15 June 2010

Blue balled conference realignment

Well so much for the seismic shift in conference affiliations. Talk about anti-climatic. What a friggin tease!

With the Big XII's existence safe for now, it looks like this will only be a minor reshuffling of the conference decks. The Pac 10 may add another team (Utah), the MWC may raid the WAC again or pick up another team from elsewhere. And the WAC will need to make itself whole after losing Boise St and maybe another school.

So what happened? How did the Big XII get rescued when at the brink of extinction? A band of mysterious and unknown shadowy individuals came together to ride in on their high horses and come to the rescue. Let's call them the Nazgul as there are nine likely candidates who formed an unholy coalition to preserve the status quo.

First is first though... what did it take to maintain the status quo? Simple. Give Texas what it wants -- namely, more money and its Bevo network. A good short term fix for UT, but eventually Oklahoma and A&M are going to see they have better options to the south and east. This unstable equilibrium ain't gonna last long.

So who worked behind the scenes to use Dan Beebe as champion for the status quo? The nine Nazgul, in order from most to least motivated:

1. Notre Dame -- It is a no brainer that they were leading the race to save the Big XII. For better or worse, they will only give up independence on their death bed.
2. Texas -- there is little doubt they wanted this outcome, short-sighted as it may be.
3. Mizzou/KSU/Baylor/KU/ISU AD coalition -- these five were staring at oblivion. Desperate times call for desperate measures even if it means falling farther behind the conference haves.
4. Media execs-- This includes NBC, ABC/ESPN, CBS, and FSN (among others). All of them would lose bargaining power and hence money under major realignment.
5. BCS bowl execs coalition -- their little gravy train would've been threatened as playoffs would be a natural outcome of consolidation
6. ACC commish -- compelled by contagion fears, only recently got conference on path to position of strength
7. Big East commish -- see six
6. Lower bowl execs coalition -- see five
9. NCAA exec -- their power is inversely related to schools' collective power

I've seen speculation that the SEC got what it wanted -- the status quo. Whether this is true or not, I don't think they were active in saving the Big XII as the rich tend to get richer under these situations -- and the SEC (along with the Big Ten and Texas) overflows with college football wealth. There is no doubt in my mind that the SEC was poised to gain under realignment with the addition of A&M and one or more of the following: OU, VaTech, WVU.

I've also seen speculation that the Big Ten had an interest in slowing this down to reassess the new landscape. I doubt the Big Ten, the catalyst for these changes, was behind the rescue of the Big XII since it had considered most every scenario and was prepared to make its own maximizing moves under severe time pressure. Since other players may not have been so prepared then there is little to gain and possibly something to lose for things to slow down from the Big Ten's perspective.