Daily College Football Cavalcade: With Texas and Oklahoma possibly moving to the SEC, what’s the next move for possible Big Ten expansion?
Because the possibility of Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC is all anyone wants to talk about right now, this week will feature a series of Daily Cavalcades with different views on what could be a seminal moment in college sports.
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
It’s not on the list of the Association of American Universities.
Yeah, it would be a conference with 16 teams – and maybe more – that calls itself the Big Ten, but that’s the least-weird thing happening.
The Big Ten has been way too quiet – even during its own media days – when it comes to the possibility of expansion.
It’s coming. It has to.
Here’s the college sports world reality: the Big Ten is still the biggest, baddest college conference business going, but the SEC is gaining fast.
Of course the SEC is the best football conference on the field, and of course getting Texas and Oklahoma would make it that much more impressive, but the Big Ten has the ability to 1) reasonably pitch almost anyone and come up with a deal good enough to at least look at, and 2) unlike the Big 12, it actually could lose its two biggest-brand schools and potentially be okay by upping its own expansion game.
The Big 12 can’t realistically think about adding Notre Dame. The Big Ten can.
So don’t get into a twist over some random idea/rumor that Ohio State and Michigan might be targeted for expansion, and don’t think that the conference with the broadest reach, largest alumni base, top overall academic profile and best home TV network going will just sit around and let the SEC become the dominant college sports nuclear power – unless it feels like it doesn’t have to do anything.
So if you’re commissioner Kevin Warren, what should your meetings be this week? What should be the counter-move considering what’s happening with Texas and Oklahoma?
Start here – the Big Ten doesn’t play around with Little Brother.
When it expands, it goes for the school in a state, like the University of Maryland, the University of Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers – which might as well be the University of New Jersey.
Also, it’s almost certainly not going expand just to expand.
Pitt and Iowa State might make sense in a whole lot of ways, but the Big Ten already has Penn State and the University of Iowa – the global reach doesn’t get bigger with the Panthers and Cyclones.
There’s another big factor. If the Big Ten is going to expand, it’s only interested in schools from The Association of American Universities. That means no Notre Dame, no Oklahoma, no Syracuse or Boston College, and no Clemson.
Okay, so the AAU thing wouldn’t be a barrier if Notre Dame is on the table, but it’s still a factor for almost everyone else.
So let me plan out what Warren and the Big Ten’s agenda should be when it comes to floating out expansion trial balloons, because no one does that better than the Big Ten. Let’s start with …
Hey Texas … what’s up?
(I don’t think that has any chance of happening at this point, but … )
Make your pitch, Big Ten.
Yeah, the Big Ten and Texas did the expansion talk dance a decade ago, but things have changed. Texas is the richest athletic department going, but the Longhorn Network has been just okay while the Big Ten Network has created the infrastructure to get much, much bigger in the expanded streaming world.
Whatever the SEC is offering, the Big Ten has the potential and ability to come strong to the table with its markets, academics, sheer size, and stability. There’s no need to break the bank or do anything to make the Ohio States and Michigans of the conference mad, but Texas is a better overall fit for the Big Ten – at least academically – than it is for the SEC.
Don’t assume that Texas and Oklahoma are 100% tied at the hip.
NEXT: Hey, North Carolina and the ACC … what’s up?
Hey, North Carolina … what’s up?
It got brushed aside when the Big Ten and Texas were gabbing a decade ago, but North Carolina was supposedly at least a thought. The Big Ten didn’t really want Duke as part of the pair – smaller base, basketball doesn’t matter like football does – and the scuttlebutt fizzled out fast.
But if you’re looking for the absolutely perfect school for the Big Ten – even more than Texas – here it is.
The academic fit is right there, the brand name is obvious, it’s of course amazing at basketball and just good enough in football to make a big splash – but without being too threatening to the balance of power – and any deal would be much, much stronger than the current ACC payout.
Of course North Carolina is tied into the ACC brand, but Texas and Oklahoma were/are the Big 12 and that doesn’t seem to matter. HOWEVER …
There’s one, big, giant, heaping mega-problem with even thinking about North Carolina going anywhere …
Hey, ACC … what’s up?
The problem for any ACC school is the current brutal Grant of Rights media deal that goes through 2036 – good luck breaking that.
The Big Ten has to at least see what the possibilities are, but any hope of stealing an ACC school is almost certainly dead on arrival.
North Carolina is the best fit for the Big Ten, but that’s a heavy lift even if it is legally and technically possible.
Virginia might not have the giant base that UNC does, but it’s right there academically, basketball – as much as that matters – is great, and on brand, the Big Ten would be getting a state’s flagship school.
Georgia Tech isn’t the University of Georgia, but it’s got the academics and it’s downtown Atlanta – the Big Ten Network types would crush to add that market to the mix.
If the Big Ten could chill just a tad on the AAU thing, Syracuse and Boston College would make a whole lot of expansion sense, but that doesn’t appear to be part of the overall discussion.
The only other ACC school in the AAU is Duke, but that’s not happening unless it’s a must to get North Carolina.
Speaking of AAU and the ACC …
NEXT: Hey, Notre Dame and Texas A&M … what’s up?
Hey, Notre Dame … what’s up?
There’s a whole separate rant coming about what’s potentially on the table for Notre Dame, but if the Big Ten wanted to yuck the SEC’s Texas and Oklahoma expansion spotlight yum, this would be it.
No, Notre Dame isn’t a part of that whole AAU thing, but that would be blown off because, you know, it’s Notre Dame.
Obviously it makes geographic sense, and of course the school fits the Big Ten world in every possible way, but it would be a question of which side could tamp down the arrogance just enough to possibly make this happen.
