The Big 12 Conference is dead; it just doesn’t know it yet.
There is no question that the Big 10 Conference intends to grow. The only question is how many they add, and who they take.
On the first question, they want to add at least one team, which will give them twelve (they actually have eleven teams right now). This allows them to have a conference championship, increase their revenue, and still be part of the conversation on the first weekend in December.
The smart money is on their growing to either fourteen or sixteen. A mega-conference such as this would add a lot of content for the already highly-profitable Big 10 Network.
Who they take is the more interesting question. At this point, what is being reported in the press and media is the result of feelers and informal overtures being made by the Big 10.
In any case, you have to believe that the first slot will be offered to Notre Dame. They’ve got a true national following and the academics to fit in with the Big 10. South Bend might be interested, as their earnings as an independent haven’t been what they expected them to be. If Notre Dame wants to join the Big 10, they can.
Missouri has made no secret of their interest in the Big 10. If the Big 10 wants them, they’ll make the move.
Supposedly, they’re also interested in Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have no love for Texas or the Big 12, especially after last year’s Big 12 Championship. And the average team in the SEC made $12 million more than Nebraska last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them bolt.
If we lose Missouri, it hurts, but the conference could replace them with either TCU or Houston, and limp along for a while. It would only be a matter of time until another team made a move however, so the days would be numbered.
The loss of Nebraska, however, would be nothing less than an instant death blow to the conference. If Nebraska leaves, things will fall apart quickly. There are several teams who won’t want to be the last dancer without a partner, so will move proactively.
Oklahoma comes to mind.
Some think they might go to the Pac 10, but I don’t think they’re a fit either culturally or academically. They’d fit better with the SEC, and there they’d be on the high end academically. I see this as really their only viable option, so they won’t want to wait until the dust settles.
Oklahoma State probably goes to the SEC as well, where they promptly join the bottom of the football barrel with Kentucky.
Texas Tech might go to the SEC, or they might drop into a non-BCS conference, where they might win a conference title here and there.
Baylor and Iowa State are in trouble. I don’t see Texas rescuing Baylor again, and none of the major conferences will want them or Iowa State. They’re non-BCS conference bound, most likely.
I don’t really know what happens to Kansas and Kansas State. Yes, Kansas has a great basketball program, but football is where the money is, and they’re both mediocre at the revenue sport.
Colorado goes to the Pac 10. If the Big 10 doesn’t move soon, that may happen first.
Texas A&M could go to the SEC on their own, or they might go wherever Texas goes. Politically, if Texas A&M wants to follow Texas, then Texas will have no choice but to take them.
So, what happens to Texas?
They’re in pretty good shape and could write their own ticket, if they should like. Due to political concerns, they won’t want to move first, but available options makes taking a wait and see stance acceptable.
Some think they’ll go independent, like Notre Dame. I don’t see any chance of that happening. The profitability of the Big 10 Network makes conference alignment the only viable option.
I’d like to see them join the Big 10. The academic fit is great, especially when you consider the power joint research grant proposals would bring. Texas’ focus on athletic excellence would also fit in well.
The culture fit is good, but not great. The reports back from the trip to the Columbus a few years back make me wonder if we’d want to go there regularly.
Assuming the Big 10 is taking more than two teams (which would be offered to Notre Dame and Nebraska, in that order), Texas can go to the Big 10 should it so desire.
Texas could join the SEC if they desired, but the fit is bad both culturally and academically.
The Pac 10 is a great fit culturally, and DeLoss Dodds has made it pretty clear he’s looking that direction. My only concern is that if anyone has a worse television contract than the Big 12, it’s the PAC 10.
Certainly, the addition of Texas (and other schools) would improve their bargaining position, but I’m not sure they’re capable of working a good deal.
One way the Big 12 could live on for a few more years would be a joint deal with the Pac 10. Assuming the Big 12 loses three schools (Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado), they could add another team to get back to ten schools. Then, everyone plays everyone else in the conference, just like in the Pac 10.
Then, the winner of the Pac 10 plays the winner of the Big 12, either the first or second weekend in December (there would no longer be a conference championship for the Big 12, with only ten teams).
We’re not going to know the outcome for a while. None of the conferences want to make a formal move until they know what the result will be, so there’s lots of discussions going on behind the scenes.
The earliest we would hear something is next fall, but I suspect early next year is more likely.