BOTC Focus Group: You Be the Conference Commisioner

A couple of weeks back, I got bored and proposed a roundtable discussion on the Big 12 Conference members and the existing conference alignment.  The BOTC editorial staff promptly chimed in with their thoughts, and I thought the discussion was pretty through provoking.

Since the offseason is a time for theoretical discussions, I thought this would be a fun topic to tackle.  Go ahead and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Here are the questions:

1. If you could add a school to the conference, who would it be and why?

2. Conversely, if you add one, you have to drop one. Who would it be and why?

3. If you ruled the world, how would you align the Big 12? North/South? East/West? Make two divisions with fun names?

 

 

TB:

First, a preamble (you're shocked, I know). I'm limiting my responses to examining the possibility that Missouri and Colorado leave. Iowa State isn't going anywhere, so I'm going to look at the more realistic scenarios involving Mizzou jumping to the Big 10/11 and Colorado jumping to the Pac-10. I also think this is a worthy issue to look at, because I do think it is entirely possible that the Big 10/11 and the Pac-10 will look to expand in the next few years, and that the two Big 12 schools mentioned would be on the short list. I happen to think that Colorado is more likely to leave than Missouri, as they don't really leave anything behind here. Yeah, they have a rivalry with Nebraska, but it's not a rivalry either side enjoys, and I get the feeling both schools would be thoroughly happy if the other disappeared. Thus, Colorado to the Pac-10 = problem solved for both.

Missouri is a different story. True, the Big 10/11 offers the heightened academic profile that Missouri craves, but would they turn their back on the Border War, especially at a time when it's actually turning into a pretty good rivalry? They are a longtime member of the Big 6/7/8/12 and would leave a lot of history behind by bolting. Not saying they won't, just noting that it's a consideration.

With that as a backdrop, on to the questions.

1. I'll do a ranking here of the order of schools I would want were anyone to leave the conference.

Memphis: Assuming the Tigers bring in a good coach, they have a solid basketball program that would be a good addition to the Big 12. They play in an NBA arena that is probably bigger than every Big 12 arena, save perhaps Texas (sorry, too lazy to look it up right now). In football, they're not great, but they're not bad. Under current coach Tommy West, Memphis has been to five bowls, winning two of them. Going to bowl games when you play in Conference USA isn't exactly a guarantee, either, as the conference doesn't have a whole lot of tie-ins. I don't know anything about Memphis' other sports, so I can't comment on how they'd compare to Big 12 programs.

Geographically, it's not a bad fit. Tennessee borders Missouri (barely), although if we are assuming that Mizzou is one of the schools we lose, then that becomes a moot argument. Memphis certainly wouldn't stretch the conference any farther to the east than it's already stretched to the south. As for other stuff, Memphis has an enrollment of 20,000+, and FedEx is a major sponsor of the school and might be an attractive sponsor for the Big 12 Conference (replace Phillips 66 and Whataburger, anyone?).

Finally, Memphis would be all-but-certain to bolt for the Big 12 if we made them an offer. I was actually discussing just last night with someone how badly Houston got screwed when the Southwest Conference fell apart and UH didn't get an invite to the Big 12. The financial difference between being in C-USA and being in the Big 12 cannot be ignored, and that issue alone would be enough for Memphis to bolt.

Tulsa: Similar arguments to Memphis, except Tulsa is better at football than Memphis is and quite a bit worse at basketball. They are a perfect geographic fit, although they don't bring in a new TV market like Memphis would. That said, I didn't bring up the TV issue above because I don't really think we need to go chasing TV sets if we lose Colorado or Missouri. Losing those schools would mean we lose Denver and St. Louis, with Denver being the bigger blow. That said, I'm curious how important the Denver market is to the Big 12, given that they've never made a play to host either the conference football or basketball championships, despite having more-than-adequate facilities to do so.

Arkansas: Probably not worth discussing, because I'm reasonably sure they wouldn't leave the SEC for the Big 12, unless the folks at Texas and Texas A&M could convince them to do so. In a tug-of-war between money and old conference rivalries that can be used as an excuse for showy nonconference games, I'm guessing money will win out.

However, if there was a shot, I'd really want the Big 12 to do whatever it could to bring the Razorbacks in. Solid tradition in both football and basketball, decent TV market (Little Rock), old rivalries, makes geographic sense. Definitely worth looking into, if for no other reason than it just might piss off Texas.

