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Realignment Today: Alliance chatter between ACC, Big Ten & Pac-12 brings potentially scary times for Big 12

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is seen on the big screen in an empty Sprint Center as he talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is seen on the big screen in an empty Sprint Center as he talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The very thing that looked like it could save the Big 12 Conference a couple of weeks ago might now be the thing that winds up doing it in.

Such is life on the wrong side of the realignment lunch room.

If you’re not sitting with the popular kids today, you very much run the risk of getting overlooked when college football passes out its tastiest treats.

We’re not there yet. But a Friday report from The Athletic indicated that we might be close.

And this comes just days removed from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby meeting with new Pac-12 boss George Kliavkoff about a possible partnership between those two conferences.

Evidently, things didn’t get very far.

According to the Athletic’s recent article, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC are now conducting “high-level discussions” about some kind of alliance that would further strengthen all three entities.

The basis for the alliance, according to the report, is scheduling. Think of it as the best football programs in each conference pairing up on a semi-regular basis to provide an even more appealing product for their television partners.

Such a move would drive up the price tag on broadcasting the games, and driving up the price tag means keeping up with the SEC in this new era of college athletics.

That alone is not the death knell for the Big 12. But, according to the Athletic’s sources, that’s not all there is to the discussions either.

Another factor in these three power conferences exploring the idea of teaming up is the idea that they then would work together — and more importantly vote together — on any major college athletics issues such as College Football Playoff expansion and governing changes at the NCAA level.

According to the article, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC do not need anyone in the Big 12 for that.

“While these plans are still in the works, it appears the Big 12 will not be included in the alliance,” the article reads.

The reason is simple. Coming together in an alliance would give the aligned trio 41 votes they could count on. That’s more than twice as many as the 16 votes the powerhouse SEC will bring to the table, and, therefore, adding any more would be unnecessary.

That’s especially true if the three conferences do not believe that any of the remaining eight schools in the Big 12 bring enough value to help increase the TV contracts.

So, what does the Big 12 do now?

There are a couple of options. But none of them are particularly pretty as of today. With the way these things go, though, there’s no telling what might surface tomorrow, a week from now or a month from now.

Both The Athletic’s report and a similar report from ESPN.com indicated that nothing is imminent with the alliance. But then, what is these days?

We know OU and Texas are headed to the SEC, but even that move is not exactly imminent and could — could — take four years to play out.

That may be the Big 12’s first and best option.

Buy time, milk every penny you can out of the existing contract that still includes the Sooners and Longhorns and see how much (or if) things change in your favor during that time.

It’s not likely, but at least the financial hit would be delayed and you’d have time to get creative with your next move.

The other option is to expand quickly — with the best American Athletic Conference schools (Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida) and potentially others like BYU — and fight like mad to maintain Power 5 status.

The TV deal will decrease significantly, and you’ll sit a distant fifth behind those other power conferences in terms of television revenue. But, if it works, you’ll still get those Autonomy 5 advantages (so long as the NCAA still exists) and will avoid becoming extinct.

If it doesn’t, we could be looking at the reverse scenario playing out, with the AAC scooping up the Big 12’s leftovers and expanding its reach.

Either way this goes, it appears as if several schools in both of those conferences could get left out of the picture.

It’s hard to envision that being Kansas, but all of this alliance talk makes it a much more real possibility than it was even just a few days ago.

So, what do you do if you’re Kansas? Easy. Sell, and sell hard, the best of what you have to offer.

Whether that’s basketball, Bill Self, the money you have spent on football (and the promise of spending more), Lance Leipold or your AAU status and academic high points, it’s time for the full-court press.

Even that might not be enough in the end, but, at least at this point, sitting around hoping that things work out for the Big 12 seems like a much riskier path.

Comments

Jeff Coffman

My prediction eventually:

Big Ten expands to include KU and BYU.

ACC expands to add Notre Dame and West Virginia.

PAC 12 expands to include Baylor, TCU, TTU, and OSU.

K-State and Iowa State are left out.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Matt Tait

"Eventually" is a good word for this post. It's going to be very interesting to watch it all play out... Until it gets downright dreadful, that is.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Matt Gauntt

BYU isn't an AAU School. Won't see them going to the Big Ten

1 year, 3 months ago

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Vern Sheldon-Witter

Maybe Colorado?

