Round and round on the expansion game we go, where we stop, nobody knows!
It is now the early morning hours of Friday, the day on which Nebraska is officially expected to announce their move to the Big Ten. Rumors have been flying for the last 24-48 hours over exactly which other schools are also possibly jumping ship to other conferences. We’ve heard everything from the predictable (Mizzou, Pitt, Rutgers, or Syracuse to the Big Ten), kind of out there (Texas A&M and VA Tech to the SEC), and the downright surprising (Texas and Texas A&M to the Big Ten).
Well, more information has emerged. Whether or not it’s reliable is the question. Chip Brown still maintains that Texas is a lock to join the Pac-10 along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech (and perhaps Baylor and Texas A&M). His latest article on OrangeBloods reveals that there have been tensions developing between Texas and its instate companion, Texas A&M. Chip writes,
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive appears to be pulling out every enticement he can to lure Texas and Texas A&M to the SEC, including possibly moving two teams from the SEC West to the SEC East to allow Texas and Texas A&M in the SEC West, one source with knowledge of the SEC said.
But Texas does not appear interested in the SEC no matter what.
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, who used to be the AD at Oregon before moving on to Nebraska, has taken a hard stand about not wanting to travel west and used cities inside the Pac-10 as his examples. Stallings is also putting pressure on the situation.
It’s not hard to understand why Texas wouldn’t exactly be enthused about the SEC despite A&M’s pressuring. Texas A&M looks at the SEC and sees dollar signs, which it is in serious need of. The Longhorns, on the other hand, look at that conference and see a situation where accepting the money from the SEC means also swallowing a serious hit to their academic rep. As much as college athletics is about money these days, these universities are still fundamentally schools, and it’s almost certain that some in their communities get into serious hand-wringing about academics, regardless of football revenue.
The Pac-10, of course, is better in academic rep than the SEC. It has Stanford and Berkeley as marquee academic schools, with USC, UCLA, and Oregon not far behind. Problem is, the Pac-10 doesn’t exactly have the revenue guarantees of the SEC (with its ESPN deal) or the Big Ten (with its Big Ten network).
After all, the Pac-10 ranks last in revenue generation among the six major conferences, with its $96.8 million in earnings less than even half of what the Big Ten raked in. And, let’s not forget, even if the Pac-10’s revenue increased with the joining of Texas or the creation of a sports network, the number of its member schools would also increase to 16, thereby cutting into the amount each university received as its conference share.
So, if Texas is worried about taking an academic hit with the SEC, and a financial one with the Pac-10…. what about the Big Ten?
Well, that’s where things get a bit weird. The Big Ten has both a strong academic rep (even beyond undergrad — at least seven of the law schools at Big Ten universities are in the top 50, with two in the top 14. Neither the Pac-10 or SEC comes anywhere close. UT’s law school is usually put at around the 15 mark, for what its worth) AND mucho $$$ in the form of its wildly successful television network. It also has a research alliance with former conference member The University of Chicago, further increasing its academic bonafides.
So, if all that’s the case, why does it seem like Texas is looking anywhere BUT the Big Ten? Well, even while giving credit to Chip Brown’s sources in the Texas world, Frank the Tank thinks the whole “Texas not interested in the Big Ten” meme is a bit fishy. He says,
My understanding is that Texas DOES want to join the Big Ten despite public posturing. I might have been throwing crap against the wall a few months ago about that, but I’m NOT now. Texas and the Big Ten have been dancing for a VERY long time in this process.
Texas A&M entertaining an offer from the SEC is the best thing that could happen to the Big Ten. The way to remove the “Tech problem” politically is to expose just how much more money Texas and Texas A&M are leaving on the table by having to drag its in-state cousins to the Pac-10 (or with the addition of Colorado today, the Pac Televen).
Frank admits to not having sources on the Texas side of things, but he does have them in the Big Ten conference, and he also references a message board post on the Northwestern Wildcats forum over on Rivals.com that contains this little tidbit,
6/10 Evening Update:
Big Ten targeting only Texas and ND as of this afternoon, pending the outcome of A&M’s status with the SEC.
Tomorrow will be a big, big day in college sports.
At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow, Hilary…. referencing an anonymous post on a football message board. Really scraping the bottom of the barrel there, aren’t we?” Not so fast, my friends. As Frank explains in his post on the subject, the writer of this message board comment is the same one who leaked the information that Nebraska was committed to joining the conference WELL before any “official” sources had gotten around to doing so. Even if a blind squirrel does find a nut once in a while, that move took most of the sports world by surprise, enough so that it’s difficult to believe the poster doesn’t have some knowledgeable source in the conference….
Bottom line is, this saga is far far from over. Really, it’s just the beginning.