Big 12, ACC Updates & Big East House of Cards
Since last weeks Big 12 “Kumbaya” lovefest and unity declaration, movement in the world of conference realignment did slow down. But as nothing has officially been signed in the Big 12, things are still in motion.
So here’s where we stand:
Big 12 Stability:
* Yes, the Big 12 seems to be doing what they did just last year…pledge unity with each other, with Texas and Oklahoma being the primary torch carriers for the conference. This year, the recommended changes weren’t to help the top ranking members like last years decisions were. This time around, unity was defined as spreading the wealth. So what is on the table is equal revenue sharing for Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights. But the kicker…
* The 6 year conference grants rights: on the table is where all Big 12 members would forfeit their TV rights to the Big 12 for a 6 year period…and the current TV deal runs for 5 years. So if a school left the Big 12, they would not even have their own TV rights for that year. The result would be a revenue loss greater than a simple “exit fee” would be. But…
* Missouri seems to be holding things up. There are reports from the SEC that they are not expecting to expand beyond 14. But it seems to be a semantics game at this point. We know the SEC has some level of interest in Missouri. We know this because all the Big 12 members, including their acting commissioner, have made reference to Missouri and the school waiting to decide if they will remain in the Big 12. As we know they are not considering an offer from another conference, it would seem that Missouri is still considering the SEC.
* The SEC semantics game is likely legal posturing. They have made it clear that a school must reach out the the SEC and apply to the SEC in order to ever be considered. Legally, the SEC is positioning themselves so that IF they added Missouri, it would be Missouri reaching out to them.
* Missouri will have a meeting on Tuesday to discuss their conference situation. If they opt to pursue the SEC, they would follow the same path as Texas A&M in negotiations. If they opt to remain in the Big 12, it is a 6 year commitment. Missouri would need to join the other Big 12 members and everyone sign the 6 year grants waiver. Result would mean Missouri would be off the table for the SEC or any other conference (Big Ten) for 6 years.
* If Missouri does have the SEC as an option, it would be tough to pass on after the past 2 years in the Big 12. Especially since passing means that if the SEC finds 13 schools to be too difficult and needs a 14th, they would be left out of that mix in favor of a school like WVU or if the SEC could obtain an ACC school.
* The Big 12 has replaced expansion committee chair, Missouri chancellor Deaton, with Kansas St. president Kirk Shultz. The assumption is the potential conflict of interest if Missouri is considering the SEC. Other sources claim Shultz has been the chair all along.
* Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas says he expects Missouri to remain in the Big 12.
Big 12 Expansion:
* The Big 12 expansion plans have been all over the map. Journalists who regularly have excellent sources and information have conflicting reports on a day to day basis.
* At first, it appeared that the Big 12 would be “aggressive” and likely expand to 12.
* Then, due to feedback from the TV partners, it appeared 10 would be the number with BYU or TCU topping the list. The rationale was that the networks would value either school as much as Texas A&M, so the annual revenue would remain the same.
* It appeared that the lesser Big 12 programs favored expansion to 12 because it would promote security. That way, if 4 or 5 schools left in the future, the Big 12 would have 7-8 members and a controlling stake in their future. At even 7 schools, the Big 12 would be in a position to cherry pick schools from lower conferences. This time around, it appeared only 4-5 schools would have remained, removing much of the leverage and forcing the Big 12 “left overs” to do what other conferences, like the Big East, wanted.
* Texas was less interested in expanding beyond 10 due to potential revenue split by 12 schools and the chance it would lower the annual payouts per school…and loss of control by having 12 schools instead of just 9 others.
* Expansion in Texas was not desired by Texas. Other schools outside Texas like Kansas opposed expanding in Texas as well.
* As of today, it appears that the Big 12 is still undecided on 10 or 12 members.
* BYU still appears to top the list. The school would need to work their own ESPN/BYUtv situations into the Big 12 TV partnerships. They would also need to move their sports from the WCC to the Big 12.
* Reports yesterday claim that the Big 12, due to recommendations from their commissioner, are less hesitant on adding a Texas school (TCU). It is unknown if this decrease in reluctance is for TCU as the #10 member and sole expansion school…or if it is in the event that the Big 12 opted to expand eastward to get to 12 with TCU, Louisville, and WVU.
* If the Big 12 expands to 12, there seem to be a few paths they will consider:
A) Adding BYU, Louisville and WVU
B) Adding BYU, Louisville and TCU
C) Adding BYU, Boise St. and Louisville
D) If BYU passes, just Louisville
E) If BYU passes, just TCU
F) If BYU passes, add Louisville, TCU and WVU
G) If BYU passes, add Louisville, WVU and Rutgers
H) other 3 school scenarios less likely such as Boise St., Louisville and WVU
Big East & ACC Expansion:
* School presidents will meet in Washington D.C. this Sunday to discuss all options.
* Uconn has been posturing for an ACC invite. The ACC seems willing to add UConn but is waiting on Notre Dame at this point.
