Following Monday’s press conference led by Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and chair of the Big 12 board of directors and Oklahoma University president David Boren, it marked the end. For now. Or to quote the beloved Chip Brown “stay tuned” when it comes to conference realignment.
I know I can be accused of being a glass half full type, and I get that I tend to be an eternal optimist. I write this not to necessarily try to change anyone’s minds, but throw out that polar opposite viewpoint of what seems to be out there. The, “this is the white flag” or “beginning of the end”. Trust me, I see where that opinion comes from, and it makes sense. But allow me to share a few observations.
First off, I think it is important to note that most of my twitter timeline mirrored opinions of before the presser as much as after. Meaning, whatever preconceived notion you had of what the conference would do is what you judged Monday by. So for starters, based on what is left out there on the college football market, what history has told us, and lastly what cohort here at LGG, Chris Lambert, shared with us, there was zero surprise for me when the conference announced its plans to stay at 10 teams.
So the following are the top three reasons how I have chosen to reflect on the chain of events in a positive light.
The dog and pony show
What started at the tail end of Big 12 media days, was for one very reactionary way to stick it to the networks following news of the ACC network. Network partners had consulted the Big 12 earlier in May to tell them that the logistics of a Big 12 network were simply not there. So for ESPN to turn around and give the ACC a shot at a network, the conference had to get one back.
While many point to the last three months of stringing along the nation of expansion exploration as an embarrassment for the league, I look at it as necessary. First things first, this conference was going to embarrass itself no matter what Monday’s outcome was – that much we know. But in order for this league to move forward without having to field the annual expansion questions following March madness, was to make this process public. So good on the conference for making it clear to the nation that they vetted the options, and ultimately nothing makes this conference stronger with the talent pool out there.
Just win baby
Aside from an undefeated West Virginia roasting an undefeated Baylor on December 3 in Morgantown this year, I think it is safe to say that most of us in Big 12 country have conceded the college football playoff hopes. Combine that with the disastrous non-con performance of the league we in 2016 and there is likely little ground to make.
By making it very clear with the public vetting of candidates, the Big 12 could best serve itself by simply shutting up and focusing on the performance on the gridiron in the next five, six, seven years. It is time to race what you got, dance with who you brought and build a brand and try to win back the national perception. That is now possible with the speculation of conference expansion off the table for good this time. The only way to come out as a power broker in the coming future is to shut up and play.
2025 is doomsday
I go back to what I said earlier, I see what others see. But I challenge the reader to look around elsewhere too. No one seems to be making a big deal about the Big 10’s grant of rights expiring in 2023, or the PAC-12’s (who is considered next in the dysfunctional category after the Big 12) that expires in 2024. So many are out there criticizing this conference for not extending their grant of rights, because they are the weakest.
Or are they? Would not jumping the gun on extending your grant of rights show weakness or lack in confidence in what could be garnered in the future negotiations (see ACC)? This reminds me of the recent round of the facility arms race. Whomever built their indoor training facility last has the best one because they combined every other school’s idea.
So while some view 2025 as doomsday, I welcome in a quiet period from now until 2021. Starting then it would make sense for this conference could start courting other P5 programs. Since these granting of rights force institutions to forfeit all revenue back to the conference they would flee, no one is likely going to ever challenge that.
Why would you attempt to court another P5 team now, leaving half a dozen years for their home to counter offer? Think about a world where Nebraska (for the record, I never bought into any Nebraska traction from the last round of rumors for them) refuses to sign over its rights to the Big 10 in 2023. Or Colorado, Arizona or Arizona State do similar things in 2024. What would it hurt them to do this for two or three years? I understand that would require a strong individual of the Big 12 to do that sell job circa 2021-2024 to other institutions.
And ok, I admit historically we have never seen much of the sort. The reverse of course, would be the Big 10 renewing a grant of rights in 2023, at that point I would panic. But at the same token, the Big 10 knows it could not offer a team it wants until 2024 or 25 for the PAC-12 and Big 12 to have their rights expire. Unless of course their next deal brings in so much money they can offer status quo and buy out the remaining years on the departed’s grant of rights.
What I suggest, is that no news is actually good news for the next five years. I think we have all had our fill on the topic as it is, so could it actually hurt the league to lay low and win some games? A lot can happen in five years. Like Les Miles coaching on the 40-acres in Austin, or Brent Venables ditching the orange from his orange and purple wardrobe. I get it. I am a pie in the sky type. Again, I do not plan on winning over the opinions of others, but I ask the reader to consider the far other side of the potential. At the very least, I ask the reader to welcome in a new era of the Big 12 conference: Quiet time. I hope at the very least.