PAC-12 (or a little higher),  they have a chance to be in the catbird's seat to carve up the other conferences, due to their central location.

If the conference is sitting on a footprint of say 75M with 12 schools or 90 Million with 14, they may have the best financial argument among the rest of the power 5 conferences to land to these target schools who may be looking at the Big Ten money and thinking "I'm getting what?"

OU President David Boren is probably looking at things and thinking,"....If the Big Ten adds UNC, VA, GT, and Duke;  And the SEC adds Va Tech and NC State... That would leave Miami, FSU, Clemson, Louisville, and Pitt available for us to consider and possibly a few really nice candidates to the West like Arizona State and Colorado..."

Florida State would probably accept an SEC invite to replace Florida based on the idea that UF would be burning some bridges and FSU might be able to close the gap in southern perception, but this is actually not a given and that potentially could really mess up the SEC.

My perception is that FSU has grown accustomed to thinking of itself as a member of a prestigious academic conference and it's leadership doesn't actually think much of the SEC in that regard. 

FSU football fans may crave the southern legitimacy an SEC invite might bring, but there is also the potential that when the day comes FSU fans may harbor more resentment to the SEC membership for allowing UF to block them for years.

Remember the most important rule of realignment: The only conditions that matter are the conditions on the day realignment actually happens.

What happens if the Big 12, due to a smart footprint expansion today, can make a similar financial offer with better perks (more beloved opponents)?

Lets say the Big 12 pulls Louisville (or Georgia Tech), Clemson, & Miami...I think FSU could chose to go either way....

If the Big 12 gets all four, what does that do to the SEC?

Which conference would you rather be in at that point if you are Arkansas, Missouri, and LSU? 

If they join, one would think A&M would bitterly come slinking back....

(Or throw in Pitt for an academic bump if the Aggies stick to their guns... it is still a salty conference.)

Overnight there might be two Big 20's and two "little brother" power conferences....

The SEC could be in trouble if things break poorly for them and FSU flips them the bird.

This possibility is likely why Boren is trying to angle for an expansion to 12 only right now.

I think this kind of idealized view is pie in the sky thinking...

My gut feeling is that if Boren was running the show the two schools that would be admitted would be BYU (for their athletic support as well as their nationwide and international value) and UConn (for the NYC market).  The fact both are excellent in basketball is just another plus.

Let's roll with that. Given that landing UConn gives the conference Connecticut and the 20M people in the New York City DMA, that expansion would give the Big 12 about 63M people in their footprint.  

With the quality of football in the Big 12, that would generate quite a bit of revenue with a Big 12 network probably comfortably putting the conference 3rd in that benchmark ----well ahead of the PAC and ACC.

With the ACC gutted, Louisville, Miami and Clemson would be sensible adds for football strength.  Pitt would be a smart add for academic reasons and to better mine the value of West Virginia. 

Miami is a great national program, but this scenario screams that it is the right scenario to add UCF and USF to allow the conference to fight the Big Ten and SEC's Florida recruiting efforts by having a Big 12 school in all three of that state's top 20 media markets.  That would give the Big 12 pole position in the state. 

At that point the finances would be so far ahead of the PAC that Colorado might be agreeable to coming home.  They appear likely to struggle in the PAC for the next few years.  (I totally get that the move to the PAC was for academic reasons, but at every school there is a point when you just want the bleeding to stop.

Arizona State academics are constantly the butt of jokes in the PAC.  They might be more than willing to give that role up for a fat paycheck. 

Having a mountain trio of Arizona State, Colorado, and BYU would do a ton to elevate BYU into fulfilling it's potential to be a king.


You could see the recommendation of the firm be for the conference to expand to 14 now and both take the best possible money now and maximize the perception of conference wealth to disrupt the PAC in case the ACC doesn't collapse....with some very surprising candidates.   I would not be totally surprised to see the Big 12 add UConn and expand from the east.

