10 August 2011

Just A Matter Of Time Until The Big 12 Blows Up

It seemed that just a year ago, the Big 12 seemed to be right on the verge of collapse. Nebraska was moving to the Big Ten, Colorado was moving to the soon-to-be Pac-12, which was also seemingly going to invite Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, which was also pondering moving to the SEC, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, while Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri would be left fending for themselves. Right as it seemed all hope was lost, none of the remaining ten schools did leave. Texas was angry that the Pac-12 would not allow it to run its own network while Big 12 commissioner Don Beebe promised the other ten schools a major increase in the television contracts to be only split amongst 12 schools plus allowing any schools to form their own television network. And thus the conference was saved.
But now it seems that it won't last very long before it all falls apart. Why would the conference collapse? Let's look at the reasons.

The very ironic nature of the falling apart of the Big 12 conference is that it is being caused by the school that powered its saving, the University of Texas. Texas wanted to start its own network, which was a major no-go for the Pac-12, which was planning to start its own network. Beebe got desperate and allowed Texas to form its network. And once Texas committed back to the Big 12, all the other schools pondering realignment stayed put. Nothing surprising there, Texas has essentially driven what the Big 12 does for years.
Now as more and more details came out about Texas' network, that's when the uproar started to build. The university made a deal with ESPN to be the partner with the university in what was to be called the Longhorn Network. ESPN signed a contract in that they would pay Texas $300 million over the next 20 years to be able to be a partner.
This number opened the eyes of the other athletic departments in the conference. They felt that this money would give Texas an unfair advantage over the other nine schools in the conference, and it absolutely would. The school with the most profitable athletic department in the country is getting $15 million every year for the next 20 years from what is essentially a booster in ESPN. Well technically half of that money is going to the academic department of UT but you get what I'm saying.
Another major concern that the other schools have is regarding the live football games on the network. The contract between ESPN and Texas states that both have a desire to air a second game on the network beyond the one game already to be on the network, which is the home opener against Rice. ESPN has the ability to do this through a deal made with Fox, which owns the second choice of Big 12 games after ESPN, to allow a second game on LHN in return for some Big 12 games to air on Fox network, instead of just FX and FSN. Schools have opposed another game being on the schedule, specifically a conference game, in which the game would not be shown in that area unless people, and by people I mean cable companies, would have to pay to air the channel. Texas Tech has already said no and the school ESPN is courting now, Oklahoma State, is likely to do the same.
The third major concern that the other schools would be if LHN would be allowed to air high school games. This caused quite a stir in the conference about the unfair advantages in recruiting this would give Texas and thus there will be no airing of high school football games until the NCAA rules on it.
Oklahoma has explored starting their own network now as has Texas A&M but it's highly unlikely that they would get the kind of money that Texas got from ESPN to build their own networks. And thus both have explored aligning with another conference, most notable A&M with the SEC. And if they and Oklahoma both leave, look for the other schools to follow. Texas probably does not care if the other schools leave as they are more than prepared to go out on their own as an independent.
It would take Oklahoma and Texas A&M to leave the conference for any major shakeup. The other schools are loving the money they are raking from the conference's TV deals that are split 10 ways instead of 12. But it does seem that both schools are really ticked about the Longhorn Network giving Texas advantages in recruiting and in resources so going to the SEC would be an acceptable solution to those schools. Maybe they would go there, maybe they would go to the Pac-12, it's all pure speculation at this point but I do not seeing the Big 12 lasting much longer.

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