1 year, 3 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Sounds like a KU wish list. You forgot the unicorn's, Tinker Bell and a wand. Back in the real world none of this is ever going to happen.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Dale Rogers

A side question - what is the criteria to define a conference as a Power Five conference? Or a Power conference?

1 year, 3 months ago

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Matt Tait

Good question. The Autonomy Five, which I think is what does it, was established in 2014 and it was a rule change that gave the big five conferences a little more room to govern themselves. They can have different rules from one another and are allowed more freedom in the eyes of the NCAA than they were prior to 2014.

It's obviously a lot about money, but, in a related sense, TV has always had a lot to do with the Power 5 designation, as well.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Spencer Goff

My guess is they are not including the Big 12 because they know they will be able to pull who they want out of it.

And let’s be real, everyone not in on this SEC and OU/UT debacle wants to see OU and UT pony up. Once that’s done, then the Big 12 breakup occurs. I honestly think each school and conference already knows who goes where. But everyone wants to see the “specials” pay up so they all agreed to wait it out.

I also take nothing from official reactions after meetings, these people did not get where they are by wearing their cards on their faces.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Karen Mansfield-Stewart

I hate to see the Big 12 die, but it seems almost inevitable now. Adding the top AAC &/or Mountain West conference teams would be great from a fan perspective, but a big step down from Power 5 (four now) conference money for the athletic departments.

That would be assuming you could pry them away. IF KU, ISU, SMU or Baylor find a landing in a Power 4 conference soon, they're out and the Big 12 is finished. I think the timing of how this plays out will be key. If the Big 12 remains intact for four years, there's a chance they can expand by four teams and even if one of the top remaining schools departs, it could survive as a distant fifth power conference. Just pick up the right teams in the right markets.

If KU or another school announces a departure in the next 12 months, the Big 12 is no more.

As a fan, I'd love to see KU in the Big 10 - just don't know if that's going to happen - or an expanded Big 12. From an athletic department perspective, I suppose the ACC or Pac 12 is a #2 option.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Sounds like a more imminent demise for the ncaa than anything else. Not sure how it could survive with that kind of infighting.

When the duo leave, KU would be the next strongest Big12 school (budget) in spite of the football program being beyond the bottom of the barrel for the past decade. At this point it doesn’t sound like strength or weakness of a program is part of the discussion.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Steve Hillyer

I’m not surprised, I responded a couple of weeks ago the PAC 12 was just being polite in talking to Bowlsby, if they are going to merge or become aligned with a Midwest conference it’s going to be the Big 10. For KU’s sake Girod better be up to the task, this is a lifetime defining moment for the university and the fact that he has been in California riding a Harley while this is going on doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in him, reminds me of when Gray-Little was in Europe and Lew Perkins was testifying in a trial in Topeka when the Big 12 was about to blow up the first time, no one of any authority from KU was at the those meetings, great representation 🙄

1 year, 3 months ago

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Brett McCabe

Another option is to make lemonade. Dirk is right in pointing out the pending demise of the NCAA. What if you take the MW, AAC and Big 12 and combine them? As suggested by Austin in a previous post, partner with a streaming service. Then do some interesting things that the P5 won’t do

Such as, create your own national champions in each sport, run your own March Madness but include everyone and…..make it double elimination, make your football NC a 16 team tournament, change some rules in both football and basketball to make the games even more fun and exciting. Add mini-tournaments to the middle of the bball season, make a deal with Vegas to become your championship site, etc., etc.

In other words, create your own thing and make it more exciting. Let the P5 turn into the laggards. Make them look like the stuffed suits and make your league the one, to steal an idea from Matt, where the cool kids want to go.

You could change up recruiting, how seasons are run, everything. Then plow forward. Go on offense and quit sitting around wishing you were at the cool kid table.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Joey Meyer

I like this. Maybe try and combine a few conferences into a relegation format? Would surely make the middle-to-bottom of an American/Big 12/Mountain West conference a whole lot more exciting...

1 year, 3 months ago

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Thomas Harrison

I still believe that KU should
Move forward now to sell
Us to the Big Ten! It would be a good
fit in a very secure conference!
Big 12 is dead and we need to insure
Our future instead of looking backward
At gone Big 12!

