Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2020. This ain't your daddy's Big XII anymore

So we know this is a boring time of year unless you're a basketball fan, which I'm not.  I'd written a couple of notes about possible expansion of the Big 10 and how it might affect the University of Missouri.  However, just for fun, let's take a look at how this might go down and change the look of college athletics forever.

January 31st, 2011.  With much fanfare the Big 10 holds a news conference to announce their selection as the 12th member of their conference.  The rumors have been flying back and forth for months and the 2 schools being mentioned the most were Syracuse and the University of Missouri.  In the end, the conference decided to stick to proximity and selected my Tigers as the 12th member of what is to become the Great Lakes Conference.  Breaking into east and west divisions the Tigers will enter at the start of the 2013 season as a member of the Western Division along with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Northwestern.  

The Big XII conference, led by it's commissioner and village idiot, Dan Beebe apparently had no idea they would or actually could become a picking ground for other conferences.  It was hard for Dan to understand how the Tigers would be willing to give up their storied 14 year traditional rivalry with Texas Tech to move for a mere 12 million dollars a year in additional revenue.  What a dumb fuck.
On Missouri message boards; Tigerboard in particular, Nebraska and kansas fans flock telling the Mizzou faithful that they won't be missed and we'll just wind up being the red headed stepchild in our new conference.  Tigerboard is indifferent as members rush to various boards inviting their new partners over for some trash talking.  Several do stop by with some words of welcome, and the Northwestern fans brought wine.  wtf?
In their haste to add another member, the conference immediately chooses to invite TCU as the new 12th member of the conference.  Now the only real problem with this, other than the fact that TCU brings absolutely nothing to the table revenue wise, is that it now brings to 7 the number of teams in the southern half of the conference.  The logical thing to do is to move Oklahoma State to the northern division which of course infuriates both they and Oklahoma as it puts their "Bedlam" game into a 2 years out of 4 proposition.  Beebe manages to calm down Bob Stoops as the conference promises that his wife will receive an additional 1 million per year in Mary Kay sales.  T Boone Pickens however remains unimpressed.

February 11th, 2014.  Not to be outdone, the Pac 10 now looks to expand.  Of course they could find a couple of teams within their region and go the same route as the Big 10, err, Great Lakes, but this is a conference based on the west coast and that really isn't good enough for them.  So in the summer of 2014 it is announced that they will become the first Super-conference as they add BYU, Utah, Boise State and Colorado to the new and improved Pac 14.   They also hint that they may not be done and rumors run rampant about possibly bringing in Texas and T A&M.  Once again the Big XII has been raided but several prospective new members have already bolted for the new Pac 14.  Message boards are flooded with speculation of the conference raiding the SEC to pick up Arkansas, who of course isn't interested in taking a 12-16 million dollar a year hit just to get back under UT's thumb. The conference winds up inviting Memphis who immediately accept.
April 3rd, 2016.  The SEC, in an effort to maintain their elite status decides to one up the Pac 14 and announces a search has begun to add 4 new members.  The search goes on for almost 2 years until the end of the 2017 season when they announce the first real raid on other BCS conferences.  Texas and TAMU leave the Big XII to join the Western Division of the new SEC, while West Virginia and South Florida leave the Big East to join the Eastern Division.  Now we have some real problems in what is left of the not so Big XII.  The remaining Texas schools don't post the television numbers that UT and A&M did so the Texas market, particularly Dallas is greatly diminished.    Oklahoma is unhappy and announces that they will consider any offer fitting their stature.  Dan Beebe leaves as the conference commissioner but receives his golden parachute as the new Sports Information Director at Texas.

