It’s been a crazy couple of days to say the least. We saw the SEC vote to conditionally accept Texas A&M, Baylor and a bunch of other Big 12 schools holding up the A&M move by refusing to sign some legal waivers, rumors stating the Pac-12 doesn’t really want to expand but will still add Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Texas and Notre Dame are heading to the Big Ten, and the Big East may pick up some Big 12 leftovers, and now it may be all for naught with the Big 12 possibly being saved (in part by BYU). So, by the time you read this post, it might be completely outdated with how fast the news and rumor mill has been churning. Anyway, I have few thoughts on the latest developments:
1. Can’t blame Baylor (and others) for legal stance – As a lawyer, if I was representing any institution in this scenario, whether it’s Baylor, Iowa State or Texas, there’s NFW that I’d let it sign a blanket waiver of legal rights to the SEC and if such institution wanted to proceed, I’d insist upon some type of considerable payment in return. A waiver of this nature wouldn’t be enforceable without some type of consideration from SEC, anyway.
In the case of Baylor, there might literally be no amount of consideration outside of the preservation of the Big 12 itself (as long-term AQ status trumps short-term monetary payoffs) that could justify signing that waiver. Whether Baylor actually has a case with respect to tortious interference against the SEC isn’t really relevant here. At face value, this type of case is probably a loser. The Big East attempted to sue the ACC on similar grounds back in 2003 and ultimately settled for $5 million total, which is effectively pocket change that wouldn’t even cover 50% of one year of conference TV revenue for just one Big 12 school. However, Mike Slive would know that insisting upon a waiver of legal rights would cause an allergic reaction among Big 12 members as a legal principle. I don’t think much of Dan Ponzi Beebe, but he was correct in his statement that it’s unprecedented for a raiding conference to ask for waivers of legal rights from those left behind in the raided conference. It doesn’t make sense for the SEC to do this from a practical standpoint unless they have some other motives outside of the legal realm (which we’ll get to in a moment). That being said…
2. Can’t blame Texas A&M for being volcanically pissed off – As a business man, I have a hard time seeing the value in attempting to keep around a school that clearly doesn’t want to be there. As long as Texas A&M pays all of the exit fees that it has agreed to with the Big 12 (which by all accounts it plans to do), then the Aggies should be free to go as they please. Whether Oklahoma or others might leave after the Aggies (thereby dissolving the Big 12) shouldn’t be the problem of Texas A&M or the SEC. It’s in the best interests of everyone within the Big 12 to move on as quickly as possible. Now, I believe that Aggies have some misplaced anger toward Baylor in the sense that the SEC is the entity that is requesting something that no other Big 12 school (unless it’s heading out the door for the West Coast) would reasonably sign. Which gets to the next point…
3. SEC isn’t doing this for purely legal reasons – As I’ve done several times before on this blog, I’ll point to Mr. SEC, who I believe had a spot-on commentary on the SEC’s true motives in asking for these waivers: Mike Slive wants to see if he can cause Larry Scott and the Pac-12 to act first. Personally, I doubt Slive will win this particular game of chicken since, by all accounts, the Pac-12 is only going to act if A&M moves first. Still, it doesn’t really hurt the SEC to attempt this tactic, where the conference can just wait awhile and then decide to proceed with expansion without the Big 12 waivers.
4. Big Ten looking to form the “Fuck You, Pay Me” Conference? – The famous Purple Book Cat of the WildcatReport.com resurfaced last night with the following rumor: the Big Ten is looking to add Notre Dame and Texas with a bevy of conditions, including folding the Longhorn Network into a “BTN2”. The proposed solution to the “LHN problem” actually makes some sense, although I don’t quite understand the issues that the Big Ten would have regarding ESPN supposedly pushing the UT-to-the-Pac-12 angle (as the channel actually has a much closer and wider-ranging relationship with the Big Ten compared to the Pac-12). Chip Brown of Orangebloods separately stated the following, as well:
An outside the box option would be something like a conference such as the Big Ten allowing Texas to join the league and only make money off of LHN and not share revenue from the Big Ten Network. File that one away.
Should any of us really be giving this idea any credence? Probably not. I don’t see how the Big Ten is going to provide special arrangements to Texas when Jim Delany spent a TON of capital in convincing power schools like Michigan and Ohio State to sign up for the Big Ten Network instead of forming their own individual networks.
At the same time, if there’s any truth to the notion of Notre Dame joining a conference, I have faith that it will be smoked out by the school’s alumni base long before a decision is made. They’re on a 24/7/365 Independence Watch over there, so this isn’t a matter that’s going to get agreed upon in a backroom at least as far as South Bend is concerned.
Regardless, assuming that no one knows what they’re talking about on anything regarding conference realignment (which is true), we can at least play along and put together a B1G 16 Fuck You, Pay Me Conference pod setup with, say, Syracuse and Rutgers (PURELY for discussion purposes – substitute Missouri, Pitt, Maryland, Boston College, or anyone else if it makes you feel better) in addition to UT and ND with each school having a protected cross-division rival (in parentheses):
Michigan (Ohio State)
Michigan State (Rutgers)
Notre Dame (Texas)
Ohio State (Michigan)
Penn State (Nebraska)
Rutgers (Michigan State)
Texas (Notre Dame)
Nebraska (Penn State)
If the Big Ten has an 8-game conference schedule as proposed in the Purple Book Cat scenario, that means each school would play its 3 podmates annually plus 1 cross-division rival and then rotate through the other pods each year on an NFL-style basis. From a Notre Dame perspective (who is really the one that needs to get pleased even more than Texas), this setup keeps their 3 traditional Big Ten rivals, secures an annual game with Texas, and then allows them to still schedule USC and Navy home-and-home in the non-conference schedule. That’s about as close as you can get to a national schedule for Notre Dame while preserving the maximum number of rivals within the confines of a conference. While that’s likely never going to be enough for the independent-minded Notre Dame alums (as independence is really an identity issue for that school as opposed to a financial stance), I doubt the Irish could get much better from a pure scheduling standpoint.
Anyway, this is all a hypothetical… like everything else in conference realignment.
(Image from Zap2It)