Conference Expansion Back on the Menu

Unless you were living under a rock, you likely saw the shocking ‘news’ on Wednesday that Texas and Oklahoma are looking to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC.

I used ‘news’ in quote marks because it’s not really news yet, in that nobody official is on the record…but having been on the front lines of conference expansion over a decade ago, my gut tells me there is likely something to all the smoke we saw on Wednesday.  Texas has been rumored to having had made overtures for other pastures for over a decade, the Big Ten being one of those pastures.

However, while Texas’ money and massive athletic department would be a nice boon for the Big Ten, it would be a horrible culture fit…for them and for the Big Ten.  I would say the same thing about Oklahoma, too.

I lived in Oklahoma (Tulsa area) from 2013 to 2020.  In my opinion, the South begins about an hour or so south of Kansas City (I currently live in the KC Metro Area, and have lived nearly a decade of my life in KC).   The way of life in Oklahoma is different than the way of life in KC or Iowa (where I lived over 25 years of my life), or Minnesota, or Illinois (another state I lived in for eight years of my life) and so on.

In my opinion (which is what all of this is) having a culture fit in the Big Ten is pretty important.  While Texans and Oklahomans would vehemently argue against one another, they are branches from the same tree, except few peoples have more obnoxious state pride than Texans.

A decade ago, they still would have been a culture mismatch, but you take Texas ten out of ten times circa 2009 and the cable subscription model that existed then in the early days of the BTN.

Now, things are different.  In a couple years, when TV rights contracts expire, things will be really different.  The old model will not be the new model.  We will see Amazon Prime and Hulu and YoutubeTV entering into the sports rights races.  The cable bundle era will be over-ish, with something new taking its place.  The something new won’t be entirely opposite of the bundle (Hulu and YoutubeTV bundle several networks together for their streaming TV offerings, as an example) but the 2009-era large metro area land grab that led then Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to add Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten’s roster will likely be a relic from the past.

Therefore, in my opinion, Texas isn’t the prize it once was for the Big Ten…or let me put it another way; if Texas goes to the SEC, it’s not a body blow to the future of the Big Ten.  Oklahoma is just as requisite dancing partner to take things in the SEC from 14 to 16 and Oklahoma has a very good football program, which is what the SEC cares most about, because they sure as heck don’t care about academics….which the Big Ten does.  Big Ten Presidents already had to hold their noses a bit to allow Nebraska into the fold.

Then there is this:

Wouldn’t that be something?  Oklahoma and Texas drop their pants and they could possibly not get enough votes to be admitted to the SEC?  Now, I doubt that.  I think the votes have probably already been secretly whipped or counted with a wink and a nod and despite the protestations from Missouri and Texas A&M, they would get in the league.  By the way, Missouri, when your football program was at its best under Gary Pinkel, the Texas recruiting pipeline a primary factor.

Let’s assume for a second that Texas and OU do move to the SEC.  What then of the rest of the Big 12?

Kansas will find a home, in either the Big Ten or ACC, due to having one of the most successful and profitable basketball programs in the country.  They are also an AAU academic institution, too.  West Virginia, an odd fit in the league geographically, maybe they go to the ACC, who will likely look to expand as well…keeping in mind that when tectonic shifts like Texas and OU leaving the Big 12 take place, EVERYTHING moves.

What of the Remaining Six (R6) in Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor?   Honestly, where do the Texas schools land, as one friend asked me tonight?  Oklahoma State doesn’t have a great deal to offer and Kansas State is meh.

Do the R6 try to get Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis and BYU?

What about the Big Ten, do they look to go to 16?   If I were the boss of things, I would reach out to the Pac12 and look to restart talks about joining forces with that league.  The Pac12 could use the help right about now, and both leagues have common interests relative to the collegial aspects of college athletics…and they are both NOT the SEC.   That’s what I would do.  I am not talking a 26 team super league here…I am talking about scheduling games together, scheduling a post-season together…doing a lot of things together.  And if that means The Rose Bowl is the pinnacle football game for both leagues, I am fine with that.  It’s hard to crown a ‘National Champion’ when you are only talking about the SEC & ACC.

I’d have the Rose Bowl be the title game, and then I would have the second best teams play in a bowl game, the third best, etc.  I would have a grand BOWL WEEK in Las Vegas, beginning December 28th with four days in a row with a bowl game in the Raiders Stadium matching 2v2, 3v3, 4v4 and 5v5.  I’d package tickets so fans from both leagues could come and stay for the week and watch all four games in a city with more hotel rooms near a super stadium than any place in the country, and then have the Rose Bowl on January 1st.  Five straight days of Big Ten vs Pac12 in prime time television.  In hoops, I’d host a preseason hoops extravaganza and a mid-season one off crossover game.

Since we aren’t worrying about a College Football Playoff any longer, just play 11 games, eight of them in league and two of them against the Pac12 in an two-year rotating home and home and then one out of conference contest.  I am not married to that scheduling math.

But this is all today, screw the SEC.  They think they can have their cake and eat it too..well, The Big Ten and the Pac12 could give them the figurative bird and take their ball and do it the way they want to do it.

PS: Good luck, Iowa State.  You deserve a better fate than the one you will probably get after this round of musical chairs.  If it were up to me, I’d welcome you into the Big Ten.  But alas, I’m just a washed up blogger.

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