And then there’s the out-of-the-box thinking …
Hey, Texas A&M … what’s up?
What have we learned in this whole process over the last few days? We all knew Texas A&M despised the University of Texas, but it really, really, really, really, REALLY wants nothing whatsoever to do with that school.
This isn’t just cutesy ha-ha rivalry fun; this is pure, unadulterated hate.
Well, okay, Texas A&M. Here’s your not-so-idle threat to make to the SEC if it really wants to add Texas and Oklahoma. If that happens, maybe the Big Ten and Pac-12 would be interested, and you know the Big 12 would get down on one knee with a balloon bouquet to sell A&M on returning.
A&M fits the Big Ten’s AAU desire, and landing a massive school that helps pull in Houston along with other Texas markets looks great, but A&M leaving the SEC is getting wacky. So is …
NEXT: Hey, Missouri and Kansas … what’s up?
Hey, Missouri … what’s up?
It’s not happening, but the Big Ten could try to make amends for totally dropping the ball back in 2011 when it didn’t expand with Mizzou.
Missouri fills all the Big Ten’s self-made requirements, it lands the Kansas City and St. Louis markets, and it’s an easy rival for Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa.
It makes a whole lot of sense, but Mizzou doesn’t have the Texas-and-Oklahoma-to-the-SEC objection that Texas A&M has. With the revenue and deals the SEC will get, business-wise it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to leave.
So if Texas isn’t realistically on the table for the Big Ten, and the ACC deals would be impossible to navigate through, and if Notre Dame is a mega-reach, and Texas A&M and Missouri likely aren’t moving …
Hey, Kansas … what’s up?
Basketball doesn’t really matter in all of this, but it sure helps.
Blow off how bad the football program has been – these things do go in cycles – and run with the idea that the mediocrity might be a plus here.
Coaches and other Big Ten schools will be happy to battle in hoops, and if there’s not a major threat – at least for right now – from the football side, cool.
Think Rutgers when it comes to how the Big Ten easily accepted the addition.
Kansas has a national brand, it’s Kansas City with a little bit of St. Louis. It’s a perfect geographical fit for Nebraska and Iowa, and it would seamlessly slide right on into the Big Ten West without any problem.
And yeah, it’s an AAU-level school. Since that really, really matters …
NEXT: Hey, Pac-12 … what’s up? That, and the Big Ten Expansion call
Hey, Pac-12 … what’s up?
As the expansion world plays out, this should be the most interesting storyline of the bunch. Just how much juice does the Pac-12 have?
I seem to have a higher option of the Pac-12 than most.
The business deals and the overall perception get relentlessly hammered on, but the Pac-12 media deals are stronger than the ACC’s and Big 12’s. The LA, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City markets are fantastic, there’s room for others to join in and be an instant player – Utah was able to dive in and be a factor in football – and the academic side is phenomenal.
The US News college rankings aren’t the be-all-end-all, but if you’ve got four of the 22 best schools in America – Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC – and ten of the top 103, you’re doing something right.
Most of them fit the Big Ten’s AAU requirement – Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State are the ones that don’t – but would a USC or a UCLA really want to make a move that would be every bit as devastating to the Pac-12 as losing Texas and Oklahoma would be for the Big 12?
Maybe. Colorado, though, could be the more realistic power grab if the Big Ten decides it wants to expand the geographic base and also goes after Kansas.
And finally …
Hey, college sports … what’s up?
So what’s going to happen? Let’s call this the wildly speculative educated guess.
The Big Ten stays dead-silent unless it really does have something that’s 92% happening. It isn’t going to panic, and it’s not going to be reactionary.
First, it won’t get into too much of a twist over Texas and Oklahoma moving to the SEC. The Big Ten can make moves of its own to expand the brand whenever it wants to, and at the end of the day, no matter what, the two superpower business conferences are going to be just fine.
Second, it’s going to do a deeper dive – like it hasn’t done that already – into seeing if there’s any possible way to deal with the ACC’s mega-long media rights deal. It’ll be partly for its own purposes, but even more to see if there’s a way the SEC might keep expanding – Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech make a whole lot of SEC sense.
Again, hazarding an educated guess here, if you’re not hearing anyone say the words North and Carolina – even in an irresponsible rumor way – that means the Big Ten doesn’t have a way to do it.
With that said, if the Big Ten does figure out a loophole, or payout, or some sort of contractual misspelling, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia … it’ll get interesting.
The conference isn’t going to just go grab Kansas if it doesn’t have something even splashier in mind, and that brings us to Notre Dame.
These two just can’t work it out, and just like it’s been in the past, neither one might have to. Again, don’t assume the Big Ten has to do anything. It’s fine no matter what the SEC does, and it’s certainly not going to cheese off any of its current members by giving Notre Dame the sweetheart deal it’ll take to get it done.
The idea of Texas A&M is intriguing, but that’s a ten-miles-outside-the-box philosophical discussion more than anything based in potential.
No, I don’t really think there’s any shot of USC or UCLA leaving the Pac-12, but the move of Colorado to go along with Kansas would be a decent response to the SEC grabbing Texas and Oklahoma, even if it’s not proportional.
Again, think about this from a business standpoint and not about anything on the field. Did Maryland, Rutgers and – let’s be brutally honest – Nebraska after a decent first few years crank up the Big Ten from a competitive sports standpoint? Not really, but it helped the revenue and what the conference could sell.
I know, enough stalling. What’s the Big Ten going to do to expand?
Nothing … for now.
The Big Ten isn’t going to be reactionary, and there’s almost certainly nothing going on that it wasn’t prepared for well in advance.
The Big Ten will get bigger and stronger, but it’ll do it on its own time.