Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conference Expansion

The biggest sports story of my week of travel (at least that I care about, meaning not the World Cup or NBA Finals) was the potential for massive NCAA conference realignment.

I was particularly interested in this because, as an Oregon fan, I have a vested interest in seeing the Pac-10 do well. So the idea of expanding to a Pac-16 and stealing half the Big 12 sounded pretty good to me. I wanted to see Oregon play Oklahoma and Texas on a semi-regular basis, wanted a Pac-10 network, and wanted to be part of the best conference in the country.

Well, it didn't happen. The Pac-10 did grab Colorado, which in the long-term should be good but right now is pretty meaningless. Nebraska bailed to the Big 10, which if you ask me is tying your ship to a faulty anchor of declining media markets and recruiting centers. Utah will probably come over to the Pac-10 as well, which is fine if rather unexciting.

Maybe conference consolidation is a good thing for college athletics and maybe it's not. There's good arguments on both sides.

What makes me laugh though is the behavior of Texas. Texas was the lynchpin of all these changes. The Pac-10 wanted them bad. But UT used the Pac-10 to promote its own interests. Essentially, Texas wants to be Notre Dame. The collapse of the Big 12 was going to leave 5 schools out in the cold. And UT knew they could use the Pac-10 as leverage to get whatever they wanted in the Big 12. They managed to get rid of Colorado and Nebraska, i.e. teams that could actually compete with UT in football. Then they got the rest of the conference to not only agree to unequal revenue distribution, with UT getting even more than Oklahoma. Then they convinced the rest of the conference to allow UT to start their own television network, for which they could keep ALL the money. On top of all of this, they actually got the 5 nearly abandoned schools to give their share of the money Nebraska and Colorado has to pay to leave the conference to UT.

Talk about the rich getting richer.

What a joke.

I'd love to see the Pac-10 go after Kansas instead of Utah, just to screw UT. Kansas isn't going to leave, but they should. The Pac-10 is a far better academic conference, it's basketball traditions are just as good (playing against UCLA and Arizona is certainly as good as Texas and Oklahoma) and it would be a boatload of money for KU.

Of course, it's always all about the money in college sports. But Texas just created a situation where they have a weaker conference where they get all the money. They don't have to play a conference championship game. All they have to do every year is beat Oklahoma and not get upset by someone else and they get to go to the National Championship game!

I don't think this will last though. Texas' domination of the conference is going to rankle a lot of teams. The SEC is still interested in Texas A&M in the long-term. The conference is a joke in football now. And everyone knows UT will screw them over at the first opportunity. Sounds great....