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Sprints Concerns Conference Expansion and Cowbells // 06.08.10


The latest from Chip Brown
He's either a good guesser, or (more likely) Chip Brown has the best sources on conference expansion, which is why we start there with the Pac-10 moving fast -- which obviously puts the Big Ten at a disadvantage.

According to multiple sources, Scott will start extending formal invitations to six Big 12 schools as early as this week, although the sixth invitation still appears to be up in the air.

Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are getting invitations. But sources say Scott is still gauging the seriousness of a push in the Texas Legislature to keep Baylor with its Big 12 South brothers. ...

The Big Ten is apparently ready to grant Notre Dame's request that if the Irish decide to join the Big Ten that it be the only school added to the league.

If not, Notre Dame could be locked out of the most important college football decision in the last decade. In other words, Notre Dame will be just as relevant to this as it's been to college football in the last decade.

Really want your head to spin? Think about Texas' hero being ... Notre Dame?!?
The New York Times makes a plausible case that if Texas is really interested in keeping the Big XII together -- and they should be -- then the solution is for the Big Ten to take Notre Dame. We all know that Notre Dame is the team for the Big Ten. If Notre Dame says "We'll go, but only if you throw Nebraska and Missouri under the bus," then Nebraska and Missouri will have tire treads imprinted on their backs for a while. At the same time, this is why the deadline for Nebraska and Missouri is a tricky one; they have to make sure that an invitation from the Big Ten is locked down, or they could be the ones trying to find a new conference.

For the 50th time, already, this is not about academics
There are many reasons that Texas might prefer a new Pac-16 over the SEC. Ease of competition leaps to mind. As does the ability to dictate its terms on revenue sharing, something that the SEC would not allow. But over and over again, we hear this academics canard, no more clearly than a recent post on Conquest Chronicles, SBN's great Southern Cal blog:

Open a U.S. News & World Reports. They just aren't. Yes, the ranking system is a bit flawed, but seriously. Are you going to tell me Texas, a school ranked 47th academically, would join a bunch of mid-level state institutions down in the South over Stanford, Berkley, UCLA, and USC?

First of all, calling the USN&WR system "a bit flawed" is like calling the planning for the invasion of Iraq "a bit flawed," but we'll go along with it for now. I did open a USN&WR -- the Internet version -- and here's what I found.

Included are current members of the Pac-10, current members of the SEC and the six most logical Big XII schools to join the new Pac-16 (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado).

Stanford University 4 1 PAC-10
Vanderbilt 17 1 SEC
Cal 21 1 PAC-10
UCLA 24 1 PAC-10
University of Southern California 26 1 PAC-10
University of Washington 42 1 PAC-10
University of Florida 47 1 SEC
University of Texas 47 1 BIG XII
University of Georgia 58 1 SEC
Texas A&M 61 1 BIG XII
University of Colorado 77 1 BIG XII
Auburn University 88 1 SEC
University of Alabama 96 1 SEC
University of Arizona 102 1 PAC-10
University of Oklahoma 102 1 BIG XII
Washington State University 106 1 PAC-10
University of Tennessee 106 1 SEC
University of South Carolina 110 1 SEC
University of Oregon 115 1 PAC-10
Arizona State University 121 1 PAC-10
University of Kentucky 128 1 SEC
Louisiana State University 128 1 SEC
University of Arkansas 128 1 SEC
Mississippi State University N/A 3 SEC
Oregon State University N/A 3 PAC-10
Oklahoma State University N/A 3 BIG XII
University of Mississippi N/A 3 SEC
Texas Tech N/A 3 BIG XII

Now, for the uninitiated: There's a reason that the ranking for all the Tier 3 schools is N/A. It's because USN&WR doesn't rank that low. I don't know that there actually are Tier 2 schools anymore, but suffice it to say that you don't want to be a Tier 3 school.

It's clear that the Pac-10's top schools are some of the better ones in the country. (Note that UCLA and Cal are above Southern Cal. Just sayin'.) But the other five schools aren't even in the top 100, putting them pretty squarely in the ranks of the SEC, and Oregon State is a Tier 3 school. In fact, there would be more Tier 3 schools in a Pac-16 than there are in the current SEC -- and two of those would come from Texas' own conference. (Percentage-wise, it would still be true: 17 percent of the SEC schools are Tier 3, and 19 percent of the Pac-16 would be.)

SEC schools like Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama are in the same league academically as many of the conference teams that would bolt along with Texas to the Pac-16. And schools like Tennessee and South Carolina can keep up with many of the teams in the potential Pac-16.

Of course, ranking conferences only by their best teams is nothing new to Pac-10 fans, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

And it's true that, on average, the Pac-10 is a bit better academically than the SEC. But it's not like we're a bunch of rubes and they're all philosophy students on surf boards. And Texas and the Pac-10 can't plausibly argue that academics is the reason for their decision while bringing along or inviting several teams that would actually make the conference worse academically.

This is about money and power, not the classroom. It never has been about academics, and no matter how much they try to make it so, it never will be. It's just self-serving spin that allows university presidents to look at themselves in the mirror as they take part in an ugly food fight.

It's all about money. Which is why it could be in trouble
CNBC's Darren Rovell -- who works at a network that knows something about making money (and about large institutions imploding, for that matter) -- actually argues that the profit motive might undermine expansion.

If the Big Ten wants to give a full share to a new team, and they want to make the same amount of money, they have to hope that that team alone can generate $20 million by itself.

How many teams can do that? Notre Dame. Maybe Nebraska. Rutgers, if you think that gets you the New York and Philly market. I personally don’t think it does.