August 3rd, 2018.  At a news conference attended by news celebrities from Oklahoma City, KC and Waco, it is announced that the Big XII conference will disband following the 2020 season.  Efforts to form some sort of alliance with the ACC failed when North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, at a tearful news conference in Chapel Hill announced that he'd be forced to resign if he were to have to coach against the university of kansas.  In his words, "I just couldn't do it to the kids".  Never mind that no one playing for kansas was alive when he was coaching there.   Oklahoma and Oklahoma State attempted to broker a deal to the Pac 14 but it was cut short due to no one on the selection committee realizing there was a state called Oklahoma.  They will form a loose affiliation with Nebraska, Iowa State, Kansas State and TCU for scheduling purposes.  The remaining Texas teams join a new Mountain West conference and kansas bolts for conference USA and announces that football will now be relegated to club sport status.  This allows them to cut 3 womens programs and devote more of their dwindling resources to mens basketball.
The remaining conferences continue to add and move members until by the fall of 2024 we're left with 5 mega conferences of 16-20 members each.
Do I think this will happen?  Not especially, but I bet it's a hell of a lot more possible than it sounds.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The 600 lb gorilla in the room.

So, last time I talked about the proposed Big 10 expansion and what it could possibly mean to the University of Missouri.  As I stated, there are 4 universities being mentioned as possible candidates.  It's a hot topic on sites such as ESPN, Fox Sports and most any college message board.  There are differences in opinion among Missouri fans as to this being a good move or not.  Most that would consider themselves to be traditionalists point out that the university would be leaving behind decade long rivalries with kansas, Nebraska and others that were built up during the Missouri Valley, Big 6, Big 7 and Big 8 days.  
While I agree that it would be hard to replace the sheer joy we get from hating some of these programs, you simply can't dismiss the increased revenue that would come from a move.  As I said in my last post, the Big 10 distributed 22 million dollars per team last year in the football portion of shared revenue.  By that I mean that Indiana received the same amount of television dollars that Ohio State and Penn State received.  Missouri was in the upper half of Big XII revenue and made only 13 million.  The conference simply doesn't make as much money due to the fact that they have so fewer potential viewers than Big 10 states.  Yes, Texas is one of the kings, but Missouri is the second most populous state in the conference and I just don't see people lining up to move to kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska or Iowa.  Like it or not, the next television contract may not be significantly better and it's not going to compare to Big 10 or SEC viewership in my lifetime.

So we know that we'll continue to make less money in the Big XII, but would a 9 million dollar payday in football offset the increased costs incurred shuttling non revenue producing teams to Happy Valley, Columbus and Madison?  The simple answer would be, probably not.  However, there is more, much more in play here than a few dollars in athletic revenue.  The big dog here is admittance into the CIC, or Committee on Institutional Cooperation of which every member of the Big 10, plus the University of Chicago is a member.   While it may not be as satisfying as kicking a field goal in the final second of a game to finish off the beaks "history awaits" season, we need to remember that the main purpose of a university is to provide a quality education for it's students.  The CIC members engaged in over 6 billion dollars of funded research last year.  That currently amounts to 500 million per member.  Think that the medical and veterinary schools could find something to do with that grant money?  In addition member schools have saved over 28 million dollars due to increased buying power and less need to purchase items that can be shared by the member schools.  At a time when state budget cuts are threatening funding this is huge.  Therefore, while I (and you if you are reading this) are sports fans first, you must agree that financially this would be a huge boon for the university.   

So what happens now?  We know that the Big 10 has planned a 12 to 18 month study to determine who will receive the invitation.  My gut feeling is that they'd still love to add Notre Dame.  It's proximity to schools in the conference and it's academics make it the obvious choice.  However, they've turned down the opportunity before and I see little chance they'd accept this time.  While I think the conference is still extending feelers to them, we'll probably never know since they certainly don't want to be turned down a 2nd time.  That leaves us with the 4 institutions previously mentioned, unless they go completely against conventional wisdom and invite someone we haven't considered or decide to add more than one other member.  I think that both those possibilities are remote at best.  My best guess is that the Big 10 milks this for all that it's worth and makes sure that everyone in the country realizes what a financial windfall this will be for the lucky university chosen to become a member.  They've suffered a lot the last few years by bowl game failures and early exits from the NCAA tournament so they absolutely want someone that will boost their standing in the athletic community, but also find a school that matches up academically. 