UConn (+22 M) + Temple (12 M) + Cinnci (12M) + BYU (3M+ national/international audiences)  would give the conference 87 Million in the footprint and would likely get the dollars pretty high  ---lets guess at 80% of the SEC Network driven payouts?)

It would also be a fantastic academic and basketball expansion (yielding more NCAA tourney money).

Should no ACC collapse occur, the Big 12 could potentially add Arizona State and Colorado and call it a day at 16 members.

Should the ACC collapse, then add Louisville, Clemson, Miami, and Pitt from the ACC and USF and UCF from the AAC and you are at 20.

Rivalries galore. Ideal Spacing/playing off each other. Big markets. Great football and basketball.

(If I sound like I am harping on 20, it is because if the Big Ten has 20 and is blowing every other conference away financially, I think other conferences would feel a need to pull all the markets they can to try to keep up. )


The PAC would have some tough choices to make.  Staying at 10 would not make sense.  

Adding Colorado State to keep the Denver and the Colorado markets could be a smart move.  CSU does significant research and would be somewhat academically appealing as an 11th member.

With the high population northern states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota bereft of non-Big Ten power conference candidates, again the glaring target for the PAC would be the state of Texas.  

I could see the PAC inviting limited candidates SMU and Rice for the academic prestige of both schools....As well as access to the DFW and Houston TV and recruiting markets.

The University of New Mexico, with it's good research totals could be a grudgingly tolerable #14 if UNM made some academic reforms.   (I'd be tempted to say Tulane would fill the last spot better in PAC terms, but I don't think the somewhat expansion conservative PAC membership would approve the travel).

I wouldn't bet against a real dark horse --- The University of Hawaii --- stealing that last slot.  They do a ton of research and the liberal western schools appreciate Hawaiians, even if the travel is no fun.

UC Davis + San Diego State,  Tulane + Tulsa, or even a non-football pairing of St. Louis and Denver would be sensible expansion choices too, but I don't see the PAC making those decisions for several years down the road.

It may sound like gloom and doom for the PAC, but really it is more long term thinking.  Marketing to Asia and Mexico are lucrative down the road revenue streams. 

There are some immediate bright spots though....

Notre Dame would be a natural, sensible, and most importantly, available, ally.  The Irish could play basketball in the Big East and football as an independent with the PAC providing them a similar access point to the playoffs to what the Irish enjoy in currently in the ACC.

The arrangement makes sense for both parties in that a strong Notre Dame keeps the PAC relevant in power conference discussions and, if the PAC has a bad year on the football field , Notre Dame would likely be ready to step in.


....But given history, predicting a realignment shitstorm is a low odds prediction.  It is highly likely someone will slam the breaks when this entropy starts. 

I would not be at all surprised to see 4 leave the ACC and ESPN keep the total money to the ACC the same --- essentially mirroring the 2010 Big 12 decision ---bumping up ACC per team take home in an effort to keep the ACC schools from making the SEC and Big 12 into mega conferences.

I would also not be surprised to see the PAC Network suddenly gain steam if realignment is threating to build 20 team mega-conferences.  I could see cable companies offering more on the frontend to avoid huge payouts on the backend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hurricane Boren alert. (pt. 2)

As I was writing this "catch up" three part series, I thought, "Man it is very conspicuous how night and day the behavior change of OU president David Boren has been".

Last month Boren was basically doing in realignment terms what is one of the last steps to leaving --- whipping up the Boosters to get them chomping on the bit to leave.

Then he went to the Presidents' meeting and came out toeing the company line and singing kumbaya.

I thought to myself, those are the actions of a man who is likely to get what he wants...I should write Berry Tramel and ask (as a fan of a reporter can sometimes do) to try to get him to get to the bottom of that.

I didn't even have to.   The BT bomber dropped two big articles on us that pretty much laid it out.

