Few days ago David Sandhop of the Aggie Websider (scout.com affiliate for Texas A&M) shared some interesting rumors on possible movement by what is left of the current Big-12 conference (HT Avinash at CGB). As David noted current members of that conference are not too happy with the proverbial elephant in the room:
When you have one member in bed with a multi-billion dollar partner that happens to have a tremendous influence over not only the finances of the sport in the form of TV revenues in the billions, but also in the narrative of that sport by determining which universities get national exposure every week, it's an imperfect situation for member schools. And if you are universities like Texas A&M and Oklahoma that command value in the college sports marketplace, you have options. In fact, you have very attractive options in other conferences that provide a fair and equitable conference affiliation without having to worry about what ESPN will do next.
The smoke with Missouri is building according to SEC sources. After getting snubbed by the Big 10 last year, Missouri is posturing for an offer to the SEC and working the phones hard. It might just pay off for Missouri. Apparently, Oklahoma was told by several SEC sources that a future deal including Oklahoma State was highly unlikely...that they would need to split if they wanted to be seriously considered for inclusion. That explains recent rumors that OU has been inquiring about the PAC-12's interest level in expanding the conference with both Oklahoma schools. If that doesn't pan out, then the Sooners may come back to the SEC and consider working the politics of splitting with OSU. But, Missouri is ready to go now and if the chips start falling pretty soon, it looks like Missouri could be in line to get that western division SEC spot along with the Aggies. [...]
Texas Tech is also putting out feelers with the PAC-12 and Kansas has been in contact with the Big East for quite some time and there's talk that Kansas State could also be in the discussions. And of course, that would leave Texas free to pursue independence and cement its partnership with ESPN with a more comprehensive TV contract. Unless the PAC-12, Big 10, or SEC reverses its stance on not wanting a new partner with an exclusive network, the Longhorns must go independent. That appears to be the end game for Texas anyway.
Hmm. So what to make of these rumors? Let's share some thoughts and a poll after the jump.
It is no secret that many of us took a traditionalist approach when conference expansion chatter heated up in last few years. I always felt that what made Pac-10 special was the symmetry in our conference that matched up rival schools against each other. I liked the Round Robin format where no one got to escape difficult matchups like we used to see in other Pac-10 conferences. I thought if the conference was going to expand they should have looked at Colorado and that is it. I felt that the conference was poorly served by the previous commissioner and never generated the revenues it truly was capable under its previous media deals. I thought the conference would have been ok if it added just one more team and then worked out a media deal that matched up the market/revenue potential of all the programs.
Of course the flip side argument is a strong one that adding additional team on top of Colorado, resulted in extra revenues from the championship game. That is a good and reasonable argument, but I am still ambivalent because coming from UCLA centric perspective, I think extra 2 to 3 million is not all that big of a deal in big picture, if the Bruin football program started clicking on all cylinders, and were promoted in a matter that fits the landscape structure of today's media world that requires promotion across multiple platforms.
All that said, we do give Larry Scott immense credit for the way he is changing the media culture of this conference (while maintaining reservations about how he public addresses ethical issues wrt to conference members). So we will keep an open mind here on this latest conference expansion related rumors. At this point the genie is out of the bag. Pac-12 is never going to be the conference it was in the 70s and 80s. It is a matter of UCLA fast adapting to changing realities in the college game.
Going back to the specifics of the speculation above adding Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would make Pac-12 Pac-15. As Avinash noted we will probably need one more school to make it work with something like this:
Pacific Division: Cal, Oregon, Oregon St., Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Wash. St. (the original Pac-8)
Southwest Division: Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, ???
With Texas A&M and Missouri reportedly interested in the SEC and Kansas and Kansas State looking toward the Big East, the next available candidate would probably be Baylor (to pair off with Texas Tech). It wouldn't be quite the coup that the "Texas-Pac" would have been, but any maneuver that brings in the Oklahoma schools is well worth considering.
I am not sure how excited I would get about watching UCLA playing in Waco or even Lubbock or Stillwater. Yet as Avinash noted that adding OU, OSU and Texas Tech would add three of the 40 most profitable programs in the country. Again those are valid points to make this a "tantalizing" proposition in terms of generating revenues.
But at some point, I think we need to step back a bit and not get consumed with chasing $. We also have to think about what really made Pac-10 special. We have to think about the identity of this conference. I think those are deeper questions that is tough to get on the table in one simple post.
Most importantly, as UCLA alums, we have to think about how continued expansion will serve UCLA's best interest. What do the Bruins get out of expansion of a conference that would not include programs like Texas? I am attaching poll to this post to get your snap reactions but would be more interested in reading your thoughts. If you have detailed and extended takes, please share them in a separate fanpost.