June 14, 2010
It seemed as though the demise of the Big 12 was a matter of when and not if as recently as a few days ago, but amazingly the would-be deserters have experienced a sudden change of heart.
Texas announced it will remain in the Big 12 on Monday evening. Texas A&M has done the same. And now Larry Scott's plan for a 16-team Pac-10 is likely dead and the new 10-team Big 12 is poised to accept a new lucrative TV deal that will pay its teams up to double what they received before.
Here's a look at four winners and losers now that we know the Big 12 has survived this wave of conference realignment:
• Dan Beebe: Beebe was well on his way to becoming the scapegoat for years of poor decisions by Big 12 leadership, but the commissioner saved the conference and his own legacy by restructuring the TV deal at the last possible moment. By providing Texas, Texas A&M and the other would-be defectors with the TV revenue they sought from other leagues, Beebe proved to them that a 10-team Big 12 could still be successful without Colorado and Nebraska
• Big 12 leftovers: Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri likely would have found their way to another BCS-affiliated conference if the Big 12 disintegrated, but this certainly is a whole lot more appealing than a new Midwestern League or the geographically untenable Big East. As for Baylor and particularly Iowa State, this might have been their best option to remain relevant in football and basketball.
• Utah: Since the Pac-10 still needs to expand to 12 in order to find a scheduling partner for Colorado and enable a conference title game in football, Utah suddenly becomes the most obvious available option. The Utes would bring a strong football program, a struggling but historically competitive basketball program and the Salt Lake City TV market.
• Arizona football: Arizona has yet to produce a Rose Bowl team in the current Pac-10, so imagine how much harder it would have gotten if you threw Texas and Oklahoma into their division. The Wildcats' basketball program probably would have benefited from the recruiting inroads in Texas, but their football program is breathing a sigh of relief.
• Pac-10: Commissioner Larry Scott deserves ample credit for aggressively making a run at the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, but swinging for the fences and winding up with a bloop single will be costly when the conference renegotiates its TV contract. Furthermore, the jury is still out on whether adding Colorado and Utah or another school of that ilk is worth splitting revenue an extra two ways.
• Mountain West: Instead of eying would-be Big 12 leftovers like Missouri and Kansas, the Mountain West suddenly is in jeopardy of losing one or more of its most prominent programs. The Mountain West will still have a foothold in the Salt Lake City market courtesy of BYU, but the potential loss of Utah and its fan base might be damaging enough TV-wise for a school like TCU to start getting antsy and looking elsewhere.
• Colorado: The Pac-10 is a good long-term fit for Colorado because of its West Coast alumni base and the other like-minded institutions in the league, but this move will be costly in the short term. A $9 million penalty for leaving the Big 12 will hurt, as will the fact that the Big 12's TV deal will be significantly better than the Pac-10's now that Texas in company is staying put.
• SEC: The SEC will be fine without adding Texas A&M, but the Aggies would have been a logical and significant addition. They would have further opened up Texas to the SEC for recruiting purposes, provided natural rivalries for LSU and Arkansas, and given the league another strong basketball program.