This might be the single best reason for the SEC to hold back if it does: Are any of these things going to make money for the institutions already in those conferences? Contrary to conventional wisdom, we don't know. (HT: Dr. Saturday)

Breakin' up is hard to do. Especially when you were never together in the first place
Boise State fans are taking the news that the Mountain West will not invite them to join the conference right now rather well, I must say.

I am mad. I didn't really expect to be, but for whatever reason, I want the Mountain West to get ground into dust. I want the Broncos to destroy Wyoming this season and Utah and BYU next and TCU in the Fiesta Bowl that we all know is going to happen yet again in 2011. I want Karl Benson to announce in his WAC teleconference this afternoon that the WAC has plans to poach all the good teams from the Mountain West and form exactly the type of superconference that the MWC was afraid to do. I want the Mountain West to be extinct right now.

The disappointment is somewhat understandable; after all, the speculation of an MWC-Boise merger that would ensure AQ status has been going strong for months. It was the one part of the whole conference expansion thing that was sure to happen.

Realistically, I think Boise still has a good chance to get into the Mountain West. If Baylor is headed to the Pac-16, then Colorado is an easy pick-up for the MWC. I'm not sure why the Mountain West would want Kansas State, even if getting Kansas basketball was contingent on taking them. (It's not like having the Jayhawks is going to vault MWC roundball into the ranks of the elite.)

Besides, the longest we'll wait is three weeks
As Mountain West Connection (and almost everyone else who's covered this) points out, Boise has to opt out by July 1. It's almost amusing to see how these conferences have set a number of deadlines that will accelerate the whole process, almost ensuring a mistake. I can just see Jim Delany reading papers in his office one day, then exclaiming: "How in the hell did we end up with New Mexico State?"

This is kind of sad
An institution like Kansas, meanwhile, is left begging.

Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little urged her Nebraska counterpart Monday to remain in the Big 12 and help avoid a potential calamity for the Jayhawks. ...

"There are some universities that survive and thrive without a large athletic program," said Gray-Little. "I hope we don't have to test that out."

There is going to be some tradition lost no matter what happens in the next few weeks. It was kind of easy to watch the Big East fall apart early in the last decade because many of the members were recent additions and some (Miami) were done for the same cash-driven motives that are central to the current realignment.

But a lot of longstanding rivals are set to be torn apart in this round. So the next time Jim Delany boasts about the Big Ten's tradition, I hope a meteorite falls on his head.

And that, along with the possibility of evening Nebraska's record against Texas, is part of Corn Nation's eloquent appeal for the university to keep the league together.

If we abandon the Big 12, what happens to Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State? Forget for a moment your disgust over whether or not Texas controls the Big 12. I'd like (naively, I admit) to believe that college athletics is supposed to be about the student-athlete, about fair competition, and I'd like to think that members of congress believe that too. If tradition means nothing to universities, perhaps the feds can step in and remind them that they're supposed to be working for a higher cause.

Maybe. The question is, would lawmakers from Arizona, California, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas, Washington, etc., be too busy counting their local university's money to care?

Pac-10 declares war on Texas Lege?
According to News 8 in Austin -- beware whenever you have to trust television reporters -- Scott "said he's already spoken with several universities, but the list of schools that could be invited does not include Baylor." This could be an ominous development for the Pac-16. The question is, what are Texas legislators willing to do about it? And does Baylor have enough sway at the Capitol to prompt them to do the most effective things -- i.e., threaten the state funding of schools that would bolt the Big XII, or at least make it harder to get state assistance for any facility upgrades? (HT: Ralphie Report)

Texas fans are just happy to be invited, even if Baylor has to ...
What's that?

If Baylor's supporters in the Legislature are able to pull this off, and you're forced to contemplate a six-team expansion which includes Baylor but not Colorado, I have one plea for you:

Kill this deal.

Do you really want a [deleted] lobbyist dictating to Stanford and Cal, and all of the other fine academic institutions of the Pac 10, and Arizona State, that a gnat of a school no one (and I mean NO ONE) wants in the Pac 10 is the price you have to pay to get Texas?

Okay, so maybe not. This is getting more convoluted with every layer of political intrigue that gets added.

The other reason Baylor might be a difficult addition for the Pac-10
They're Baptists.

When all you have is a hammer ...
Dan Wetzel argues that the BCS killed the Big XII. No, you're not reading that incorrectly. It's fascinating as a conspiracy theory, but I'm not sure how realistic it is. It also ignores some factors currently playing into some teams' calculations (i.e., Nebraska being upset because it doesn't get as much money from the conference as Texas does) that don't support the conclusion. (HT: Wiz)

We have our own crazy lawmakers in the Southeast, after all
The ACC & SEC blog wonders if some Georgia lawmakers would want to use an SEC expansion to get Georgia Tech back into the league. Maybe; UGA is generally more powerful than Georgia Tech in the Legislature, but if the result of the SEC's plans were the death or loss of AQ status by the ACC, then there could be a substantial push. Keep in mind that the original teams that were going to leave the Big East and join the ACC were Boston College, Miami and Syracuse until Virginia officials stepped in and got UVA to wrangle an invite for Virginia Tech.

Louisville fans don't see themselves in the SEC
But they've got our back on the Texas fight, for whatever that's worth. Really, though -- you want to be in the ACC?

A modest proposal for bringing detente
Just merge Pitt and Rutgers.

Two Twitter accounts you must follow
Fake Dan Beebe, which is absolutely hysterical, and the also-good Fake Larry Scott. (HT: Clone Chronicles and Rock M Nation)


Yes, that will work
Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin wrote a letter to State fans about the Great Cowbell Compromise of 2010.

We’ll call upon you to hold one another accountable in following these guidelines. Also, expect a promotional and educational campaign to inform our fans on when they may "Ring Responsibly" during games played at Davis Wade Stadium.

"Ring Responsibly"? Please, why can we not just do away with the rule?