Oh Big12. After Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Missouri all left, you would think they would learn. Apparently not. The Longhorns are still calling the shots and forcing their own agenda on everyone else.
Last week, Big12’s conference commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, was outspoken on the conference needing to expand. However, Texas quickly nipped that idea in the bud and Bowlsby fell in line. Since then, Oklahoma president Dave Boren has expressed his interest in adding two additional teams to the conference – a direct shot across state lines at their Red River rival.
Why is Texas still bullying the Big12? Because they can.
Should the Longhorns pick up their ball and decide to go play somewhere else, many believe that the Big12 would not be stable enough to survive. Oklahoma would have their choice of suitors from the Big10, Pac12 and SEC. And without those two schools, most of the conference members would search for new conference homes.
This is why the “second tier” Big 12 members offered Oklahoma and Texas a larger share of the TV revenues when rumors were circulating that Texas would join the Pac12 four years ago. The very survival of most conference members rely on Texas staying happy.
However, Oklahoma is not a “second tier” member. And it appears that they might be fed up with Texas running the show.
Is Oklahoma truly interested in adding two lesser teams from a mix of Cincinnati, BYU, UCF, or Houston? Or is this Oklahoma’s platform to launch into a new conference?
It is unlikely that Oklahoma actually wants to add a couple of lesser teams and further dilute the Big12 brand. Houston doesn’t add value to an already Texas heavy conference (TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas). BYU won’t play on Sundays in non-football sports. UCF doesn’t make sense geographically (but then again, neither does West Virginia). And Cincinnati just doesn’t excite anyone.
None of these teams are viable options for Big12 expansion. More importantly, none of these teams increase the overall value of the conference enough to renegotiate their TV contract (except maybe BYU). In the end, realignment all comes down to the money. Just look no further than the Border War (Kansas vs Missouri), Backyard Brawl (Pittsburgh vs West Virginia), and Lone Star Showdown (A&M vs Texas); all realignment casualties in the college football arms race.
Yesterday, Chadd Scott wrote about how Oklahoma University could be angling for an invitation to join the SEC [Full Article Here]. It is very possible they are using this agenda to voice their displeasure with the Big12 and ultimately look for a new home. And the move would make sense from the SEC’s perspective as they add a new state (more TV sets) to the conference, they bring a big brand to the table, and they are a geographical fit.
But would they be able to join without Oklahoma St tagging along? Would the SEC want both? Assuming that the SEC wants to expand to 16 teams, does the SEC give up the possibilities on the east coast with North Carolina and Virginia carrying a significantly larger number of TV sets?
The last round of realignment gives us our best indication of how the SEC will operate. Remember, the SEC did not court Missouri or A&M but instead waited for them to initiate contact. If OU truly wants out of the Big 12, it will be up for them to initiate contact. And as mentioned above the SEC wouldn’t be the only conference interested. Both the Pac12 and Big10 have their sights on expanding to 16 teams as well.
But assuming that Chadd Scott’s article is correct and OU calls up the SEC, the conference would definitely take a good long look at one of the most winningest programs in college football. And if the Big12’s Grant of Rights which OU signed can be worked out or navigated, the SEC could be on its way to its 15th member. If not, the Grant of Rights does not expire until 2025.
So would the SEC invite Oklahoma St to get to 16 teams? Or would they look elsewhere? Would Texas be interested in joining?
First of all, there is no possible way that Texas gets invited to join the SEC.
A&M would block it and so would 4 of their conference buddies; Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Kentucky. Each of those teams has in-state rivals affiliated with the ACC; Florida St, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Louisville, respectively. And like A&M, each of those teams wants to protect their brand by being the only SEC program in their state.
Furthermore, if Oklahoma was leaving the Big12 to get away from Texas, they sure wouldn’t want the Longhorns following them. They would likely vote against Texas’ inclusion as well. So no, Texas will never be in the SEC.
And with all due respect to OSU, their brand doesn’t carry enough weight to garner serious consideration. Perhaps most importantly, adding OSU in addition to OU wouldn’t provide the SEC with any additional television sets – a focal point in future television contract negotiations.
Instead, the SEC would turn to North Carolina to snag their final team. But which one? North Carolina, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest are all members of the ACC residing within North Carolina.
With North Carolina sharing a border to SEC’s Tennessee and South Carolina, it makes too much geographical and financial sense to not go after a school in this state. Assuming that North Carolina and Duke are a package deal due to basketball and with the SEC only having one invitation left, NC State would get the nod – sorry Wake Forest.
Like A&M did with Texas, NC State would embrace the possibility of getting out of the shadow of UNC and Duke. They are mostly an afterthought in the state of North Carolina. But put an SEC patch on their sleeve and they have a brand new way to distinguish themselves in recruiting and competition. Plus, the SEC gets what they want in the form of 3.4 million new cable subscribers to their conference footprint. Mutually beneficial for all parties.
So how does one go about scheduling 16 teams?
The SEC would pave the way with the first 4 division conference and 4-team conference playoff. But first, the SEC would need to break into 4 divisions.
And if the conference could finally get past playing permanent rivals in order to preserve Auburn vs Georgia and Alabama vs Tennessee, the conference could adopt a 3-2-2-2 scheduling model. By playing all three of your division rivals along with two teams from every other division, each SEC team would play every conference opponent in two years. Currently, it takes six years to complete a single rotation with the 6-1-1 format.
Of course, this format requires the SEC to move to a nine game conference schedule which most coaches and AD’s currently oppose. But Nick Saban has already begun the campaign to push the SEC towards nine conference games. It is only a matter of time until other coaches embrace the idea and the TV pressure is too big to ignore.