The news of July, 22, 2021, as first reported by The Houston Chronicle, that Oklahoma (OK) and Texas (UT) were seeking to join the SEC was not for the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences a college sports bombshell, it was equivalent to an atomic blast.
Amazingly in this day and age of ‘instant news,’ discussions between OK, UT and the SEC, have apparently been on-going for six months without this news being leaked out and reported upon.
SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey, is member of the college football (CFB) steering committee. The steering committee has recommended that the CFB Playoff field expand from four to twelve participants. Power 5 (P5) and Group of 5 (G5) conference champions, as ranked by the thirteen members of the CFB Playoff Committee (PC), and the six highest ranked teams that did not win a conference championship, would participate in the expanded Playoff.
Based on PC’s history of Playoff rankings to date, the SEC would likely get three and perhaps as many as five teams in the Playoff field season meaning even more cash for the SEC. If Sankey did have knowledge of the negotiations with OK and UT, (and how he could not) his failure to disclose same to the steering committee seems to me to be an ethical, if not a moral breach. But expect no reprimand for this behavior; after all, Sankey represents the SEC and impliedly, the CFB media cartel, ESPN.
OK and UT leaving the Big 12 means for all intent and purposes, the death of the Big 12 as a conference.
The impetus for OK and UT leaving is likely as follows? The Big 12 reached out to its broadcast partners ESPN and FOX to renegotiate the existing media deals before they expire in 2026. ESPN and FOX both declined to so negotiate. OK and UT know that in the SEC, especially with the SEC’s new $300M plus broadcast rights deal with ESPN, that they will more than double the money they would make as members of the Big 12.
It will take eleven of the fourteen existing SEC members to approve conference expansion. Count on a no vote from Texas A&M.
However, I believe the other SEC schools will note that adding Texas A&M to the SEC brought an additional ten million subscribers to the SEC Network. OK and UT joining the SEC would dwarf this number. The proposed expansion would also allow the ‘silent SEC member,’ ESPN, to get rid of the money losing Longhorn Network.
In regard to travel concerns? The SEC already has three members, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Missouri, in the Central time zone. So adding UT and OK is not in this regard, a big deal.
Football competition concerns with sixteen members in the league? Texas A&M has been an SEC member for ten seasons. Georgia has yet to play a game at A&M? In other words, no one in the SEC gives a whip. Just show us the money.
Wither the Pac-12? I see two ways in which the Pac-12 can remain relevant: Expand or along with the Big 10, contract.
Expand? New Pac-12 Commissioner, George Kliavkoff, has already gone public with, ‘the Pac-12 is an exclusive club but any team looking to join; well, please give me a call.’
On July 23, 2021, the Big 12 athletic directors, sans OK and UT, in an emergency meeting, floated the idea of a merger of the remaining eight Big 12 teams, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia, merging with the Pac-12.
This is an idea I vouchsafed on FishDuck over a year ago. But such a merger I suggested would have included on-Broadway players, OU and UT.
Stewart Mandel, of The Athletic, noted in his take on the SEC possibly expanding, adding Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU, would make the Pac-12 a far more marketable entity. To some extent, as shown by his recent comments, the new Pac-12 commissioner must believe the same?
Regarding concerns the Pac-12 powers-that-be (PTB) might have over Baylor’s and TCU’s religious connections, these two schools today are far more secular than BYU and Notre Dame. TCU brings along the massive Dallas/Ft. Worth media market. Baylor brings along outstanding athletics in many the non-CFB men’s and women’ sports.
Regarding the PTB’s concerns about the Big 12 schools academic standing, the PTB’s were willing to forego these concerns when Larry Scott proposed his idea to merge with a number of Big 12 teams. And Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech would hardly be the lowest ranked academic institutions in the Pac-12.
Kansas and Kansas State, along with the above discussed four teams are in the Central time zone and perhaps, also worthy of consideration? Kansas would bring excellent academics and a long standing tradition of excellence in basketball.
Regarding travel distance concerns? Sorry but to remain a power player in CFB, the PTB’s will have to set such concerns aside. CU has already shared a conference with Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. One game a week CFB travel is not a big deal. Divisions can be arranged to limit travel for CBB and the non-revenue sports.
