Breaking down expansion candidates (cont.)
The Big 12 Candidates
MISSOURI: This is a no-brainer. Missouri isn't happy with its lot in the Big 12, which adjusts its revenue distribution based on television appearances. Using 2007-08 school year tax documents, the Tulsa World found that Mizzou ranked sixth in the Big 12 that year in revenue received from the conference. The Tigers can double the conference distribution they receive by joining the Big Ten, and the Big Ten can add more than two million cable households by adding the Tigers. Plus, a Missouri-Illinois rivalry makes geographic sense.
Prediction: If Delany offers a golden ticket, Missouri will accept. Hopefully, the school's rivalry with Kansas could continue in a non-conference capacity.
NEBRASKA: Nebraska is a tougher call. We know the Cornhuskers want a better deal. How do we know this? Because in the process of shooting down the Kansas City radio report Monday, Cornhuskers' brass made it a point to remind us that Nebraska wants a better deal. "Both Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Tom Osborne have indicated that the university would consider any opportunity that would advance the interests of the university," a university release read.
But Nebraska is a small state. According to 2000 census data, it has just 666,184 households. So Nebraska wouldn't bring in the cable revenue other schools might. What it would do is give the BTN another program with national cachet that could help get the BTN moved to expanded basic in markets outside the Big Ten footprint.
Prediction: If the Big Ten offers, Nebraska is gone.
Pac-10 Expansion Candidates
COLORADO: So far, we've only discussed Big Ten expansion. The Pac-10 also is pondering adding schools. If the conference decides to grow -- which is no slam dunk -- expect the Buffaloes to receive an invitation. If that happens to coincide with Missouri and Nebraska moving to the Big Ten, all hell could break loose in the Big 12.
Prediction: The Pac-10 seems far less bullish on expansion than the Big Ten. Plus, the recent meeting of Pac-10 and Big 12 leaders to discuss a joint television venture could create a deal that leaves the Pac-10 happy with its current membership number. But if Pac-10 leaders want to grow, they'll probably call Colorado.
UTAH: It might seem logical that Utah and rival BYU would move as a pair, but BYU, a church-run school, might not be the choice of presidents in a conference such as the Pac-10, which comprises eight state schools and two secular private schools. Utah, a large research university in a decent TV market (Salt Lake City), would be more agreeable to Pac-10 presidents.
Prediction: If the Utes get an offer that puts them in a BCS automatic-qualifying league, they'll take it.
The Wild Cards
TEXAS: Every conference would love to have the Longhorns, and if Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska leave the Big 12, Texas and its $137 million athletic budget might be a free agent. The Longhorns nearly joined the SEC 20 years ago, and if the Big Ten grows and blows up the Big 12, the SEC probably would call Texas again. For the SEC, which dominates the TV markets in the south, westward expansion would open up huge markets in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
The league would try to woo Texas with the fact that SEC schools retain control over local television rights, and it probably would mention the fact that Florida -- located in a state with six million fewer citizens -- has a local TV deal with Fox Sports that pays $10 million a year. Texas could command significantly more.
Of course, the Pac-10 probably wouldn't pass up the chance to take a shot at Texas. Since that league is entering TV contract negotiations in the next year, it probably could give Texas favorable terms. Pac-10 officials also might mention that while Texas would be only the third AAU member in the SEC, it would be the seventh in the Pac-10 (eighth if Colorado is already on board).
Prediction: Texas is the one school that could swing the balance of power in college sports. If the Longhorns moved to the SEC, it wouldn't be shocking to see Texas A&M, Oklahoma and possibly Oklahoma State move with them. Or, if Texas really wanted to flex its muscles, it could go independent. It might be the only program capable of pulling off that feat.
MARYLAND: It's surprising there hasn't been any speculation about Maryland joining the Big Ten. The state shares a border with Pennsylvania. The school is an AAU member. The program would deliver the Baltimore and Washington TV markets. There are a ton of great high school football and basketball players in Maryland, Washington and northern Virginia. For the same reasons -- except the geography, which wouldn't be too much of a stretch -- the Terps should also be attractive to the SEC. But Maryland is a founding member of the ACC, and those bonds are strong.
Prediction: Unless this is an all-time great case of sealed lips, it seems Maryland is staying off the Tilt-a-Whirl.
CLEMSON/FLORIDA STATE/GEORGIA TECH/MIAMI: I lumped these schools together because they are the ones mentioned most often for SEC expansion should Texas decide to stay put or go somewhere else. I have my doubts about this, because the SEC already dominates TV markets in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The league wouldn't expand for the sake of expanding, and presidents wouldn't approve any expansion that would take away revenue from current members. Plus, one of the league's most powerful schools (Florida) would try to block any move to add Florida State and Miami. Now, if the financial numbers worked out that any combination of these schools could add value to the league, that's a different story.
Prediction: A lot would have to happen to reach this point. If it does, the new superconferences may as well just break away from the NCAA.
Not A Candidate At All, But I'm Tired of Getting E-mails About This Scenario
ARKANSAS: A lot of readers have e-mailed and suggested Arkansas would be better off moving to the Big 12 to replace a departed school because the former Southwest Conference member is a more natural fit in that league. This is idiotic. The SEC is expected to distribute about $17 million per school for the 2009-10 school year. In the Big 12, Arkansas probably wouldn't get more than $10 million. No one, except possibly Notre Dame, would leave that kind of money on the table.
Prediction: Arkansas stays right where it is and enjoys the financial benefits of SEC membership.
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