While Missouri doesn't carry the academic reputation of Ohio State or Northwestern, they still are members of the AAU, which is a requirement for membership in the Big 10.  It is also a land grant research institution which happens to have a 1 billion dollar endowment.  The university is also one of only 6 institutions with a law school, medical school and veterinary school on campus as well as a world renowned school of journalism.  This is just nothing to sneeze at and we also have one of the better engineering schools in the country at Rolla which is part of the system.  Whether people want to admit it or not, the University of Missouri has much to offer the Big 10, including a pretty damn successful athletic department.
What's going to happen?  I have no freaking idea.  But I do know that if membership is offered, it will most likely be accepted and maintaining a rivalry with a bunch or corncob hat wearing hicks or Johnson County mama's boys won't play any part in the decision.  I apologize for the attempt at being serious in my last 2 posts, but this is a pretty important subject.  I promise to get back to my normal self next time.  Have a great week and stay warm. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Big 10 expansion. What does it mean for Mizzou?

So the Big 10 found a way to put themselves in the spotlight for the next 12-18 months by announcing they were going to add a 12th member to the conference.  This is a big deal in college athletically and financially, and could very possibly start a chain reaction as other conferences try to claim a bigger share of the television pie due to an increased number of potential viewers.   This has a chance to provide more drama than Jon and Kate's divorce. 
The conventional thought is that this comes down to a 4 team race among Missouri, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pitt.  Based on an athletics based decision only, I think Syracuse and Pitt would both be eliminated immediately since I don't believe either wants to leave the Big East.  It's pretty clearly the best basketball league in the country right now and it's an easier run to a BCS bowl, but the Big 10 does offer an attractive slate of lower bowl affiliations that would be an improvement whether you came from the Big East or the Big XII for that matter.  Rutgers however has had very little basketball success other than a trip to the final 4 in the 1975/76 season.  (hey still one more trip than my Tigers have had)  Missouri would be leaving a conference they've been a member of since the Missouri Valley opened it's doors in 1907 with Missouri, Iowa, Washington (Missouri) and kansas.  That's giving up a heck of a lot of history right there.

However, when you compare the amount of television revenue and the distribution, you see that it would be quite a windfall for Missouri were it to receive an offer and then accept it.  The Big 10 distributed around 246 million dollars, around 22 million per team in an equitable split among all conference members.   While Missouri had a good year, finishing in the upper half of the conference at something less than 13 million, it wasn't as rosy for teams like Iowa State, Baylor, Colorado or K State.  Half of the television money collected for a game is the property of the featured teams.  So if you get less appearances, you get less money.  Kind of like having the Super Bowl champ get the first pick in next years draft.  So we immediately see a 9 million dollar raise for Missouri should a move occur. 
Another factor for whoever is offered are travel costs, particularly when it concerns the non revenue generating sports such as wrestling, gymnastics, soccer etc.  Trips to Iowa and Minnesota are going to be expensive from New York and New Jersey.  For Missouri there is no doubt that the travel to Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State are probably further than anything we have now, but the inclusion of Texas, particularly College Station, Waco and Lubbock are hardly day trips.  I don't see this as a deal breaker for anyone involved.

As to possible favorites, there have been rumors in both directions concerning all four of the Universities that are now considered favorites.  I've read that Penn State wants another team from the East to cut down on their travel expenses.  I've also read that they would like to renew their rivalry with Pitt.  Then a few days later that while they'd like another team from the east, no way they want it to be Pitt.  Which is true?  I have no idea. 
The claim with both Syracuse and Rutgers is that they can bring the New York City market if they are included.  However, there is no evidence that either would make much of a blip on the screen.  The fact is, New York has the Yankees, Giants, Rangers and Knicks in that order with the Mets and Jets catching anyone that's left.  Missouri offers the St Louis and Kansas City markets.  However, the Big 10 already has a good presence in the Lou, so the main target would be the KC area, which still would be shared with ku as well as K State.
So, we can see some pluses and minuses for all 4 contenders from both their standpoints as well as the Big 10's.  The Big East has less history but the current success as a basketball conference, while Missouri was one of the two original members left of the conference.  We'd have to remember we'd be losing rivalry's not only with the beaks, but long time conference members such as Nebraska, Iowa State and Oklahoma.  We also have built much of our football success on the staffs ability to recruit the state of Texas.  Would we have as much success if we played in the Big 10 Conference? 

