The Big 22: Creating an “All-Hat” Conference?

Jon Joseph Editorials

Lay a map of Texas over Western Europe and you will find that The Lone Star State covers Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of Belgium, France, Italy, Croatia and the Czech Republic. And the great state of Texas is 28 times larger than the Green Mountain State, Vermont.

That’s a lot of hat and a lot of cattle, plus a lot of oil, natural gas and packed high school football stadiums come Friday night. This is not to mention the 100,000 plus Long Horn fans who routinely attend UT’s home games.

Taking into consideration Mike Merrell’s takes, Darren Perkins’ articles on possible Pac-12 conference expansion and the concerns of many about leaving current Pac-12 members behind, I figured I’d go Texas-style BIG and consider what a merger of the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences (all 22 teams) would look like.

Before discussing the parsing of teams into divisions, let’s deal with administrative issues the Western University Alliance (WUA) would have to deal with from the get go.

Could a 22-team conference work?

WUA Adminstrative Changes

1. Larry Scott, his huge salary and spendthrift ways, must go.

2. The Pac-12 Network, assuming these guys properly established the network as a separate LLC or other form of independent entity, files bankruptcy. Not a Chapter 11 reorganization but a going out of business filing. Doing this would allow the network to cram down a much-reduced lease buyout and exit the ridiculously expensive San Francisco headquarters. The conference itself cannot file bankruptcy, so a reduction in conference headquarters rent would have to be negotiated. Or, perhaps, the premises could be sublet?

3. Current Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, stays on as the WUA commissioner with a pay raise but still far less than what Larry is pulling down every year. Bowlsby has done an excellent job of managing the once left-for-dead Big 12. Prior to his current gig, Bob was the AD at Stanford and has an excellent understanding of the Pac-12 Conference. WUA headquarters would remain in Irving, Texas. A Pac-12 division satellite office with an associate commissioner could be located in Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake or anywhere in the current Pac-12 footprint less costly than virtually any location in California.

4. The ESPN-owned and unsuccessful Longhorn Network (LHN) would expand to cover the entire WUA. ESPN would remain as owner/operator of the WUA Network. Network headquarters would remain in Austin, Texas unless a different site was agreed upon. And yes, UT would have to be paid for this to happen. This is a simple financial reality. UT cannot be expected to voluntarily walk away from $10+ million per year. And realistically, the WUA big boys, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, UW and Oregon, would take a bigger slice of the media pie than small market schools like Oregon State and Washington State.

Bob Bowlsby has done a great job resurrecting the Big 12 Conference.

However, a rising media payout tide would lift all boats. And a conference with the footprint of the WUA would demand far bigger media rights fees from ESPN, FOX and any other broadcast partner.

Division Structure and Schedule

Alrighty then, how would the WUA be structured?

Pac-12 Division — All existing members other than Colorado.

Big 12 Division — All existing teams plus Colorado.

How would the WUA, with that huge footprint, work?

Each school would play one out-of-conference game. This allows the Stanford/USC versus Notre Dame, Utah versus BYU and Colorado versus Colorado State series to continue to be played.

There would be one Pac-12/Big 12 crossover game. This game would not factor into the division championship. An Oregon team that draws Texas in Austin is not going to be penalized if, in the same year, Washington plays Kansas in Seattle.

With the WUA, we could see a lot more exciting Big 12 vs. Pac-12 matchups.

Ten intra-division games. Oregon would play every Pac-12 team, sans Colorado, every season with five games home and five away. Thus, travel would be little different from the season-long distances Pac-12 teams cover today.

The WAU Championship would feature the Pac-12 division champion versus the Big 12 division champion, with the game alternating between Las Vegas and Jerry’s Place in Dallas. This would assure “good weather” for the game. Travel to and from and hotel rooms in Dallas and Las Vegas are far less expensive than tripping to Santa Clara.

One other condition: Whether the playoff field was expanded or not, the WUA champion would be guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff.

For college basketball and other sports, a division home-and-home series would be played with, perhaps, four crossover games? Again, travel would not be dramatically increased.

What say you, Ducks fans? Would something like this, that leaves no man behind, work?

Jon Joseph
Georgetown, TX
Top Photo: From Twitter


Andrew Mueller, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.


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