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Here We Go Again: As Summer Starts, Realignment Chatter Heats Up

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  • PSU Carl
    Wow. Shocking. Just as soon as football and basketball and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2012
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      Just as soon as football and basketball and recruiting and spring
      practice are put to bed, talk of conference expansion and realignment
      goes from a simmer to a boil. Funny how that works. My email box is
      currently filled with questions and rumors and “mark this downs.”

      Granted the current discussions on a new postseason playoff format as
      well as the Big 12′s own cloudy future are helping to feed the
      messageboard chatter, but we’re not so sure at least some — read: all
      — of this buzz hasn’t been ginned up in an effort to drive fans to
      websites all summer long.

      For those who haven’t been keeping up with recent internet whispers,
      the Big 12 formed an exploratory committee on expansion way back in
      January. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione let everyone know about it, too,
      which set off a bit of a panic. Soon after, word began to spread that
      Clemson, Florida State, and maybe even Georgia Tech might join the Big
      12 from the East. Louisville and Cincinnati might climb aboard from
      the Midwest. And the powers-that-be at Notre Dame — oh, sweet,
      succulent, delectable Notre Dame — were reportedly so tight with
      Texas’ brass that the Irish would surely become Team 16 in the Big
      12′s new mega-design.

      And for those who’ve forgotten, Arkansas was also mentioned as a
      potential Big 12 target for the umpteenth time.

      Depending on the “insider” or “big money donor” you choose to listen
      to, the Big 12 could land any combination of those teams. Clemson and
      FSU are ready to move to the Big 12 for the 2013 season! Florida
      State needs to leave the ACC due to poor finances! The television
      networks are secretly working behind the scenes to bring this whole
      thing together!

      Closer to the homefront, some will tell you that the SEC is still
      having under-the-table chats with Virginia Tech and NC State as a
      backup plan, too (even though we’ve actually done the research and
      found it’d be pretty tough politically for those schools to leave
      their current friends and family).

      Sorry, I’m not buying this latest noise and I’ll list five reasons why
      in a second. But the first thing we all need to remember is just how
      many of these rumors and reports have come true in the past — and
      that’s not many. How ’bout that done deal of a 16-team Big Ten with
      Missouri being the first lock? What about the reports that Clemson,
      Florida State, Louisville and Georgia Tech were SEC done deals? That
      Pac-10/Big 12 semi-merger? West Virginia to the SEC? West Virginia
      to the ACC?

      Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

      Now some will defend the messageboards as being the place where word
      first spread of Texas A&M moving to the SEC and of Missouri being a
      possible expansion target, too. Well, uh, no. Anyone who’d done
      their research on the subject knew full well that A&M AD John David
      Crow and LSU AD Joe Dean had actually tried to bring the Aggies to
      Harvey Schiller’s SEC a quarter-century ago. The SEC and A&M had
      played footsie for years and there was no doubt in our minds here at
      MrSEC — even when A&M said in 2010 they’d be staying the Big 12 — that
      they would indeed one day partner up with the league that they were
      predestined to join. And that was long before the messageboards
      warmed to such talk last summer.

      As for Mizzou, again, this site first tossed the Tigers out as
      possibility — due to television markets, population size, etc — back
      in May of 2010, long before anyone else considered them to be an
      option at all. In fact, the messageboards we read after the fact
      poked quite a bit of fun at our suggestion that MU would be just as
      good an option for SEC expansion as Virginia Tech. We fielded a
      number of “yoo’re a mo-ron” emails from folks just sure that Mike
      Slive and company would add Texas and Oklahoma and Clemson and Florida
      State instead of A&M and, and… Missouri.

      And that leads into the list of reasons I don’t believe you’ll be
      seeing FSU or Clemson in the Big 12 anytime soon:

      1. Messageboards

      Ever notice how folks on the boards are always quoting “big boosters”
      and “top money donors?” Well, I’ve learned over the years that for
      the most part, the bigger the booster, the more he keeps his mouth
      shut. Oh, there are exceptions to the rule, of course. A tip o’ the
      hat to you, T. Boone Pickens. But most of the true power brokers at a
      school — and there are usually just one or two mega-boosters at each
      school — like to keep their business to themselves. They don’t type
      messages in internet chat rooms. They don’t leak info to the guy
      gassing up their private plane.

      In fact, the folks who I’ve found do the most talking are the guys who
      want you to think they’re in a position of power. Mid-level boosters
      talk a lot more than the actual, school-driving boosters. And
      mid-level boosters aren’t the guys State U’s president calls to ask
      for advice.

      Now, that’s not to say messageboards are useless. Sometimes stories
      can really break in those kinds of places. But we’re usually talking
      about “Our quarterback got busted for smoking dope” type stories and
      not “Clemson will sign a binding letter of agreement with the Big 12
      in Dallas on May 20th” type stories.

      We take ‘em with a grain of salt. Many feel the same way about the
      myriad of websites out there. We do, too. We feel our own track
      record is solid enough at this point that you should know a) we’ve got
      some good contacts out there, b) we don’t throw a lot of crap at the
      wall just to see what sticks, and c) we also have no problem admitting
      when we’re wrong. Example: We fully expected — and still expect —
      that the SEC will someday be forced to go to a nine-game conference
      football schedule. But it looks like that might be 12 years down the
      road. Consider that a miscalculation on our part regarding the
      leadership of Slive. He’s off base on this issue, we were off base to
      expect him to override his ADs this summer.