The jury is mixed about whether this makes sense for Missouri athletically.  I personally imagine that Coach Pinkel would prefer staying in the current conference, and in turn, so would Mike Alden.  I think that it would be less important for Coach Anderson.  However, this decision, while it means much to athletics, may well be decided on the academic side.  We haven't talked about the elephant that's sitting here in the room.  That would be the CIC and that's what I'll talk about next time.  Stay warm folks.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bowl week. Now what do I do?

This is the saddest time of the year for me.  Bowl season is over.  I watch almost no college basketball and baseball season, at least spring training, coming in a month doesn't mean much to me anymore.  What we're, or at least I am left with is getting back to the grind after my annual vacation, which really wasn't long enough.

I confess that I really didn't watch as many of the bowl games this year as in the past.  We had much going on at work when I came back and most of my free time has been spent shoveling the approximately 10 inches of snow that was in my driveway when I got back home.  Hard to believe, but I saw more snow here than I did anywhere in Colorado or Utah at an elevation below 10,000 feet.  Oh well, I knew that sooner or later we were going to pay for the mild winters and summers we've had for the past couple of years.
We got back to town on New Years eve, in time for the Missouri game vs the Naval Academy.  After watching the first half, I confess I missed much of the 2nd.  Missouri looked confused, uninspired and really left us no reason for optimism coming into next year.  If I had one wish it would be for Coach Pinkel to send defensive coordinator Dave Steckel down to Tuscaloosa to spend a few weeks with his old buddy Nick Saban and his staff.  A few days trips for OC Dave Yost might be in order also.  Note: when they are dropping 9 into coverage coach, you might try running the ball a bit.
But keeping things in perspective, it wasn't a bad year when you remember that Missouri was one of the youngest teams in Division 1 football, 2 first year coordinators, and a quarterback that was pretty much playing a good portion of the season on one leg.  Throw in a recruiting class full of playmakers and road graders and I think I'll have no problem renewing my season tickets.
For the bowl season I finished 5-3 on my picks both straight up and vs the spread.  For the year I was 93-33 straight up and managed to go 62-59 against the point spread.  Not bad for me at all.
All spring and summer I expect to see hick nation out in full force on all of the Missouri message boards proclaiming that now, order has been restored, following their 33-0 thumping of Bob Stoops and his Arizona Wildcats and their last second loss to Texas in the Big XII title game.  If you venture onto any sports message boards, then I imagine that you, like I realize the perception of Nebraska fans as "classy" is something that may have been true at one time, but certainly isn't the case now with their new generation of fans.  We've seen one of their long time fans fired from his job and sued with his little stunt of placing a fake newpaper article about an Oklahoma player being arrested for drug dealing.  It's just so much easier being a good fan when your team was consistantly winning wasn't it?  Besides which, there is that pesky little rumor concerning figurehead defensive coordinator Carl Pelini tagging a few of the boosters wives.  Now while I realize most Nebraska women would be just as at home with a yoke around their neck and pulling a plow I still have my doubts about this one.  I mean, I realize that Nebraska women aren't much to look at, but have you seen Carl?  It isn't easy to make Bo look like the attractive brother, but he managed to do it.
We'll also get an opportunity to listen to kansas fans touting their new coach, Turner Gill as he tries to turn around a program that absolutely collapsed the final 7 weeks of the season.  TG has his hands full as his first job will be trying to decide what to do with offensive lineman Darius Parish who was arrested and charged with criminal threat. 
And also, on a sad note, the conference is poorer, in my opinion at the loss of the pirate; Mike Leach from the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  Seems Leach was mistreating the son of former SMU paid running back Craig James and Craig wasn't about to let that happen.  At least the James family can now boast that they've helped run 2 programs into the ground.