Here’s the latest of what I know from the Big Ten side of the ledger (not the maybe Texas/maybe Pac-10 perspective that is found elsewhere):
The Big Ten is focused on Texas and Notre Dame. I don’t mean that in a “Duh, of course they want them!” way. I mean in a serious/this may happen by this weekend way. There are 3 scenarios for the Big Ten (please note that these additions are on top of Nebraska):
(1) Add Texas and Notre Dame alone – If Texas A&M goes to the SEC (and it appears that the Aggies are hot and heavy with that conference with Oklahoma possibly behind them), then the Big Ten would stop at 14. This is actually the optimal situation for the Big Ten.
(2) Add Texas, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and a team to be determined – If Texas A&M decides to join, there’s going to be a rigorous internal debate about who is school #16. Missouri, Rutgers and Syracuse, not surprisingly, are named as the most likely contenders for that last spot.
(3) Add no one else – Same debate regarding Missouri, Rutgers and Syracuse (and maybe others) applies here, where the disagreement about who else could be added may result in the Big Ten only adding Nebraska and stopping at 12.
My understanding is that Texas DOES want to join the Big Ten despite public posturing. I might have been throwing crap against the wall a few months ago about that, but I’m NOT now. Texas and the Big Ten have been dancing for a VERY long time in this process.
Also note that there are reasons why Notre Dame might be “forced” to join a conference that are different than the overall “seismic” shift that Jack Sarbrick has talked about. Namely, a Big East message board obsession has apparently come true. Read into that what you will.
That’s what I know. Here’s what I think:
Texas A&M entertaining an offer from the SEC is the best thing that could happen to the Big Ten. The way to remove the “Tech problem” politically is to expose just how much more money Texas and Texas A&M are leaving on the table by having to drag its in-state cousins to the Pac-10 (or with the addition of Colorado today, the Pac Televen). Indeed, check out the message being set forth by A&M tonight:
Former Texas A&M football coach R.C. Slocum, who now works as a special adviser to [Texas A&M President Bowen] Loftin, said football programs are carrying an increased financial burden to support other sports, so they’re drawn to potentially massive TV contracts for more revenue.
“You look at the level of funding that all programs need to have, and it’s a business decision that universities now have to make,” Slocum said.
Slocum said any decision A&M makes will be based purely on its financial impact, and not on more intangible elements, like preserving traditions and rivalries.
The Texas A&M athletic department has around $16 million in debt, so if/when it gets an invite to SEC, it’s on the record that it’s not going to take a haircut in order to be in the same conference as Texas Tech and Baylor. So, if A&M asserts that it can control its own destiny, Texas has the moral/political authority to do whatever it wants. As I’ve argued from the beginning, the Big Ten makes the most financial and academic sense for Texas and my understanding is that the powers that be in Austin (the campus as opposed to the capitol) agree. Texas wouldn’t be publicly calling for the saving of the Big XII in order to start a Longhorn Sports Network only to head to the Pac Televen, where the projected TV revenue from the proposed 16-team league doesn’t even match what the Big Ten (and for that matter, the SEC) provides to each member today. Something is amiss there and I hope some journalists put aside their personal assumptions about what “should” happen and attack that angle seriously over the next few days. Whoever does is going to end up with the scoop of the year.
In the meantime, as JB Kirby that runs the506.com (of NFL TV Distribution Maps fame) said today, this a special moment in history where the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12 all have 11 members. Enjoy it because it’s not going to last for long.
(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)
(Image from Kaboodle)