Sprints Considers the Latest Texas A&M, Missouri to SEC Rumors // 08.01.11

YOU AGAIN? TEXAS A&M TO THE SEC

I would say this is the last time I'm going to write about the Texas A&M realignment rumors until something actually happens, but I know better. This buzz is going to continue until the Big 12ish spins apart, which could happen Tuesday for all we know, or until the Big12ish survives a season with the Longhorn Network in place.

Earlier on Team Speed Kills: Texas A&M Scout Site Stirs Realignment Rumor Pot Again
Year2's quick take on the news that started all this for the eighth time this month, a pretty thorough summation of the reports and its possible holes.

The problem with Texas
There's a reason that most people who aren't serving as Texas' mouthpiece realize that the Big 12ish is probably not long for this world. And it's the Longhorn Network. As the Scout report points out, it's not just the Longhorns' conference mates that are nervous about LHN. That's why the Pac-12, the B1G and the SEC have all essentially lost interest in Texas. No one with a bit of sense wants a conference member that has its own television network (much less one with ESPN) and all the problems that brings.

When you have one member in bed with a multi-billion dollar partner that happens to have a tremendous influence over not only the finances of the sport in the form of TV revenues in the billions, but also in the narrative of that sport by determining which universities get national exposure every week, it's an imperfect situation for member schools. ...

But broadening the customer base and building a national brand is in direct conflict to a conference affiliation and the other members of the conference. While Texas A&M, OU, OSU, Baylor, ISU, KSU, Missouri, Texas Tech, and Kansas are working toward building the brand of the Big 12, Texas and ESPN are off building the Longhorn brand.

Someone asked me on Twitter on Sunday why ESPN isn't reporting this right now as thoroughly as they documented last year's expansion drama. At the time, I said that ESPN was a bit slow on the uptake for the original conference realignment reports and have different editorial standards than Scout and Rivals sites. (Or this blog, for that  matter. It's not a slap at Scout and Rivals.) It has since struck me that while that's still true, this is also a story that makes ESPN look bad and calls into question their handling of the LHN. That's not something that ESPN is going to actively report -- the fact that ESPN and Texas' actions are endangering the future of the Big 12ish. Which just goes to prove the original point about ESPN and Texas' interests converging.

There's one thing on which I completely agree with the Scout story. Sooner or later, this is all about Texas becoming an independent and signing a monster deal with ESPN and the LHN. Again, the Big 12ish is the only conference that's willing to go along with the sham of the LHN, making that league fragile and Texas having just one exit plan. Sound far-fetched? Then why have ESPN and Texas already contemplated the idea?

If UT decides not to participate in an athletic conference in one or more sports, ESPN would have 60 days to forge an exclusive deal for those television rights and after that period would have 48 hours to match the terms of any competing offer.

(HT: Dennis Dodd)

If, you see. Just in case, some time way down the road, Texas were to suddenly come to the realization that it's in the university's best interests to go independent. That's not to say that Texas has ever thought of such a thing. That's just how you write contracts. Dotting i's, crossing t's, etc.

It's become clearer and clearer that Texas views the Big 12ish as a short-term proposition. So why would the league's other members see it as anything else?

The key meeting is today
That doesn't mean that we would hear the decision today, because it would take at least a few days to put things together. But it will be a clear signal.

The case for Missouri joining the SEC
Beergut over at I Am The 12th Man lists the reasons for Missouri to join the SEC and a reason or two for the SEC to consider Missouri.

Missouri doesn't have the football-first culture of most SEC schools (they are closer to basketball-centric Kentucky, when speaking of athletic culture), but they would be able to bring the Kansas City television markets to the SEC, and they would even out the number of conference members at 14 (assuming A&M joins the SEC).

That last clause is the key. Would the SEC consider adding Missouri on its own? Of course not. But if Texas A&M and Missouri come as a package deal -- and taking Oklahoma would require taking Oklahoma State, which isn't worth it and would require a 16th member in any case -- then it's a package worth taking. The two programs put together provide more than enough value, particularly when you consider the fact that expansion would allow the SEC to reopen its ESPN contract and use the new Pac-12 deal as a benchmark.

The case against Missouri joining the SEC
The Mayor lays out the reasons why Beergut is wrong, and it's not entirely unpersuasive. (I say this as someone who disagrees, so that's not a backhanded compliment.)

That just leaves us with the notion that the Tigers deliver the Kansas City and St. Louis television markets. I don’t know how to say this, except to just come right out and say it: no, they don’t. ... Show me a media market that still has an NHL team, and I’ll show you a media market no college athletics program can claim to deliver.

So is the Mayor saying that Georgia didn't deliver the Atlanta market until the Thrashers announced they were leaving? Of course not. Sports markets can maintain more than one interest, and Beergut is right in saying that Missouri would draw more local interest if it were in the SEC. The biggest mistake anyone can make in a business decision is looking at things as though they are always going to be that way. Missouri outside the SEC is probably not worth the SEC's time, but Missouri inside the SEC is a no-brainer.

Even so, there aren't really any teams that would make sense in the East under the Mayor's criteria. Virginia Tech shares the D.C. market with the Redskins, the Nationals and the Capitals (an NHL team). West Virginia probably doesn't bring much of the Pittsburgh market, but what share it does bring it is also divided among the Steelers, the Pirates and the Penguins (an NHL team). Any North Carolina team is going to share the state's dominant Charlotte market with the Panthers, the Bobcats and the Hurricanes (an NHL team). And South Carolina will welcome the Clemson team that the Mayor probably prefers -- about the same time that Georgia agrees to have Georgia Tech join the conference.

So Missouri is a no-brainer -- from a business perspective. From a football perspective, it's more problematic, as the Mayor points out.

Since the Aggies obviously would join the SEC West, bringing in Texas A&M would require bringing in another team in the East. Otherwise, the Auburn Tigers would have to be bumped over into the Eastern Division. Although I would be just fine with that, Auburn’s permanent cross-division rival would have to be the Alabama Crimson Tide, which would mean the end of the Alabama-Tennessee game as an annual affray.

Except it doesn't have to. The solution to this is to go to nine conference games, keeping the three interdivision games, and go back to the days of having two interdivision rivals. That allows Alabama to continue playing Auburn and Tennessee on an annual basis and could actually help integrate Texas A&M and Missouri into the conference by bringing them closer to two SEC East teams.

OTHER NEWS

Stephen Garcia is going to be reinstated after having changed again
No surprise here. This time, he's honestly truly completely changed. Just like the first four times.

A slaughter to open the season
Vanderbilt is being asked to move its 2012 opener to Thursday night and change opponents -- putting South Carolina on the docket for a season-opening bout on ESPN. You have to love this sentence.

The Commodores are slated to open the 2012 season against Presbyterian on Sept. 1 in a Saturday home game that would not be televised nationally.

Ya think?

Tennessee-Chattanooga angling for SEC membership?
The Mocs might be trying to get into the league as well; they've scheduled games against both Tennessee and Alabama.

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