Speculation is enough to force action, even hysteria. Oil prices and the stock markets fluctuate on pure speculation. Likewise, speculation fuels activity on the conference realignment front. League commissioners should not act brashly amid rumors Florida State and Clemson were close to a move to the Big 12 Conference.
Yesterday discussing said rumors, I touched on this subject via the myriad leaks that emanated about Texas two years ago. Rumors have a way of mutating and becoming something much bigger when past through multiple channels. The Big 12 seeks expansion and Florida State and Clemson are possibilities, purple monkey dishwasher.
Rumor was enough to force action on the Big 12’s part. Conferences that acted overly cautious then are playing catch-up now like the Big East, or on death’s door, like the WAC.
Thus far, there is nothing beyond the unnamed sources Cemetery Hill and Eer Insider reference in their respective columns suggesting this move happens. But even if CU and FSU stand pat in the ACC, rest assured aftershocks are still ahead.
The Big 12 introduced a new commissioner on Friday, Bob Bowlsby. Previous chatter from the conference was it would remain at 10, but assumption was that chatter was idle. Adding TCU and West Virginia ensured the conference’s survival after losing four members, but simple survival is not enough in the new landscape. The Big 12 has big money potential, but a minimum of 12 members has proven to be the most lucrative model.
More members equates to more television influence and thus a bigger contract. A conference championship game is a centerpiece and revenue generator. Eleven and twelve may not be FSU and CU, but it has to be someone. And that means another conference must lose out, barring an independent’s movement.
One such independent is Notre Dame, arguably the most recognizable brand in college football. The Chicago Tribune mentioned UND as a high priority on the conference’s wish list. Then again, Kate Upton is on most guy’s dating wish list.
The Irish have balked at football membership routinely in the past. The program is not what it once was, but remains a highly valuable commodity. The NBC deal remains a huge asset any conference would struggle to match. Further, a conference like the Big Ten can fail to woo UND with a tangible contract. Until Bowlsby brokers a contract with the networks, the Big 12 can only sell a concept. That works more for other programs going solely on concept in their current situations.
Fellow independent BYU has had talks with Big 12, but nothing more. Its denial of the Big East during its Western expansion suggests the Cougars will only move under ideal circumstances, which the Big 12 would offer. Membership alongside Oklahoma, Texas and the like gives BYU the credibility it seeks.
BYU would bring quality football, and a passionate fan base that travels well and always fills it stadium. However, the Cougars are in a small television market. BYU must sell its global appeal via LDS membership to compensate. Further, selling the Big 12 on moving west is a challenge. Every other rumored target is in the east.
At least one program to the east would be ideal for West Virginia, particularly in sports beside football. FSU and CU suit this, but former Mountaineer Big East partners Cincinnati and Louisville do even more. UL has had particular buzz on the Big 12 front. Numerous programs under the university’s umbrella excel, including men’s basketball, and Charlie Strong has football moving in a positive direction.
Membership in a more football inclined conference like the Big 12, with the hypothetically lofty television contract it seeks en tow, UL brass could offer more to keep Strong. Revolving doors have been a problem with Big East coaches. Last season, Greg Schiano had more tenure at the same location than the rest of his peers combined. And Schiano’s now gone.
There’s no coincidence the Big East has struggled to retain members, given the speed with which coaches leave. Until the Big East establishes itself as more of a power, the cycle will perpetuate.
As for Big East commissioner John Marinatto, an aggressive approach is vital. Expanded as it did over the winter was crucial, but maintaining its new members is equally so. Remember, the Big East had TCU signed but lost it amid instability last year. The buyout clause worked into new signees’ contracts are the first key.
The conference’s movement west was minimal. Boise State and San Diego State are on their own islands, with BYU and Air Force both balking. Travel will pose challenges in football, and men’s basketball both downgraded in their affiliations. The Mountain West is picking up steam with its national TV coverage — if Craig Thompson and Co. can lock down regional coverage deals without the albatross of The Mtn., remaining in the MWC becomes more appealing than it was when BSU and SDSU signed with the Big East.
And don’t be surprised if ACC commissioner John Swofford takes an aggressive approach. Any validity to two programs as key to the ACC as Clemson and Florida State seeking membership elsewhere means offering them something to stay happy. Certainly Pitt and Syracuse’s additions were big, but reaching 16 means more influence in TV negotiations. Aforementioned Louisville and Cincinnati have much to offer as discussed.
Oh, and there’s the SEC. The most successful football conference sits at 14, with eastern spots sitting conspicuously empty. UL, anyone?
Tags: Bob Bowlsby Boise State Broncos BYU Cougars Charlie Strong Cincinnati Bearcats Clemson Tigers Conference Realignment Florida State Seminoles Greg Schiano John Marinatto Louisville Pitt Rutgers Scarlet Knights San Diego State Aztecs Syracuse