Update: Texas has agreed to stay in the Big 12 along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, and Texas A&M. More than likely that means Utah will end up in the Pac-10 as their 12th team.
I realize this site is dedicated to the NFL and the 49ers in particular, but the NCAA is the pipeline that feeds the NFL machine, and no football story got more press over the weekend than the possible seismic realignment of the NCAA football landscape. For those unlike myself who have a life and haven't followed every piece of information as it came out, like a homeless man digging through the trash for any scrap of food he could find, here's a quick run down of how things played out.
It started with Colorado leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10. That came as no surprise to anyone since it had long been speculated that Colorado and Utah would join the Pac-10. Then Boise St joined the MWC, another no brainer, but things really started heating up when Big Red (Nebraska) joined the Big Ten. Suddenly the remaining Big 12 schools started scrambling for places to land. No one wanted to find themselves like SMU or TCU when the SWC fell apart and they were left with no place to call home among the major conferences. With Texas as the headliner, the Pac-10 started heavily courting Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, and Texas A&M. But A&M decided they could blaze their own path and started flirting with the SEC which rekindled hope among Utah fans that they just might make it into the Pac-10 after all. Unfortunately for them, if there's one thing we've learned in this whole process it's that the Pac-10 really doesn't want Utah. At least not while there's a better alternative from a BCS school, and Kansas fits the bill nicely. And while I realize Utah has a much better football team than Kansas, and football is the king that's driving the expansion bus, Utah also has a far superior football team than Colorado, yet CU was chosen and Utah wasn't. At least Kansas has a dominant basketball team and there football team has had success as little as 3 years ago when the won the Orange bowl, which is more than CU can say. Sorry Utah.
So what made Nebraska want to escape from the Big 12? Just one word, Texas. They felt Texas wielded too much power. If you want proof of the influence they hold just look at how many teams are falling in line behind Texas as they head for the egress. And that conga line includes OU which is a football power in its own right. Not to mention Texas wanted a TV deal similar to what Notre Dame has where they could keep all the revenue for themselves. Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Pearlman had this to say after the move to the Big Ten, "There's only on way that you can fully commit long term to a conference, and that is that you assign the media rights to your athletic contest to the conference for the long term. And I asked were the members willing to do that. the University of Texas made it clear they were not willing to do that."
More news on realignment and the hypocrisy of college football after the jump.
For a couple days after the initial salvo of movement it looked as if the Big 12 was dead. The Pac-10 would become the Pac-16. The Big Ten, which now has 12 teams, would likely raid 3 more teams but this time from the Big East, before capping it off with Notre Dame as their 16th member. With the addition of Texas A&M, the SEC would steal 3 from the ACC bringing their conference membership up to 16 as well. Of the remaining 5 Big East teams, 3 would join the ACC to replace the 3 that went to the SEC with the final 2 Big East teams joining Conference USA or the MAC, and the MWC would pick up 2 of the remaining Big 12 teams with the other 2 also looking to the MAC or Conference USA. In the end we'd end up with 3 super conferences each looking to get 2 BCS bowl bids when things are redone for the 2012 season, two 12 team conferences, the ACC and MWC, each with 1 BCS bowl bid a piece, and 2 spots open for at large contenders. At least that's how things looked until Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe threw his hail marry pass.
Now rumors are starting to circulate that Beebe has worked out a deal that would pay each of the remaining 10 teams in the Big 12 an estimated 14-25 million a year (The deal shares the money unevenly so you can guess who's making closer to the 25 million area). That compairs favorably to the 17.4 million each team in the SEC made last year with their TV deal. And according to some sites, Texas is willing to go along with it. Who knows how much truth are in these rumors. The deal is for 18 years so what sounds like a good deal now may be a poor one in 10 years. Just ask any athlete who's signed a big contract only to end up being unhappy with it later. Plus, if A&M bolts for the SEC it all becomes a moot point anyways. But the fact the Big 12 has rebounded from a flat-line to having the faintest of pulses is a small miracle in and of itself.
So why do teams such as Texas and Texas A&M want to break up a rivalry that has existed for over 100 years? Why does the Pac-10 want to break up their nice symetry of 2 rival teams per state (except in California wich has 2 in the North and 2 in the South which are almost like two separate states anyways)? Why would teams from the Big 12 that have been together from their days of the Big 8 and even Big 6, want to go their separate ways? That answer should be obvious to everyone. It's all about the money and nothing to do with the most important part of the college game, the student athlete. And that's what makes all this talk of realignment so ironic. It's coming right on the heels of the USC sanctions that came as a result Reggie Bush getting a pair of free sneakers and a $10 coupon to In and Out Burgers. Actually, he got more than that, but you get the point.
Only a few college football players will actually go on to get a big payday in the NFL. The rest are told they should just be happy they're getting a free quality education. But if we've learned anything this weekend it's that college football is big business. And these players are not getting paid for the money they're helping to bring to the schools they play for. So while schools are selling their souls to make a few extra dollars, the players are left wondering who gets all that extra money. A whole article could be written on the best way to pay players while still trying to ensure even level of pay, so I'm not going to even try to get into it. But the bottom line is that the players should be able to share in the huge revenue being generated by the sport they play. I don't know exactly how much Bush got paid under the table, but I'm relatively positive it was a lot less than the school made from having him as a member of the team.
No one can say for sure if the super conference will mean more money for the schools involved. What we do know is that this isn't the first time it's been tried. Back in the late 90's the WAC inflated to 16 schools. And while they had some success on the field with Steve Sarkisian leading BYU to a Cotton Bowl victory and top 5 finish, and Utah making it to the NCAA finals before losing to Kentucky, the old guard of the WAC decided they missed what they had before. Four of the WAC's charter members BYU, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico, along with longtime WAC members Colorado St, Air Force, San Diego St and recent WAC member UNLV decided to break away and form the MWC so they could have a conference that was similar to what they had before. So if the Pac-10, Big Ten, and SEC do end up becoming super conference's, will they go through the same feeling of nostalgia the original WAC members went through, or will the money cure their sentimental feelings?