Paul Finebaum, ESPN’s favorite SEC pundit, has picked up his crusade against Bob Stoops and the Big 12 once again.
“I think the Big 12 is in big trouble, and I think this is something that we have been able to detect for some time,” Finebaum said radio station WJOX out of Birmingham, AL, on Monday. “I don’t think the Big 12 as we know it will still be in existence in five years.”
Sigh, this again? It’s a tired narrative, which seems to have little merit other than, ‘just because’. People have been making this claim for the last five years, and guess what? The Big 12 is still here and making more money than ever.
“There are schools in the Big 12 that have looked to get out, and I think continue to look to get out,” Finebaum said. “And they can deny it all they want, but they don’t have what the SEC and the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ultimately the ACC are going to have, and that’s their own network, which is critical in this world of exploding television reality. And I don’t know how you can really survive like that. Texas has its own network, but that’s another issue. And the league just doesn’t seem to be very strong from any standpoint.”
So, we are just going to ignore how poorly the Pac-12 network is doing? Or how the ACC is falling into the same situation with their network? The reality is, if conference networks were sustainable, then ESPN and Fox would be climbing all over themselves to get a deal done with the Big 12. But that’s not the case. ESPN is bleeding subscribers because viewers are cutting the cord and moving away from packaged network deals. ESPN has waved the white flag and boarded up the conference network gravy train.
And sure, you can say it is the Big 12’s fault for not forcing Texas’ hand with the Longhorn Network and trying to get onto the train while it was still chugging full steam ahead unaware the bridge was out just ahead. However, if Finebaum wants to talk about mismanagement, maybe he start with his own employer, instead of taking half-baked shots at the Big 12.
And as for how the conference is “surviving”, well, it has increased revenue by $40 million each of the last two seasons, and has nearly doubled its revenue since 2012. I don’t know many companies on the verge of collapse while reporting record profits.
As if that wasn’t enough, Finebaum had one more bomb to drop.
“There are a lot of rumors out there — they’re only rumors — I’ve heard Commissioner Snakey [Greg Sankey of the SEC] recently, I’ve heard other commissioners maintain that no one is really in the market for expansion. But it doesn’t take very much, and usually these things go in twos. I can think of one school in the Big 12 that would like out pretty desperately, and if that happens, would it have a domino effect? And that school is the University of Oklahoma?”
Wait, is this 2016 again? Did Finebaum forget Oklahoma reaffirming their commitment to the Big 12? Maybe Finebaum is right though, maybe Oklahoma does still want out. It makes absolutely no sense from just about any perspective, but maybe they do. Or, maybe, just maybe, Finebaum is still salty with how the Sooners treat everyone in the SEC like their whipping boy.
In the last four years, a period where the Big 12 has been considered down and the SEC has been almighty, the Sooners have knocked off #14 Auburn in 2016, #23 Tennessee in 2015, Tennessee again in 2014, and #3 Alabama in 2013. That’s four wins in four years, 4-0 against the mighty SEC.
Maybe Finebaum is genuinely concerned about the Sooners and coach Stoops, or maybe he just can’t let his long-standing beef with coach Stoops go, and is just trying to stir up a fuss. Either way, this is the “journalism” that ESPN has been reduced to.