Boren says Big 12 expansion decision should come this summer

It's a great article that pretty much confirms the general gist of part 1 and gives a very, very clear view into the status of the Big 12 today.

It really displaced much of what I had for this part, so I would recommend reading that article.

(Really the only part I am again stumped by is the mention of Boise State as a candidate by Tramel when Boren clearly is very academically focused on his candidates.   Tramel seemed to get the importance of academic quality in realignment decisions now....I can only guess that Boren mentioned that Boise State has some love among some members in the conference who may want BYU and envision Boise as stop #2 on a western flight and Tramel took that opportunity to make a quick face-saving drumbeat as he championed Boise State last year.  ....Still I think everyone has to know that academically Boise State is reprehensible in the eyes of an academic blueblood university like Texas, which won't even consider the University of Houston...)

And there was this slightly delayed valentine from Boren to UT. 

One should probably consider it a makeup to UT boosters for throwing the LHN under the bus repeatedly lately.  To my reading it is basically Boren acknowledging that UT's new leadership appears to be on his side with the proposed reforms and he has made things harder for them in the last month by being so vocal about the LHN.

How David Boren feels about Texas

It seems like push has come to shove and David Boren's tough love technique against all odds may have gotten the Big 12 to a point where we may see peace and contentment in the conference in our lifetime.

Great for the Big 12, tough for the PAC and the ACC... Let's look at what might be available and the fallout of all of this in part three.

...In case you missed it, OU just kicked off the last round of realignment. (pt 1)

I've had other things on my mind too. 

I've decided to write a three part series to catch up on the Big 12.   These will be shorter articles though---I have some time crunches...

I knew the Big 12 had a meeting on realignment, but nothing came of it (nothing was expected to come of it). 

I knew the conference won the right to play a title game the modest enthusiasm of some members....

"Hooray! We can play a title game! ...Wait, do we really want to play a title game...?"

I did not know that in mid-January that OU's president pronounced the Big 12 inferior.


....Leading up to that meeting. (I was painting the house that week...)

In a statement to the OU Daily OU President David Boren did not mince words on his feelings on the conference's position (and ultimately it's "big win" in securing the right to chose to have a championship game):

"The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference," the statement read.

He went on to flesh out his statement to the Tulsa World and any other Oklahoma reporters.

He called the Big 12 the "little brother" in the Power 5 conferences.

“I think if — if — we can get the Big 12 on the right track, if this comprehensive plan could be adopted, then I would rather stay in the Big 12. I think that would be to our advantage. But it’s something that we really need to have happen. But we just need to wait and see what develops. Certainly, my first choice, if we can get the right things done in the Big 12, the right steps taken, especially these three, then I think we ought to stay in the Big 12. If it just doesn’t happen, then I try to think long-term.

Um...That's kind of huge in realignment terms.

These are not normal, "I'm a little frustrated with the conference's direction"-type statements.

That is turning your cannons on your own conference and saying "change or we walk". 

(The big threat would be that OU would announce intentions to walk at the end of the GOR.  That would kill the conference way ahead of that date, freeing OU for an earlier departure.)

These statements amount to lighting the fuse on your boosters.

The gist of it strategically is that frustration at the gridlock has gotten to you so now you start letting loose your boosters.  You publically pronounce your conference unsuitable and then then let your boosters simmer in the idea.  When they are boiling hot, they will rally support behind any idea you put out there.

This is what Missouri did.  This is what Nebraska did.  This is what Texas A&M did.

This is confrontational stuff. And UT, the local King, responded.

Well... Austin reporter Kurt Bohls responded on UT's behalf with a series of UT speaking points ("Do you really want to recruit against UH coach Tom Herman in conference?" etc.). 

These were essentially the Longhorn leadership playing to their boosters by putting their fingers in their ears and saying, "I can't hear anyone who works for the University of Oklahoma!  Blah! Blah! Blah! I can't hear you!"

This was the lead in to the Big 12 meetings.