Colorado State: With apologies to JSchwarz, I would not be enthused about bringing in the Rams. A solid football run under Sonny Lubick belies the fact that CSU has been terrible for most of its football history (471-510-33 all-time record, and yes I realize our all-time record is worse). Even worse, they play in a stadium that is smaller than some high school stadiums in Texas. In basketball, the Rams add nothing, even if we compare them to Colorado, which is saying something. Further, they don't bring in a new TV market, as CU probably has a better hold on Denver and Fort Collins by itself is not a lucrative market.

Finally, I will note that I would also consider Texas Christian and Houston, with the caveat that I would only advocate adding them to the conference if the school we lost was Baylor. Petty as it may sound, I don't want this conference to become more Tex-centric than it already is, and other than TCU's football program, I don't think either school brings in anything that Memphis or Tulsa doesn't.

2. I already discussed who is most likely to drop out. I'm sure a lot of people would advocate dropping Iowa State, but I wouldn't. My first choice would be Baylor. It's not that I hate Baylor, or their fans, or anything (well, other than their town). They're just not a good fit in this conference. They got in because one of their alums was the governor of Texas at the time this conference was formed, which has always kind of stuck in my craw. Sorry, Bears, but if the decision was up to me, you'd be in the Mountain West.

3. I'm a little suspicious of divisional alignments, as they create the possibility of imbalance. I guess doing away with divisions and doing Big 10/11-style scheduling can create imbalance, too, if a school misses certain powerhouse schools. Overall, I'm not sure there is a way to do things that won't create at least some controversy.

I guess if I had to choose, I'd stick with what we have. In the event we lost a North school (i.e., Colorado or Missouri), the replacement would be placed in the North. If I had my way and we lost Baylor, the replacement would go in the South. Sorry, I'm not very innovative today.

BracketCat:

1. You guys seem to have the serious options covered, so I'll just spell out a personal fantasy instead:

We should forcibly annex Notre Dame. I would greatly enjoy beating those sorry, overrated SOBs every season. I think the correct word for it is "euphoria." Plus, we would instantly jump at least two other conferences on ESPN's list of Facebook friends. It's a win-win scenario!

2. Baylor's gonna be the popular option here, so I'll again head in another direction and say Oklahoma State. They're going to price us out of any athletics at the rate they're going. Before you know it, you'll have to mortgage your child's college education fund just to afford season tickets, thanks to Tbooneflation. In fact, I vote we just give Stillwater back to the Native Americans and turn the athletic village into the pimpest casino east of Vegas. $600 showerheads in the hotel rooms? I'm down!

3. Texas vs. everyone else. I don't care that it would be unbalanced. The Texas schools think they're such hot shit - they probably think the four of them could take on the eight of us with ease and would jump on the chance to prove it. Plus, it would pretty much give K-State a guaranteed win in football every year. Ba-zing!

EMAW:

1. TB offered a pretty complete list of the schools that make the best option to add to the conference. You can't look to the north just due to lack of large schools (save for maybe Iowa or Creighton). To the west lies Colorado State, but past that you have to think it would be outside the geographic realm of where the Big 12 would like to expand. I would rather not add any more Texas schools, just due to the fact that we wouldn't gain many TV sets, and also because I think we all would agree we have enough attention in the Lone Star State as it is. Looking to the east, you have Memphis. I'll admit, none of those options seem overly appealing to me, but for the sake of this argument, I would add Arkansas to the Big 12. I know that logistically it is a great move for the Big 12, though there is a snowball's chance in Hell that the Razorbacks would leave the SEC. The Big 12 would need to make the move worth their while. While the TV market that would be gained isn't huge (Little Rock is ranked as the 57th largest market, conversely, Memphis is 47), it does add a significant number of eyes to the conference. Plus, the Northwest Arkansas area has some big money with Tyson and Wal-Mart. Thus, sponsorship and financial donations would be likely. Again, I don't think this is something that would happen, but adding Arkansas would be my first choice among the schools that are out there.
 
2. Baylor. Not too much discussion needed. Texas, A&M, and Tech offer tradition in a number of sports, plus have larger followings than the Bears. Let's just cut them loose and do everyone a favor. They can continue to dominate in baseball and women's basketball in the Sun Belt Conference.
 