      When we’re right — which is more often than not — we’ll tell you.
      When we’re wrong, we’ll admit that, too. Some sites are worse than
      us, some are better (hey, we’re humble). But just as you shouldn’t
      believe everything you read at “TechIsGonnaWin.com,” you shouldn’t
      believe every “high-level booster” you hear from on a messageboard.

      2. Television Networks

      Television money has been the number one driving factor of conference
      realignment dating back to the CFA’s landmark Supreme Court win over
      the NCAA way back in the 1980s. But to think the TV networks are
      hoping to further shift the college landscape now? That seems a bit
      out of left field.

      ESPN and Fox have pretty much cut the 10-team Big 12 better deals than
      the league deserves simply to hold the thing together. If the Big 12
      blew completely apart, teams would have scattered hither and yon and
      the networks would have been forced to rework nearly all of their
      contracts in major ways all at once. That’s not a good negotiating

      So the idea that the networks would aid the Big 12 in destroying the
      ACC, for example, doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface. So far,
      the ESPNs of the world have simply reacted when the five big leagues
      have acted. Oh, they might have given the ACC a knowing wink before
      that league’s raid of the Big East for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but
      the Big East’s football deal is the smallest of the BCS leagues. No
      harm, no foul from an ESPN standpoint.

      If ESPN and/or Fox is aiding a Big 12 raid of the ACC those networks
      would have to know that John Swofford’s league would be destabilized.
      That would open it up to raids from the Big Ten or SEC. That might
      mean some sort of hodge-podge’d union with a weakened Big East.
      That’s a lot of TV deals to hammer out in a short time.

      3. Notre Dame

      As we wrote earlier this week, the current playoff talks are about a
      lot more than just playoffs. Both the Big Ten and the Big 12 lust
      after Notre Dame. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Irish remain America’s
      top college sports brand name more than two decades since their last
      national title. They bring prestige academically and athletically.
      They bring clout to the negotiating table and they would bring big
      dinero to any league that landed them.

      So Jim Delany of the Big Ten and now Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 have
      reason to tweak Notre Dame in the ongoing playoff talks. If the Irish
      aren’t given the same kind of special treatment they’ve received under
      the old BCS format — both in money and in opportunity — then the
      school might find itself finally backed far enough into a corner that
      it will have to join a conference, much to its administration’s
      chagrin. The Big Ten and Big 12 believe they would be the likeliest
      landing spots. The ACC has been mentioned as a potential landing zone
      as well (which would make ESPN and Fox and the other TV networks have
      to work even harder on the contract renegotiation front, by the way).

      Here’s the question then: Would Delany and Bowlsby be willing to blow
      up the entire current landscape in an effort to possibly land Notre
      Dame? Because if Notre Dame moves, there’s a good chance other
      schools will move. Do the leagues really, really want that? Or do
      they simply want Notre Dame? If the answer is the latter, then we
      think Delany and Bowlsby will blink before Notre Dame’s leadership.
      After all, the other nine commissioners involved in the current
      playoff talk would prefer expansion and realignment slow down long
      enough for everyone to catch their collective breath and assess the
      gains and losses of their many recent moves.

      4. Clemson’s AD

      People in power lie. They lie all the time. It’s part of business.
      You keep your cards to your chest, you bluff, and you lie when forced
      into it. That said, Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips issued a pretty
      strong denial back in February when his school was first being
      mentioned in connection with the Big 12. ”… I can say for sure with
      Clemson there is no substance to that,” he said before adding that no
      Clemson officials had been contacted by Big 12 representatives at all.

      Today at Orangebloods.com — the Rivals site covering the University of
      Texas — those good folks posted behind a paywall that they’ve been
      told by Clemson people that they have still not been contacted “in any
      way, shape or form” by the Big 12 and that their school would only
      entertain a possible move if Florida State acted first. For a site
      that many believe to be a pro-Texas, pro-Big 12 mouthpiece that’s
      hardly a ringing endorsement for the “done deal” theory.

      (Sidenote — Orangebloods also reports that the Big 12 will extend its
      current six-year shared media rights deal to 13 years when ESPN’s new
      contract with the league is announced this summer. If that comes to
      pass it will do wonders for the stability of the Big 12.)

      5. Our Sources

      I talk to sources — some better than others — at every school in the
      current SEC. You’d be surprised how many times a school administrator
      wants “the real story” put out by someone in the press and —
      thankfully — because we have three times the average number of college
      grads reading our site, a lot of those academicians will drop us notes
      and texts and tips from time to time.

      I also know media folks from across the country who are tapped into
      these same schools on the local level. In addition, this site has
      connections to some of the biggest companies in college sports
      (companies that handle everything from schools’ local media deals to
      their ticket sales to their public relations).

      That’s not to brag, everyone’s got sources and — as noted above — some
      are better than others. But I mention those sources for this reason:
      I’ve yet to speak to anyone who seriously believes Clemson and Florida
      State will wind up in the Big 12. Or that another Big Bang of
      conference expansion is on the way.

      Anything is possible. ”Never say never,” is our mantra around here
      and our longtime readers know that. Situations change and evolve.
      That could happen in this case and the Big 12 could be the Big 20 by
      tomorrow. If so, we’ll admit that we were scooped.

      For now, though, we’re not buying all the talk. We think it’s driven
      more by the slow news period and conjecture than by actual, already
      held conversations.

      But did we mention, “Never say never?”
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