And what came out of the Big 12 meetings?

The Big 12 is now speaking with one voice and David Boren is sheepishly towing the company line.

We are missing something HUGE here.

It isn't like the Big 12 told Boren, "Hey Dude, shut up or we are going to kick OU out!"

That would just lead to Boren laughing as he walked out the door.

The reports say that all the schools laid their cards down and talked freely at the meeting.

 I am sure a lot of school leaders expressed their displeasure with Boren.

But I also think it is very likely Boren did not mince words when his turn came around.

"Fix this shit or OU will be leaving at the completion of the GOR and we won't make a secret of our impending departure.  You know what that will do to this conference.  If you haven't thought about that scenario and what it will do to your school, you should."

"Further, depending on the conference we pick, we will likely be taking along a plus one..." (If it is the SEC --- likely West Virginia. If OU can talk their way into the Big Ten --- unlikely --- or the PAC, they are likely going to talk to Kansas.)

Boren may have been slightly more polite than that.  Or not.

His silence coming out and constant deference to the commissioner suggests he was assured by the membership and the commissioner that the conference was going to move to honestly consider the finances and how his agenda addresses it, but they needed some time to save face if they decide to back off long-held positions against expansion.

I think there is a very good chance UT is conceptually on board with selling the LHN to the Big 12 ---- something I advocated the Big 12 pursue a few months ago --- but do not want it to appear that Boren forced them into it. 

I think Boren would have no interest in embarrassing a UT leadership willing to work with him.

Boren toed the company line like a pro. Boren isn't one to normally hold back his opinions.

 I think he would in exactly that scenario and few others (more on this in part two of the series).

Prior to the meeting Boren continued to talk about a 2 team expansion.  I think the reasons for this are three-fold.

1) There is a really good chance better candidates will be available in a few years.
2) The big need right now is adding markets. Two schools could actually be very impactful in those terms laying the financial basis for future members, while keeping slots open.
3) Conferences like to do little expansions then catch their breath and evaluate.

 So who is likely coming if they go to 12?  I go back to what Boren said about new member criteria.

"We have been, as a group, looking at expansion, discussing expansion, and we have had outside consultants helping us look at what schools are the possible best fit....So there are more than two out there that could be a good fit. There may be six or seven, and we could pick from that group the right two. There may be six or seven, and we could pick from that group the right two. We have to be very careful. We don’t want to go out and get Okefenokee A&M or something just to have a name....We'll look at the fan base, we'll look at the size of their programs, we'll look at the academics of the institutions. We'll look at them comprehensively as to which is the best fit. And also we'll consider geography to a certain degree."

Which ties into something else that came out of the Oklahoma papers right around that time.

Seven months after pushing Boise State to the Big 12, (something I kind of politely challenged him on at the time) Berry Tramel has finally joined us the "academics matter" reporting group.   (I'd like to note that literally overnight after writing Tramel, my blog had hundreds of additional readers ---something I can only take as being a standup guy and tossing the link out some places as I didn't post the link...So thank you...).  

Tramel did so with great flair in a fantastic piece titled "Academics matters in conference realignment", in which he discusses Colorado State, Houston, and the like, in academics terms.  (Strongly recommended, although I think there is a huge blind spot in not also using the US News rankings as they directly correlate with Power 5 membership.)

“The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference with a majority of non-elite university members, which gives it [the Big 12] an academic profile more similar to the various mid-major conferences."

You can see that reflected in Boren's statements.  The goals from Boren's perspective is to land a combination of markets to offset the Big 12's ridiculously small media footprint, a football ringer, and academically strong schools.

So who is in?  I don't think there is any consensus.

My reading between the lines is that of the 7 candidates mentioned frequently (BYU, CSU, Memphis, Houston, Cinci, USF, UCF)... Boren personally really appreciates the value of BYU (power programs, national/international following, great undergrad academics) a lot, and can tolerate Cincinnati (slightly lesser athletically, decent academics, good research, good market), but might strongly prefer the combo of BYU and a surprise candidate getting a lot of talk these days.... UConn (near elite undergrad academics, elite basketball, NYC TV presence) that would make a Big 12 Network a lot more viable/lucrative.