Also, expanding the Pac-12 into the Central time zone would likely afford Pac-12 revenue and non-revenue sport athletes to further benefit from NIL deals. And having three schools in Texas could not hurt Pac-12 recruiting in this talent rich state.
That’s what I have for Expansion. Please allow me to consider the counter-intuitive idea of Contraction.
The BCS and the BCS x 2, the so-called Playoff took CFB from a regional to a national sport. It enriched the SEC and the SEC’s ‘partner,’ ESPN, and made Pac-12 CFB an after-thought.
Tom Hansen, followed by Larry Scott, gave away the Rose Bowl for trinkets. The result of this foolishness is only two Pac-12 schools currently recruiting-ranked in the top 25. Oregon sits ranked at an impressive at No. 8, with USC at a pedestrian No. 25. The next Pac-12 school is ranked in the 40s. Top recruits in the Pac-12 footprint now routinely trip east to Ohio State, the SEC and Clemson. (How nice would it be to have DGU starting at QB for the Ducks this season?) The Pac-12 Network and the Pac-12 media deals have hidden the conference’s CFB light under a bushel.
To date, the Big 10 and the Pac-12 have both sent only two of their member institutions on to the Playoff; Oregon and Washington, Ohio State and Michigan State.
My belief is that many of the academically oriented Pac-12 PTBs, and also the academically oriented Big 10 PTBS, are not thrilled with competing against the less robust academic institutions in the SEC, a conference that seems to always have at least one member in play-for-pay trouble. And a conference that compared to the sanctions levied on USC, Ohio State and even Oregon (no school other than Oregon was using a runner to help with recruiting, right?) seems, at least comparatively, to get away with it?
I also believe that many of these seem to be leaders who are not happy with constant CFB arms race?
So, how about going to the Big 10 and asking why the two conferences are swimming in the SEC/ESPN pool? Let’s take back the Rose Bowl and once again, and make the Rose Bowl game the sine qua non for the two conferences? To walk away from the Playoffs after 2026, to cancel out-of-conference games (OOC) versus the SEC, and institute the proposed OOC scheduling model between the two conferences that was cratered by USC because of the Trojan’s scheduling agreement with Notre Dame.
The USC/Stanford series with Notre Dame helps the Irish with recruiting the Pac-12 footprint and does nothing for the other Pac-12 member schools. It certainly does not help the Pac-12’s when both schools lose to Notre Dame.
Other than the big task of convincing the Big 10, what would be the key to such a move? FOX Sports.
FOX that already owns and operates the B1G Network and shares the broadcasting rights with ESPN. FOX Sports has already indicated its desire to become the sole media provider for the Big 10. A FOX, that with the demise of the B12, will need other broadcast inventory.
So FOX, take over (for a song which is what it is worth today) the Pac-12 Network (PN). Become the owner/operator of the PN and restructure and relocate the PN as you so desire. And concurrently, become the Pac-12’s sole media outlet. Kiss the guys and gals in Bristol, Connecticut who treat the Pac-12 and to some extent the Big 10 an after-thought, GOODBYE!
Is this doable? I don’t know? Is expansion by adding remaining Big 12 schools doable? I don’t know?
But, at least in my opinion, the Pac-12 conference either expands as discussed above; or, in some other manner expands? Or the conference works with the Big 10 to ‘contract,’ as also discussed above.
If one or the other does not happen, Pac-12 football will simply fade farther away from relevance.
Of course, you Ducks fans may have far better ideas as to where the conference should go?
I would love it if you will be good enough to share these ideas?
Aiken, South Carolina
Top Photo by Amazing Moments Photography
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Jon Joseph grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but has been blessed to have lived long enough in the west to have exorcised all east coast bias. He played football in college and has passionately followed the game for seven decades. A retired corporate attorney Jon has lectured across the country and published numerous articles on banking and gaming law. Now a resident of Aiken South Carolina, Jon follows college football across the nation with a focus on the Conference of Champions and the Ducks.
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