* Notre Dame is waiting to see what happens to the Big East before deciding on their future (ACC of Big Ten). More on that in a second.
* ACC looks like they might likely expand to 16 in the next year or two, perhaps sooner. If Notre Dame applies (due to Big East issues), Uconn will be invited for #16. If Notre Dame passes, the ACC might very well still add UConn and add Rutgers for #16.
* The ACC took more control over the northeast markets with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Syracuse will likely play an ACC game in NY (Yankee Stadium, Meadowlands in NJ) each year too.
* ACC now has Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the region. The Big Ten still has the blue chip in Penn St. And the Big 12 is considering their own push with WVU and Louisville. This leaves the Big East with the lesser programs in the region (Uconn, Rutgers, WVU) for their share. So it is easy to see how the ACC expanding to 16 with Notre Dame and Uconn (or even Uconn and Rutgers) would be a final blow to the Big East. The ACC would then have the top 5 programs in the region after Penn St. and the TV revenue that the Big East expected to be for their conference would likely be shifted by ESPN to the ACC.
* WVU is still and will always be considered a candidate for the SEC #14 spot until the SEC fills that spot…even if the conference says 13 is fine. Because the media and fans will always focus on the symmetry of 14 and never embrace the idea of 13.
* The Big East is primarily looking at football-only members. Topping the list are Navy and Air Force.
* Air Force is a less likely option, contrary to reports, because by NCAA rules, Air Force could not remain in the geographically sound MWC for it’s other sports. MWC commissioner Thompson has clearly stated that if Air Force leaves for football, they leave for everything. Air Force would be forced to seek membership for non-football sports in conferences like the WCC, Big Sky or Summit. The WCC is less likely an option due to the conferences primary religious make-up. Both the Big Sky and Summit would be a drastic drop in quality.
* ECU and Temple are also attractive Big East options since both schools would accept football-only membership.
* UCF was considered a top option for #11 or #12 spots prior to Syracuse and Pitt leaving, as the football schools then held the power. The basketball schools were more willing to listen to adding a school like UCF then, as the Big East was stable. The basketball schools have less interest now in adding all-sports members when they are just a few schools lost away from dropping football sponsorship: translation, we don’t want to be stuck with all-sports schools we don’t want if you (football schools like UConn) leave.
* UCF is reportedly being blocked by USF anyways. So much for everyone supporting the good of the league.
* Houston is no longer an option, despite being one just a month ago for #11 or #12. See UCF two mentions above for the reason.
* Louisville coach Rick Pitino wants UL to remain in the Big East. He even promoted Memphis as an option for all-sports if they committed to football. He’s since gone dark on Memphis, instead feeling the Big East should add Navy, Army and Air Force to get to 10 members, then bring in Temple for all-sports for #11 and have Villanova upgrade to FBS for #12. Total would be 12 football/16 all-sports. Problem is that Army is not interest, Villanova does not want Temple, and Air Force and Navy would need stability (and Air Force a home for other sports).
Big East House of Cards:
* The Big East is in trouble. It could take just a single school leaving for everything to fall apart. For instance…
* If the Big 12 expanded with even a single Big East school (Louisville), then the Big East is down to 6 members.
* TCU will indeed consider remaining in the Mountain West if the Big East membership numbers drop further. Especially as the MWC is poised to apply for a BCS AQ with it’s current membership. TCU would secure a BCS AQ bid for the MWC regardless of the BCS vote on the current MWC membership.
* If the Big East were down to 5 members: UConn, Rutgers, WVU, Cincinnati and USF…they are in trouble. The basketball schools do not what any all-sports members from the available pool (UCF, Houston, Memphis, ECU, etc). So to get back to even 9 schools without any all-sports schools, it would mean having to add football-only members Navy, Air Force, Army, ECU or Temple. Not all would be willing to join. And these schools do not scream “BCS AUTOBID”. This would be a conference ranked lower than the MWC and on par with CUSA. So there is a real threat of losing the BCS AQ.
* On top of that, you have other conferences still making moves:
A) ACC: if they add two schools, even Notre Dame and Uconn, then TCU stays in the MWC. Big East down to 5
B) ACC: still an option that UConn and Rutgers join, TCU stays in MWC. Big East down to 4.
C) Big 12: you have not just Louisville, but also WVU on the radar. If both left regardless of the ACC, TCU leaves and you’re down to 4 schools.
D) Big 12: a longshot, but 3 Big East schools could be in the mix, TCU leaves too and Big East is down to 3 schools.
* So there stands a chance that if a single school leaves the Big East, the house crumbles. So what happens?
* Big East could be forced to drop football sponsorship. The result would likely be CUSA adding the 4 remaining Big East schools for football only (say UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, USF). Those 4 schools would remain in the Big East for other sports.
* Can’t rule out a scenario in which Cincinnati and UCF joined CUSA for all-sports with Uconn and Rutgers for football-only (remaining in the northeast based Big East).
* The simple point: Big East could be in serious trouble if the Big 12 adds even a single Big East school.