1 year, 3 months ago

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Rodney Crain

The meeting they had was to work together to position themselves against the SEC. The Leftovers, the weak, crippled and defenseless B8, has very few options and little to offer. Whatever happens next to all of us will not be of our own chosing.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings - Shakepeare. We will be fortunate to join another conference. Fortunate.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Spencer Goff

So when an attempted Super League was proposed and almost a “real thing,” the Europeans rioted and it stayed as it should be.

Americans? Nah, because as long as you appease some of us, those that are appeased won’t stand up and say “this is not right.”

In the end, they will get the product they deserve; a soulless non-regional collection of teams trying to emulate professional leagues built for people that their only interest is spreads, over/unders and parlays. I hope they do this, and in twenty years college sports has the following of professional boxing.

These televisions think they can tell me what to care about and where to spend. On behalf of the heartland of America, they can kiss my a$$.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Rodney Crain

College Conference realignment is not the same as the Super League. A fair comparison would be the top 8 teams in the NFL, decide on their "own" to form a special tournament outside of the NFL. Still play in the NFL, and play in the Super Bowl, after which they would play in their own invite only tournament, and not share any revenue. The EU Football (soccer) leagues already have a champions League tournament in place. Why do they need another one? No team in the Premier League switches from England to France to play in a different countries league. Texas and OK still play in D1 and the CFP has not changed, yet. The SEC has stacked the deck, with ESPN's help, no doubt about that. It does not bode well, that is true too. The only schools that are really upset, are the 8 leftovers. The B10, P10 and ACC schools are fine. They are now planning together on how to react.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Vern Sheldon-Witter

I am afraid it is BIG10 or bust for us. We would not make a good fit anywhere else, including a revamped Big12.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Karen Mansfield-Stewart

I think everyone is hoping for an invitation for the Big10. I'm not sure why a revamped Big12 isn't a good fit however. The old Big 8 was fun - until it let UT in.
The loss is the old rivalries (Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri & OU). Big losses for sure.
But, I'd rather see KU in a weaker Big12, keep its current members, expand East (Memphis/Houston/Cinci/UCF) than go to the AAC or Mountain West - if it comes to that.
KU Basketball can maintain relevance in a revamped Big12 and hopefully KU Football can get back on its feet.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Brad Barker

Merging with AAC or Mountain West or trying to replace old B12 members with the likes of Memphis and UCF means huge, catastrophic loss in revenue. TV revenue will plummet. To the point where KU would need to cut programs. And I believe we would also struggle financially to replace our BB and FB coaches when that inevitably happens.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Spencer Goff

Rodney, here goes the rant and I hope you agree; the point of the comparison was to draw attention to a fanbases not the leagues. Theirs reacted swiftly and poorly towards changes strictly made for greed across the board, whereas Americans instead decry that they hate what’s happening yet continue to throw money and support at it. Thus, let the people have cake.

Reaction to this among fanbases has ranged from pity to rampant pomposity as though somehow Alabama and Oklahoma football makes their institutions leaders in the educational forefront. Right now fanbases for Washington State, Oregon State and North Carolina State look down upon “lowly” Iowa State. And why? Because they have had any better success? Are better universities? Or bring anymore to the table? In reality, they are none of those things.

Most of these “super conferences” are filled with crap athletic departments that are no more successful than Kansas State, Baylor or Oklahoma State. The difference? ESPN tells the sheep Utah brings more eyeballs and the bell cows of those conferences stayed home. The only thing most of these leftovers ever did wrong was invite Texas.

I hope this crushes college athletics into intramural obscurity and universities are forced to be evaluated upon educational worth as opposed to 3rd down conversions or the opinion of Paul Finebaum. Let them choke on their cake, I am done with them.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Robert Brock

Trust the opinions of Paul Finebaum just as you trust the opinions of Louis Gohmert.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

Matt, I seem to be the only one who is looking at this whole thing in utter disgust. Money is killing college sports, we are literally watching it die. There's a solid reason for not allowing money to narrow the field at the top and letting other schools fall by the wayside, and I'd say the same thing if KU had the leverage due to our basketball strength.

