Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hail to Don Texas!

The Big 12 will not die, and it is all thanks to the University of Texas.

The Texas athletic department announced on Monday it would turn down an invitation to join the Pac-10 and remain in the Big 12, the conference it has been a member of since the Big Eight and four schools of the defunct Southwest Conference merged in 1996. With its decision, it also encouraged Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to also turn down overtures from the Pac-10, and likely encouraged Texas A&M to also turn down a likely invite from the Southeastern Conference.

The Big 12 Texas and those other schools will remain in will be a paired down, 10-team version of its former self following Colorado's defection to the Pac-10 last Thursday and Nebraska's jump to the Big Ten on Friday, starting with the 2011-12 athletic year.

By staying, Texas and the others likely have saved the collective bacon of Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and Missouri, who all faced going down to a lesser conference like the Mountain West or Conference USA if the Big 12 dissolved.

But at what cost was this imperfect union saved?

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe worked until the 11th hour to save the conference, convincing Texas and the other schools that he could work a better television deal than what is currently in place. Most reports have had the dollar amounts ranging from $20 to $25 million for Texas and $14 to $17 million, according to the Orlando Sentinel. This is a significant jump up from the current $10 million and $7 million Texas and other schools like Iowa State are respectively pulling out of the deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports Net. Also, Texas will be allowed to create its own network, something it would not have been allowed to do in the Pac-10, which planned to create its own conference-wide network similar to what the Big Ten and the SEC have in place.

That in itself is not so bad in itself. Texas gets to keep something the better deal it currently has in place because of its stature. And not to mention, this is better than the death of the conference.

The soul-selling piece of this and what likely will help keep schools like Iowa State and Baylor at the bottom of the food chain of the newly-revised conference is ISU, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri will give up to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M their share of the conference revenue that will be withheld from Nebraska and Colorado for leaving the conference early. According to the Des Moines Register:

"Beebe didn’t provide an estimate of how much money that could be, but said that the conference intends to withhold 80 percent of the distributions scheduled to be paid to Nebraska and Colorado over the next two years under the conference bylaws.

Big 12 schools receive from $8 million to $12 million in revenue from the conference, meaning that the total amount of money offered by the five schools to the other three would range from a estimated high of $9.5 million to an estimated low of $6 million combined."

That is money that could have provided a temporary boost for a program like Iowa State, and now it will go the richer schools again.

But enough of the money aspects. What about what will actually take place on the fields and courts?

For starters, since the new Big 12 will have only 10 teams and not the 12 required by the NCAA for a conference title game in football, the deal that placed the title game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, through 2013 is history, much to the detriment of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Another is that since there are now only nine teams for a school to play, each team will play each other once every year. That means that instead of having some years where it didn't face Big 12 South opponents like Texas and Oklahoma, Iowa State will get them every year, alternating between home and away every other year. With the wide gap in recruiting, money and talent, ISU, Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas State will face remaining at the bottom of the conference barring a breakout year.

The good news for those same schools is that in men's basketball, the Big 12 or whatever it may be called is going to be awesome, quite possibly the best in the nation. Each school will play 18 conference games, a home and away with each of the other nine schools. And with the talent level in this conference, it's going to be good. Texas itself is good, of course, but Kansas won the national title as recently as two years ago. Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M are all up-and-comers. Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State usually are competitive, and even though Iowa State has been down the last couple of years, they have been a good team and have the potential to climb up again under new coach Fred Hoiberg.

How will this turn out? Will it remain this way, or will the Big 12 either face death again if Texas decides to look at other offers? Will they invite two more schools (Utah, BYU, TCU and Houston are possibilities) to make it 12 again?

It remains to be seen.

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