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Final Thoughts on Big XII Contraction

Bow to your burnt orange masters.
Bow to your burnt orange masters.

Well, that was all pretty much a waste of time, wasn't it? For all of the literal and virtual ink spilled, the Big XII melodrama was largely nothing but hot air that revealed almost nothing new.

Nebraska hated Texas and the power they wielded within the conference. Colorado felt itself to be an outsider with little loyalty. Oklahoma State remained attached to Oklahoma, and Texas Tech had no influence. Oklahoma confirmed the cruel reality that their dependence on Texas recruiting pipelines keeps them forever joined with the hated teasips. Texas A&M confirmed all of those Aggie jokes. And Texas, of course, ruled the conference with an iron fist. Shocking stuff, eh?

All sarcasm aside, though, what really happened here?

From the 30,000 foot view, I really don't think any shocking developments happened here. The Big XII turned out to be the end result of a bunch of relationships of convenience, with no real loyalty or commitment to one another, just like its critics contended that it was for years. Nebraska and Colorado effectively chose to jump at the legitimate first chance they had to leave the conference behind, with Missouri fully intending to do the same had they received a firm offer from the Big Ten.

On a closer level, the linchpin was clearly Texas, and in all honesty in hindsight they probably never had any real intention of joining the Pac-10, Big Ten, or SEC. Pay close attention to what was written last night by Pete Thamel of the New York Times:

Source confirms that Texas asked to be able to keep own local TV and wanted "extra sweetner" financially from revenue sharing at 11th hour.

Sorry if unclear. Texas made those demands to the Pac-10 at 11th hour, ending the talks. Hence, Texas greed keeps B12 alive. How quaint.

And then the following from Joe Schad of ESPN:

[Pac-10 Commissioner] Larry Scott believed he had a deal with Texas.


As Mel Allen would say, well how about that? Think about all of that for a moment. The Pac-10 was negotiating closely with Texas and other Big XII schools, and clearly felt that they had a deal, a deal that included a massive amount of money flowing to all of the schools they were hoping to have join their conference. This included significantly more money than the Big XII schools were getting at the time, and almost certainly more than they would realistically get under the Big XII Lite plan. And what happens? At the 11th hour, Texas goes in demanding even more in cash and the right to establish their own independent television network.

What does that tell you? Well, your mileage may vary, but it tells me that for all of the puffery Texas was never serious about joining the Pac-10. They were merely using negotiations with the Pac-10 as leverage to increase their power within the Big XII and to increase the amount of money the Big XII sent annually to Austin. In hindsight, this entire ordeal was likely little more than a intricate smokescreen that Texas used to its advantage as a negotiating tool.

And with that, the Big X is in place moving forward, and to those ten schools I say best of luck; they'll probably need it. As this melodrama revealed, that conference has many, many problems, and nothing accomplished by this re-commitment today did anything to solve any of those underlying problems, and if anything this latest agreement may have only further exacerbated those problems. Problems have not been solved, the end result of those problems has been merely delayed by a few years. Truth be told, I imagine in a few years from now we are right back where we started in this melodrama a few months back.

Finally, I'll close with a few thoughts on who are the winners and who are the losers from this deal:


Texas: the Longhorns get even more money, more power, an easier conference, and they get to eliminate the conference championship game that their head coach loathed. That damn clock tower ought to have been orange in Austin last night.

The Also-Rans: say what you will about Texas, the inherent structural weakness of the Big X, and the ridiculous fiscal projections used to help save the conference, the Big X is infinitely better than anything the Mountain West has to offer, which is where they were headed had Texas pulled the trigger or if the Aggies had some testicular fortitude. Bill Self is probably the happiest man on the planet this morning.

Nebraska: the Cornhuskers got millions more annually, got away from the hated Longhorns, moved to a much better academic conference, and moved to a weaker football conference. And they are a solid geographic fit in the Big Ten to boot. It's a win-win for the Fightin' Pelinis.

The BCS: with Utah now all but certain to join the Pac-10, the Utes join a conference with a guaranteed BCS bowl berth and in doing so the anti-BCS brigades loses one of its best examples of the ills of the BCS system. Orrin Hatch just shut up. Previously the BCS had to worry about Utah and Boise State spiking the punch bowl, and now those fears have reduced by roughly 50%. And, even better, the Broncos just a tougher conference this week that will make it harder to run the table unscathed. Good week for the BCS.

The SEC: despite its courtship of Texas A&M, in its heart of hearts the SEC never wanted anything to do with expansion, and were in fact going to expand only if pushed by mega-expansion in the Pac-10 and the Big Ten. Now the SEC gets what it wanted all alone... to continue forward with the status quo.

Utah: welcome to the Dark Side, Utes.

Big East: with the Pac-10 capped at twelve, the Big XII moving to X, and the SEC not expanding, it seems like the Big Ten will stick with twelve teams too. That spares the Big East from being raided yet again and allows the conference to survive for at least a couple of more years. They are still living on borrowed time, but even so they haven't diet just yet.

Chip Brown: was the guy ever anything more than the Texas mouthpiece? Probably not. Even so, he still had his fifteen minutes of fame and undoubtedly made a ton of money in the process. Not bad for a guy leaking "news" on a story that was probably never anything more than an elaborate smokescreen.


Pac-10: this is how those epic fail pictures got started. Hats off to Larry Scott for swinging for the fences, but the truth is that he struck out. He chased dreams of Texas and Oklahoma, and will now come back with Colorado and Utah, and as a result he won't cash in with the massive revenue increases that the big fish would have brought. Now he is stuck with a team that he may not have otherwise invited (Colorado) and a team that was probably Plan G at best (Utah). And he still has no one to replace NCAA-hammered USC as a national power. Ouch.

Colorado: the Buffs are a toss-up just because they were terrible in the Big XII and this allows them a change of scenery, plus the Pac-10 is a better cultural and academic fit, but this did not work as they had hoped. Without catching the big fish, the Pac-10 will not be able to generate those massive revenue increases, and with the significantly increased travel costs the Buffs will be facing, this could easily turn into a fiscal trainwreck for an athletic department that already finds itself unable to fire a terrible coach because they are flat broke.

Texas Tech and Oklahoma State: It's simple... they go to the Pac-10, they probably get an extra eight or ten million dollars per year and a better chance to raise academic standards. None of that happens in the Big X. I imagine there was even more crying in the beer than usual last night in Lubbock and Stillwater.

Oklahoma and Texas A&M: we expect this out of the Also-Rans and schools like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, but to see the Sooners and the Aggies bow to their burnt orange masters revealed the worst of them. They now find themselves getting much less money all the while their main rival accumulates even more cash and power. Worst-case scenario.

Jerry Jones: with the Big XII Championship Game a thing of the past, Jerryland loses out on the opportunity to host countless match-ups. Jerry watched tens of millions disappear yesterday. And you thought you had a bad day.