3. Let me preface this response by stating my feelings of divisions as a whole. First, there is no secret way to divide up a conference. The way that teams can go from good to bad in various sports makes it difficult to divide based on success in athletics. With that said, it's no secret that Oklahoma and Texas rule the roost when it comes to athletic funding and tradition. I think it would be good for the conference to "integrate" the original Big 8 schools with the Texas schools. Therefore, a division based on East/West would be the best way to bring the conference together. Put Colorado,Tech, K-State, OU, A&M and Nebraska in the West and KU, Iowa State, Mizzou, Texas, OSU, and A&M in the East. Yes, this split's up several rivalries, but that comes with the cost of progress. I also think the names of the divisions shouldn't be just East/West or North/South. I've tried to think of cool names for the divisions, but I'm lacking in the creativity department today.

Panjandrum:

I'm late to my own party, so I'll try to make this good. I'm going to combine the thoughtfulness of TB and EMAW, but the wit of BracketCat. So, I'll do both a serious answer and a humorous answer.

1. Serious Answer: My choice for a school to add is Memphis, and I'd agree that Tulsa would be a solid grab. However, I'm going to throw another name in for consideration: New Mexico.

New Mexico accomplishes a few different things. One, it's a whole new state of television sets. Granted, there aren't that many TV's in New Mexico, but it's something. Also, New Mexico has a really decent basketball program, and their football program has been competitive in the last few years as well. They're a state school, so they fit the profile. However, and this is a big 'however', you'd have to realign the division because there's no way in Hell you could make them a part of the North division. But, in my universe, there would be no North and South. I have no desire to see this conference gravitate around the state of Texas, and in my opinion, it should be split up appropriately.

Joke Answer: Creighton, but they would take Nebraska basketball's place. This way, the entire state of Nebraska can get what they always wanted...their favorite bandwagon football team, and their favorite bandwagon basketball team.

2. I'm with TB. I'd boot Baylor. It's kind of weird to have a private religious institution in a super-conference. Now, I know that you shouldn't throw stones when you live in a glass house, and Baylor does excel in women's athletics and non-revenue sports, but from a sheer 'fit' perspective, Baylor's just never made sense. They're more in line with the Mountain West or C-USA.

Joke Answer: Iowa State. Why? Ask yourself one question. If Canada disappeared tomorrow, would you care?

Now, replace "Canada" with "Iowa State" and let me know if that answer changes.

3. Serious Answer: Splitting the conference into "East" and "West" or "Red" and "White" (or some other goofy color scheme) makes sense. Right now, the conference is too Texas centric, and when all of the Texas schools play each other, it absolutely dominates the TV revenue for everyone else. It would be good to split the teams up so the Longhorns, Aggies, Sooners, etc. spread the wealth amongst the other teams. If it were my universe, I'd do it like this:

Division A:
Texas
Texas A&M
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Iowa State

Division B:
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Nebraska
Colorado
Texas Tech
Baylor

If you go with this setup, from a football standpoint, you get to keep Texas' rivalry with A&M, KU/KSU/MU stay in the same division, and Iowa State becomes the patsy.

Oklahoma keeps the Bedlam game on the schedule, and they get to renew their rivalry with the Huskers. Nebraska and Colorado keep their game, and Texas Tech can hopefully step out of the shadow of UT and A&M.

From this standpoint, I think things balance out a little more:

  • OU and UT don't have to duke it out every year to make it to the conference championshp game
  • The teams in Division A have a stronger basketball swing (which is good for the conference TV ratings), and Division B is more balanced from a football perspective.
  • More of the "North" teams get a game against UT every year, and that obviously means that they get more TV revenue. You know, because the cameras follow the Longhorns wherever they go.
  • The Big 8 and SWC are split half and half (4-2, 4-2) instead of 6-0, 4-2. This would be better symmetry.

Personally, I like this much better than the current format. Also, if a team were to leave, it would be easier to replace them because the conference is more spread out geographically, so no new team sticks out like a sore thumb.

Joke Answer: I don't have one. The current format (and resulting tiebreakers, TV imbalance, and various other absurdities) is enough of a joke as is.

 

 

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