But I think he gets BYU doesn't have the support among the anti-expansion factions in the conference and there are some strong arguments as to why ESPN might want Cincinnati in the Big 12, so Boren would grudgingly take UConn and Cincinnati to advance the network goal.  That would be adding 30+ Million to the conference's tiny footprint.

(And for the record, I think "Okefenokee A&M"  is Boren talk for Houston, Memphis, and possibly even Cincinnati.)

IF you look at Boren's quotes they suggest he is thinking about another run at the ACC schools as phase two.

All of this makes sense to me in terms of the people involved and their positions.

But wouldn't there be smoke out there if such a thing were to have happened? 

Yes, even if the leadership is trying to not leak anything.

So I headed to the leakiest area of the Big 12 (West Virginia) to hear what their local leaks on the tail end of the conference footprint are saying...

(As with everything please keep in mind that leaks are regional specific and reflect people at a certain school's impressions, they do not reflect the beliefs of the entire conference.)

Leak central

Christopher Lambert -- the more driven to be responsible of the two ---is suddenly consumed with writing about the financial value in getting rid of the LHN.  He says ESPN will want to transition the LHN into the Big 12 Network as they can make money on the Big 12 Network and cannot on the LHN.  That is pretty salty logic.

He further gives 4 (5) schools that could at least double the footprint of the Big 12. (Again, for the record, a larger expansion to substantially expand the market footprint is something I have advocated for years.)

He says the Big 12 has hired a firm to evaluate a Big 12 network and expansion with that in mind and if the numbers add up the membership is likely to bless their recommendations.

And he says potential expansion is tied exclusively to having a Big 12 network.  Again, quite financially sensible (ie. believable).

The often doubted MHver3 is saying a lot of things (probably way too many) but they also fit the facts pretty well and could have some truths to them.

He has pretty much said UT is on board with the LHN thing and that expansion with Cincinnati (?) and UConn (?) is coming because ESPN wants it.  (Says the two candidates had reps at the meeting.)

He claims to have spoken with an ESPN executive who says 1) ESPN is fully expecting to be blown out of the water on the Big Ten bidding.   (ESPN does seem to be on an austerity program under Disney lately.)  2) And that they are not inclined to deliver the kind of ACC Network the ACC members expect.  As such, ESPN acknowledges that when the Big Ten is waving $50-60 Million annually at Georgia Tech, Virginia, Duke and UNC, the heart of the ACC will leave.  ESPN is ok with that as the SEC will take Va Tech and NC State and the Big 12 will take FSU, Clemson, Louisville, and Miami. 3) ESPN wants the Big 12 to add Cincinnati in particular because they want a presence in Big 12 territory. 4) And that ESPN is putting the kibosh on talks between two Big 12 schools potentially heading to the SEC (likely OU with West Virginia [which brings up the question, "If OU (and West Virginia) are playing the bad cop role in Big 12 expansion, who is the good cop? Baylor???"] )

Finally he laid out his predictions of how the conferences would look....

"Big10: tOSU, Mich, MichSt, P[u]rdue, Iowa, IN, PSU, NWU, Illinois, Wisc, Minn, Neb, UMd, RU, UNC, UVA, GT, Duke, BC, ND

PAC: unchanged....

SEC: Bama, UA, UGA, Tenn, TAMU, Ark, LSU, Vandy, UF, SC, Mizzou, MissSt, OleMiss, UK, VT, NCST

B12: UT, Baylor, TT, OK, OKst, ISU, KU, KSU, TCU, WVU, Cincy, Uconn, FSU, Clemson, Louisville, Miami

ACC: (this is the hardest to predict but here is my guess) Wake, Cuse, Pitt, Memphis, USF, UCF, ECU, Houston, SMU, Temple, Army, Navy"

Evaluating it all

Do I think all this is on the way?  No, probably not.  But something similarly large in scale could be.

