So it’s been tough for the little dogs of the Big 12, and it looks to be getting harder with the departure of TA&M. Don’t slit your wrists – it isn’t as bad as it seems.
Take a breath and count your blessings.
TA&M was a UT wannabe – that’s why they left. It wasn’t about money (they were getting about as much from the Big 12 as they will from the SEC). It wasn’t about the LHN (it still exists). It wasn’t about UT demands (they favored TA&M as well). It was because they wanted to be Texas, but the state populous wasn’t going to let them. Let TA&M fight with the Mississippi’s to see who stays out of the SEC west cellar – you are better off without another Texas.
Texas wants to be with you. They really do. Sure, they are loud and can be a bully – they deserve every insult you sling their way. They are also giving up a sizable chunk of change to stay with you, gave up an offer of millions to stay, and that has to count for something. Without them you might be lumped in with the mid majors.
Oklahoma says they want to stay with you. They don’t seem to mind the Texas demands since they also help the Sooners, they are making SECish money in an easier conference, and they don’t have your anxieties as they know they could take their brand to 4 other majors.
The Buffs weren’t much of a loss and are now running their own kind. Nebraska may have hurt the prestige but in the end, your shared revenue went up after they left – it worked out well for all.
You just sold about 40 games for $90 Million a year… and those are the games after someone else chooses the best 20. You are making ACCish money, and when the next contract is renewed in a few years, you will be very close to SECish money (and about ½ will be making the same or more than the SEC).
So put the gun down and the razors back in the medicine cabinet - once you take a breath and put your anxieties aside, you can see you are in a stronger position than given credit. The ones you hate are actually helping. The adversity has made you richer and better off.
Even if they leave, you aren’t dead.
You still have that most cherished and sought after carrot – you have BCS AQ status. Let them all leave for greener pastures as you collect an exit fee to soften the landing, then invite the best of the mid majors.
Your teams know the requirements to keep BCS AQ status. They don’t have to be stellar. As long as you look more like a major than a mid major, you are still in. You just need to be a little better than the MWC, and reasonably close to the Big East. This shouldn’t be difficult since you would be taking the best the MWC has to offer.
As long as you have Texas, it’s a valid option. After all, it isn’t how much money your conference makes, it is how much money each program makes.
If you lose 1 program, offer the networks 10% off their contract for 10% fewer games. If you lose 2, offer 20% off for 20% fewer games. It is a good deal for most – programs that leave were probably pocketing more than the average because of unbalanced revenue sharing. ESPN is in the sweet part of their contract – the latter half where you are undervalued – they don’t want to break the deal. Fox might gripe if Oklahoma leaves, otherwise they really just wanted Texas and an expanded presence in major college football.
Unfortunately, Texas and OU may not buy into contraction. They are getting above the average, so contraction might cut their revenue. Texas is also hunting buddies with ESPN and might work together to hose you (outlined below). It bites, but it is still better than if they weren’t around.
Try to avoid more from Texas.
Your biggest issues can be traced to being small. You just don’t cover much of the country or very many homes. You need a larger area, not more of the same area.
ESPN Texas may force this because it would be beneficial to ESPN the LHN to have another Texas team in the league. Maybe someone in the state would actually want ESPN9 the LHN if they showed 2 home teams facing off rather than a scrimmage with a scrub. It bites, but it is still better than if they weren’t around.
If Texas and ESPN allows, you can try the Big East.
What you consider table scraps is pretty good money to them. They will be leery, so you will want to skip past that Beebe guy and just send Texas to assure them they are in the conference for the long haul.
Forget the basketball schools. Basketball isn’t going to add to your shared revenue. Peruse the revenue sheets and you will see the BCS revenue alone is worth almost as much or more to you than the entire BB post season. In most broadcast contracts, BB is almost a 2nd thought to NCAAF games, just a little something to sweeten the pie.
Don’t go further than you need. The Big East football just isn’t worth it. You will spend more on travel costs than you will keep in your broadcast contracts.
Forget Cincinnati. In Ohio, the fan base equation is:
tOSU fan base + Cincinnati fan base = tOSU fan base.
Louisville looks tempting but you need football fans in large numbers. Aside from little fan base interest in NCAAF, they are splitting less than 4.5 million people between 2 programs – that’s not much bigger than the state of Oklahoma. You can find better.
South Florida looks better. Sure, they are the 4th fan favorite in their state, but it’s a large state and a huge campus which equates to lots of alumni. I think you can get a lot of passing interest – USF isn’t a hated rival by other teams in the state, so some home state yahoos might tune in just to root for a home team.
Pitt is a good option. They are the 2nd program in a populous state with a decent (though underperforming) football team.
There are a couple of good options closer to home and you don’t have to stay in Texas to find them.
BYU brings a lot of baggage which has effectively kept them out of the majors. They have funny beliefs and some weird requirements, but they are really nice people. They don’t care as much about money – they regard their players as ambassadors. They want exposure, and boy would they love for a chance to be in a BCS game or at least a bowl someone watches.
They have their own network as well as their own broadcast contract with ESPN, but ESPN will probably be glad to move the contract to the Big 12, and your broadcast structure works well for their network.
They bring a lot to the table. They are nearby. They are 1 of 2 teams in a small state, but they have a good size following nationwide including a lot of western states without a major football program. They have a decent size athletic budget that would compare to the majors if they had the shared revenue. They have had success for a while. They might be the most major ready mid-major if you go back more than a few years… and if you don’t mind the baggage.
Air Force Academy usually isn’t a good team. I wouldn’t say they have a large dedicated following or bring a big in state audience, but they are an academy. People love to watch the academies, even when they suck, even if they cheat a little when the refs aren’t looking, because they are all servicemen who may soon be in combat, and that alone is worth pausing the channel changer for a few possessions.
Boise has had a lot of success on the field, but doesn’t bring a large fan base (I noted above you need to increase the head count). They are the closest thing the mid majors have to a brand program, but they could be forgotten with 2 consecutive bad years. If you have problems keeping your BCS AQ status, give them a call, otherwise they aren’t the answer to your main problems.
Then again, Texas and ESPN will be calling the shots, and you might get saddled with another team from Texas, so just keep reminding yourself you are better off with them than without them.