College athletics lives & dies by competition...it's not like the free market where you are OK w/a few competitors, college sports needs many, and that is a by definition requirement for this level of athletics.

The utter selfishness of UT & OU to cause this kind of dramatic change in the landscape, break apart rivalries (of course we know this all started nearly 30 years ago) is bad for the sport. Schools have to travel across half the country several times a year now when conferences used to be nice little regions of space.

The only possible hope I see is if by some triple miracle hail-mary, hook & ladder, full-court shot is that LL turns KU into a CFP contender in 4 years, and maybe another school in the conference also.

I would just love to play Texas and beat them 70-0. I know it's not gonna happen, but boy would it make me feel better.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Spencer Goff

You are absolutely not the only person disgusted by this.

College athletics are built on local allure mixed with the occasional national featured game, and they are killing that, trying to emulate a professional league. It will not shock me if in five to seven years we are reading articles where "ESPN is losing money on the SEC and ACC networks" but the damage is already done.

I will wait around to see the train wreck, but they won't get a dime from me, ever.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Robert Lofthouse

What if the B1G, PAC-12, ACC deal plays out?

The SEC is unlikely to sit idly by. They could absorb the BIG12 and bring in Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, reach into the Mountain West, etc., to counter the competition and build its own 4-time zone, 42+ member conference.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Ervin O'Neal

The SEC is expected to earn around $1.2 billion ($75 million per school) per year in TV right. Adding the 26+ schools that you mention to the mix wouldn't increase the total TV contract nearly enough. The Big 12 schools were going to make around $40 million each prior to OU and UT leaving. It has been reported that without OU and UT, the expected TV revenue would drop to half of that. So, if the remaining Big 12 schools are worth $20 million each on average and all of the other schools are worth less than that, you would only be adding a total of $500 million to the TV rights per year. The current 16 schools splitting $1.2 billion wouldn't be interested in splitting $1.7 billion 42 ways. They could obviously be brought in with less than an equal share. But that sounds like a nightmare keeping everyone happy. But on the other side, if KU was offered $45 million a year to join the SEC while the original 16 schools got $75 million, it would be better than most of the other options.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Robert Lofthouse

What's a billion here, a billion there when you're talking about control of the industry? Doubtful the SEC would let their grip loose, and take a secondary role to the B1G+PAC12+ACC cabal, so they might get creative with it. :)

1 year, 3 months ago

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Ervin O'Neal

Start building a new football stadium right now!!!! Draw up plans to demolish Memorial stadium and build a new one in the same spot. Show conferences like the B1G that KU is committed to improving the football program as well as the experience for all fans at home games. Time is of the essence before decisions are made by the other conferences that leave us out in the cold wishing we could still attract good basketball and football recruits and keep our coaches. Our current leaders know how building an NFL like stadium in Fayetteville helped Arkansas stay competitive in the SEC. Ours doesn't have to be 76k seats like UA. It doesn't even have to have significantly more seats than it currently holds. Just make balconies to get fans closer to the action as well as providing space for luxury boxes. And build it in a manner that allows for future expansion if needed. But by all means, keep the south end open to the view of the campus.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Patrick Bryant

What about getting everyone but the SEC teams to succeed from the NCAA and create their own governing body and leave the SEC so they can have their own 16 team pod to govern themselves with very limited competition available to them. Think the networks will still be clamoring for the SEC?

1 year, 3 months ago

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Bj Cassady

Time to be aggressive. Get Cincy, Memphis, Houston, SMU, BYU and Boise St. Get Colorado St, Air Force, Army, Navy. Try and get Fresno St, New Mexico and New Mexico St, Wyoming, Tulane. There are a lot of TV sets there, you would own Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming, 1/2 of Colorado, get a footprint in California in SEC territory, get some teams to compete with W Virginia, get some teams that have national following (Navy, Army, Air Force, BYU). U Conn and U Mass would probably join up.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Kenneth Johnson

The first thing the Big 12 should do is fire Bowlsby. He's been asleep at the wheel for years, and is the main reason why TU/OU left.

1 year, 3 months ago

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Robert Brock

The best thing about the SEC is that students don’t have to go to class during football season. Rubes gotta rube...

1 year, 3 months ago

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