I do think the potential of this type of movement is what is driving current Big 12 behavior.

Now that we have discussed what we think may be going on, Please read part two to see what we can confirm is going on.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The coming storm --- National Signing day has the potential to be a real game changer...

There is a huge story brewing in college football and it circles around something near and dear to my heart ---Charlie Strong's University of Texas Football Team.

For months now critics of Strong have been saying this UT class was going to be very poorly rated and pointing to that as proof Strong should be gone.

"Baylor and TCU are killing Strong in recruiting!  He's gotta go!"

Not so fast. While it is true Baylor and TCU are finally recruiting to their records, I have been saying for months it is too early to throw dirt on Strong.

Realignment reporters are buzzing about how Strong and his staff may pull out a major upset on national signing day.

Corbett Smith, Dallas Morning News ---

"Texas can go from fifth (!!!) in the Big 12 rankings according to to 1st or 2nd if their bumper crop of kids come through. I think they are going to get slew of last-minute kids. A&M is going to be moving up too, if they can lock down Nac's Brandon Jones."

I'm not normally a fan of  UT beat writer Wescott Eberts' work, but he is quite plugged in.  He delivered a quality, reporterly piece predicting what additional targets UT might land.

Here are his list of UT targets:

1. Katy running back Kyle Porter
2. New Orleans (La.) Brother Martin tight end Irvin Smith
3. Silsbee offensive tackle Patrick Hudson
4. Cibolo Steele defensive end Mark Jackson
5. Manor defensive end Erick Fowler
6. Euless Trinity defensive tackle Chris Daniels
7. New Orleans (La.) defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles
8. Houston Westside defensive tackle Jordan Elliott
9. Duncanville defensive tackle Marcel Southall
10. New Orleans (La.) McDonogh 35 defensive tackle Stephon Taylor
11. Fort Worth All Saints defensive tackle Mike Williams
12. Aldine Davis linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch
13. Alief Elsik linebacker Dontavious Jackson
14. Manvel safety Deontay Anderson
15. Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones
16. Alief Elsik safety Chris Brown*
17. Dallas Southlake WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey

In recruiting there are usually guys who like to wait until the last moment to committ.  They might have an idea of playing with some local guys at some school.  Usually when the best player in the lot breaks one way, some follow.

Last year, Malik Jefferson played that role for UT and Kyler Murray played that role for A&M.

Eberts asked The UT staff if there was that kind of guy out there and Longhorn Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford said there were two or three guys.

Given that, the odds of UT landing one guy who starts the momentum for a strong UT finish are very favorable.  UT seems to be the only school in the region that appears primed for a late surge of this sort.

Eberts also notes that UT WR committ Reggie Hemphill says there are about six guys who have already made up their minds to commit to UT.  (Now you always take this stuff with a grain of salt as people change their minds or say things they don't mean, but it is there...)

Eberts noted that Dontavious Jackson had talked with a number of recruits about playing together somewhere in state.

It sounds kind of similar to last year where a cluster of players were trying to decide between UT and A&M, but it looks a little different in that the only home for six at this point maybe UT.

It's not hard to look at a map of Ebert's UT targets and see that, "Wow, six are from Houston or nearby! --- RB Porter, DT Elliot, LBs McCullough and Jackson,  S Anderson and Brown."

*Brown and Jackson played for the same school so I just put it under 13.

It's likely that most of the six he knows are from Houston.

That suggests that UT strategically may be hoping to go say 50/50 on non-Houston targets---looking at them individually as flippable commits---  and land the six (or most of them) from Houston as a group.

(Future Headline?  --- "Houston 6 fix UT Football!")

