Big Ten Pac 10 Expansion and the New World Order: Part 1

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series (length TBD) regarding the Pac 10’s impending invitations to six Big 12 schools and the potential effects of this invitation on conference realignment in general.

A couple of days ago, reported that the Pac 10 is going to invite six Big 12 schools to join the conference, namely Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. Several sources including the Colorado athletic director, Texas A&M athletic department, and most importantly the Washington athletic director have confirmed this. This move has put the Big 12, as well as the rest of the FBS conferences, into a state of disarray, with a lot of rumors flying and a dearth of hard facts.

What we do know is that the Big 12 is in trouble. Most of the Big 12 schools appear to be willing to leave the conference for greener pastures and the only schools that aren’t are schools like Kansas and Iowa State who would be hard-pressed to find a home in another BCS conference. We also know that both the Big Ten and Pac 10 want Texas, as indicated by the Big Ten’s communications with Texas as shown by the communications unearthed by the Columbus Dispatch.

With little information publicly available, I can only speculate on what’s actually going on with the major players in conference realignment. However, using that information and some simple, logical assumptions about the primary motivations of the various players involved (i.e. make as much money as possible while maintaining beloved traditions and their own standards), I can paint a picture of what may be happening.

First of all, based on the email unearthed by the Dispatch, it seems clear that Texas anticipates major political difficulties in attempting to change conferences without finding Texas Tech a home (the same applies to Texas A&M too, FWIW). Based on the general opinion of their fanbases, Oklahoma and Kansas appear to have similar problems with Oklahoma State and Kansas State, respectively. From this, it seems that the likely motives of the Pac 10, namely to get Texas into the conference and get the necessary ingredients for a strong and successful television network.

The key piece of this expansion plan is clearly Texas, which would deliver a huge fanbase and a very strong athletic program. Texas fans have indicated, by a relatively narrow margin, that if they had to change conferences, they would go to the Pac 10 over the Big Ten. However, the Big Ten can offer Texas more TV revenue than the Big Ten and admission to the CIC, which would, in theory, greatly increase the amount of research money that Texas gets from the federal government and other sources. The Pac 10 almost certainly cannot match the Big Ten’s academic and financial advantages, but their actions show that they intend to counter these by offering athletic and political incentives. From an athletic standpoint, the Pac 10 is offering six Big 12 schools, including Texas’ main rivals, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, another biannual road game within easy driving distance. Meanwhile, the invitation to Texas Tech is helpful because it removes a major political obstacle in changing conferences by ensuring that Texas Tech has a home. Meanwhile, they ensure that Oklahoma, another relatively valuable team, can come to the Pac 10 by inviting Oklahoma State and round off the move by inviting Colorado to get to sixteen teams.

Also important is that this move allows for the creation of a very strong Pac 10 Network. If the teams accept the invitation, The Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma networks will be added to the Pac 10 footprint, and the network could easily spread to basic cable throughout the west. Meanwhile, the conference would also add two top tier football programs in Texas and Oklahoma, as well as a good program in Texas A&M and newly strong programs in Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The overall strength of these teams will allow for numerous compelling games on the Pac 10 Network, meaning that in addition to a very large population base, the network would be able to get a ton of ad revenue.

Part 2 will cover the potential responses by the Big Ten and the SEC to this move by the Pac 10.

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