After over a decade of relative stability in the world of BCS college football change is in the air. Rumors abound and speculation of where teams may end up is certainly the game of the day. The change may vary from a minor shaker to CFB’s version of The Big One. The extent of those aftershocks are in reality held in the hands of two schools — The University of Texas and Notre Dame University.
So we are just on the same page lets define the perameters here.
MINOR SHAKER — Boise State to the Mountain West is probably the most obvious and expected move on the CFB landscape.
THE BIG ONE — 64to 80 schools who are tired of the wanna-be BCS schools grabbing too much of their pie they break away en toto from the NCAA and form a new organization for collegiate athletics … complete with billion dollar TV contracts, their own championships, no anti-trust exemption but still more money than your favorite Deity.
While on the surface it may appear the appearances of schools like Utah, Boise State, TCU, and Hawaii in the Bowl Championship Series could be a driving force here the reality is that $9 million or so a year ($13.5 in 2009-10) is merely a nusiance expense in the overall scheme of things. No, these battle lines were drawn when the Big Ten launched its little ol’ TV netowrk which now each of the 11 schools holds $30-40 million of equity in depending on the current financial climate of the day; and, the day the SEC inked its 15-year, $3 billion TV deal with CBS and ESPN.
When conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-10 which have collectively seen three schools added in the past 35 years you know there is more to this than mere internet fodder or speculation. All of a sudden criteria like academics and competitiveness are replaced by the size of the TV markets of the potential movers and shakers.
The trick here is no conference wants to move on second-tier schools and suddenly find out its rival(s) have secured the A-listers. Truly, only Notre Dame and Texas virtually contol their own desitiny.
Texas grossed $138 million last year which included a healthy profit given to the Horns’ academic side. They control the Big XII both athletically AND politically. THe Pac-10, Big Ten, and probably the SEC would gladly love to lasso televsion footprint that UT brings. But where is the reason for Texas to change the status quo ??? THEY love it. It benefits THEM. Problem is, many of the other schools in the Big XII DONT like it.
Colorado has gone from a national championship now nearly 20 years ago to a mere afterthought in the world of CFB. The Pac-10 sees the Denver TV market as the possible lynchpin for virgin territory in the Pac-12 Network coming to a cable or satellite system near you by fall, 2012. Problem is, the Big XII has a two-year notice clause and a helfty buyout amounting to a full year of revenue from the conference which will be in the $7-10 million range. With the Big Ten sniffing at fellow Big XII North members Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas the powers-that-be in Boulder may have come to the conclusion that getting out while the getting is good might be the best move.
I say Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 IS HAPPENING and WILL HAPPEN within the next three months. The Pac-10 has few other choices. The Pac doesnt call themselves the “Conference of Champions” for nothing. It takes a lot to get a seat at its table. One can say the Pac-10 wont look that far east but have you ever taken that Tucson to Pullman roadie ??? Some claim BYU and Utah is a better choice but culturally the Cougs just dont mesh with California politics.
Notre Dame has been the object of Big Ten love since … well, probably the Immaculate Conception. So far the Irish have chosen to remain on a football island … clinging to the past while CFB moves on down the road. I see the status quo continuing. The ONLY thing that will get the Irish into the conference game is if there is a complete breakaway from the NCAA of 64 to 80 teams … and I just dont see that happening right away … it may be the end game of this upheaval but it is surely NOT the opening gambit.
So that brings us back to the minor shaker. Boise State to the MWC. I also see this happening in the next three months. If the MWC loses Utah then adding BSU has gone from a good, solid move to an imperative.
But the folks sitting on the nuclear trigger are in Austin, Texas. If they BELEIVE the Big XII North is going to disintegrate thanks to the Big Ten then the Longhorns will be forced to act. And whether they look West, North, or East is still up in the air. But they won’t be able to stand pat.