My take on the importance of the "several top dogs" comment is, in part, a Brandon Jones-thing. Jones is supposed to be the best safety in the lot.  There is a perception (shared by Smith) that the quality of A&M's class will be dependent on whether Jones can fill that top dog driving recruits to them role.

UT seems of the mindset that while they would love a guy who most think is a ringer like Jones, they have other guys in the group who can start the landslide for UT.

This is pretty smart to just come out and say because it refocuses the question for Jones and the others to what it should be, "Who do you want to play for?"

The Longhorns seem confident in their position.

Eberts predicts that UT will land nine of it's late committ targets --- DTs Daniels, Christmas-Giles, Elliot, Taylor, LBs McCulloch, Jackson, Safeties Jones and Brown and RB (likely turned WR) Humphrey.

(As a fan that would be thrilling. I am not a scout.  I have only seen some highlights, but I think most of those guys appear to be players.  I would love to see those two linebackers in particular playing with Jefferson.  If something like this occurs I think there is a great likelihood that UT has a defense in the top 3 of the Big 12 next year and wins about 8 games.  Still, I am holding out hope for Patrick Hudson.  I have my candle lit in vigil for you, Mr. Hudson, lol!  UT needs all the quality OLs it can get.)

Eberts worked the math and says those 9 would give UT a class of 23 recruits with a class score of 261.39 which would put them 6th currently and again at the top of Big 12 recruiting.

Strictly due to all the implications such finish would do in the region, this may be THE national recruiting story on signing day--- outpacing Michigan's resurgance, Ohio State's #1 recruiting class, and Mississippi's recruiting violations.

And it would launch several interesting discussions...

Taking as many as 6 from East Texas and maybe a couple from Louisiana certainly would be at the expense of Texas A&M.  There is no other way to spin it.  It would amount to UT pushing the "Aggie curtain" east and re-establishing a strong position in Houston. It would gall Aggie boosters and may make Kevin Sumlin's rope even shorter --- something very good for UT long term.

Where is this eastern resurgence coming from?  In part due to the fact LSU is so incredibly loaded with talent and in part that UT is pushing harder in the region.  Per Smith, "...Hiring Gilmer's coach was a great bounce-back after Cedar Hill's Joey McGuire turned down the gig. Traylor's doing wonders [for recruiting] in east Texas for the Longhorns."

Then there is the story, what does that do to OU boosters?  OU has been somewhat quiet in expansion terms as they bask in their playoff success, but how would seeing UT essentially take the A&M recruiting bounty OU may have thought was coming their way due to their strong season? 

Surely some OU fans can see the loss for what it was --- A heavy weight bout where one team had much better talent in depth than the other.  Clemson's front 7 depth killed OU's OL.  It's the same reason OU lost to UT and the same reason I'd bet money today on UT to beat OU in that rivalry matchup again this year --- OU lacks title caliber depth of talent.

Plugged in OU fans who watched that game had to know that OU was the 3rd best team in the playoffs last year and would have lost to Alabama in exactly the same manner.   As great as their offensive scheme was, OU was a pretender in the playoffs last year, not a contender....And this is the best they have been in years.

Something has to change.

It's why people in the know at OU have been pushing expansion for a recruiting edge.   OU president David Boren has historically been a proponent of considering Tulane for the Big 12.  Should UT land a 1-2 DTs who work out from that region maximizing the poke to the Aggie's eyes, it could help curry newfound UT support for the concept.

Pulling the focus back a bit, this would be the second time in two years Strong has rallied for a top 10 recruiting finish.  (He missed his first year.  As with any coach, the first year of recruiting is usually skunked by the coaching change. It is an exception when it isn't.)

Remember, only one team has played in the national title game in the last 12 years that hasn't been in the group of top 12 recruiting schools.

Strong is rebuilding Texas into a program that actually can play in the title game and win national titles. 

Be patient Longhorn fans and you will be rewarded.

It's going to be an interesting week.