Expansion Notes: 6/6/10

For the next few weeks, I will be posting on conference expansion/realignment news as quickly as I can process it. I will not be writing posts in series on this topic, as I have in the past, for a while as it would be impractical.

At this point, making sense of conference realignment is highly difficult. It seems clear that the Pac 10, Big Ten, and Big 12 are about to make some major decisions. Forces that previously operated outside the public eye, most notably the Pac 10 office and Texas state politicians, are now in the open, while others are still working behind the scenes. As such, very little about the situation is clear.

To begin with, we do know the following:

Also worth looking at are the opinions of the various fanbases with regards to what they think their school with regards to conference realignment:
  • Texas A&M fans believe that their school would rather go to the SEC than the Big Ten. This has been echoed elsewhere.
  • Missouri and Nebraska fans believe that their respective schools want to go to the Big Ten.
  • Texas fans believe that Texas wants the Big 12 to remain intact, as has been echoed by their athletic director. However, they are split over whether Texas would prefer going to the Big Ten or Pac 10 if given the choice.
  • Kansas fans believe that the Kansas state legislature has hitched Kansas State to Kansas with regards to conference affiliation. They do not know if this will still be the case if the Big 12 collapses.
And of course, there are a large number of unknown factors in this situation. The immediately pertinent among these are:
  • Whether the Big Ten intends to invite Nebraska and/or Missouri.
  • What the nature of the deadline imposed on Nebraska and Missouri actually is. If the other ten Big 12 schools all prefer to keep the conference intact, then they are likely trying to force Nebraska and Missouri to make a decision quickly in the hopes that they will not be able to negotiate a deal with the Big Ten before the deadline. If the schools believe that there's a fair chance they would not be invited, then they would be more likely to stay with the Big 12. On the other hand, it could be a threat made by Texas alone to Nebraska backed up by the threat of leaving the conference if they don't make a decision on their timetable.
  • How much power does the Baylor bloc in the Texas state legislature actually have. On the one hand 15 legislators in a House of 150 isn't necessarily a gamebreaker at first glance, but if they are either in a disproportionately powerful position with respect to realignment or if the legislature as a whole is buckling on the issue, then they can become a major force.
  • Have all of the Pac 10 schools signed onto the plan to invite the six Big 12 schools.
Now, there is not a whole lot that can be immediately inferred from the available information. One thing that is clear though, is that Baylor will almost certainly not be invited to the Pac 10, regardless of what the Texas legislature wants. First of all, Baylor is a highly religious, right-wing institution that Pac 10 schools like Stanford and Cal-Berkeley would not be comfortable with. Second of all, the Pac 10 commissioner appears to have ruled out inviting BYU in favor of Utah, despite the fact that BYU has a much larger fanbase and a longer and stronger athletic tradition. The likely reason for this is BYU's religious affiliation. Finally, even without the religion issues, substituting Baylor for Colorado dramatically reduces the potential profit the Pac 10 could make from expansion. The reason for this is that the expansion plan with Colorado would increase the number of television viewers per school in the Pac 10. Substituting Baylor for Colorado would cause this number to decrease. This is important because viewers per school is one of the most important metrics to consider when forming a conference network (the other is ad revenue).

Finally, if I had to guess, I would say that the Big Ten intends to invite Nebraska into the conference, but not Missouri. In my opinion, Nebraska is a good candidate by any metric, whereas Missouri is not. Furthermore, taking Nebraska would destroy the Big 12 (this thought has been echoed by the Texas athletic director), allowing the Big Ten to try to get better targets in the Big 12 (such as Texas) before settling for Missouri if necessary. In the meantime, guessing beyond this is relatively pointless, considering that things are now happening very quickly and anything true today could change tomorrow.

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