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UWDP Roundtable: Conference Realignment

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Your UWDP crew exchange thoughts about the rapidly shifting landscape of college football

NCAA Football - Washington vs Oklahoma - September 9, 2006 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

With it looking like all but a done deal that Texas and Oklahoma will be abandoning the Big 12 for the SEC, what moves (or non-moves) would we like to see the Pac-12 take? Are there any left behind Big 12 schools that you would like to see absorbed into the Pac? Any currently Group of 5 schools?

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Max Vrooman- The important caveat that has to be put over all of this is that revenue drives the day. Any school the conference adds has to be viewed as bringing in more money than they would cost every other school. Currently any Pac-12 program that brings in more than 1/12th of the total revenue is paying its own way. Any school below that is dragging the rest down. Every potential addition needs to be perceived to reliably bring in at least what is 1/12th of the current pot to make up for the other schools’ shares declining. And considering that geographically it would add to the travel budgets of every program they need to do more than just keep things even.

Jeff Gorman- I’ve been seeing some ideas on Twitter about merging with the B1G. If we want to compete with the SEC, that’s the move.

Max- And we immediately swerve

Jeff- I don’t think taking the Big 12 leftovers does anything for us. The Pac also cared a lot about cultural and academic alignment which is stronger in the B1G

Max- If you do a straight merger that means 26 teams. That logistically seems impossible. I could see the B1G finding a way to cut out some of their newer additions to replace them with Pac-12 schools but are both conferences going to break apart to try to form a super league that leaves behind the have-nots? Clearly Texas and Oklahoma were willing to do it but I don’t see Washington and Oregon leaving behind WSU and OSU to join a super conference.

With the one exception of if USC unilaterally decides to leave similar to what Texas and Oklahoma are doing at which point it becomes every school for themselves.

I agree with you about the Big 12 schools but still worth looking at. From an on-field/on-court quality standpoint the only school that really makes sense across the board is Baylor. But literally everything else about Baylor screams not good enough for the Pac-12 so can’t see that happening. Kansas has the supreme men’s basketball tradition but literally the worst power conference football program in the country. Oklahoma State is probably the next most well-rounded from the quality of their athletics programs but do we need another orange and black OSU? Box already checked. TCU and Texas Tech give exposure into Texas but TCU’s religious ties wouldn’t work and Texas Tech is about as meh as it gets. Kansas State and Iowa State both occasionally rise up to have good seasons but can’t be trusted to be bellwethers.

And I forgot West Virginia because it already feels ridiculous that they’re in the Big 12 and having them join the Pac-12 would be pretty much absurdist satire (although they’re generally competent in both football and MBB and I root for them because my grandpa grew up there)

So let’s throw out what makes sense. Are there any programs you would legitimately enjoy to see in the conference even you know it won’t/shouldn’t actually happen?

Gabey Lucas- West Virginia or bust

Max- In our fantasyland scenario where we’re not worried about finances I’m adding West Virginia, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, and Boise State. BSU/WVU/OSU all have consistently solid to excellent football programs at schools I don’t completely hate. San Diego State would be a consistent men’s basketball stalwart and once every 4 years or so road trips to San Diego in November? Yes please.

Kirk DeGrasse- Unfortunately I don’t see a good outcome here for the Pac-12. I don’t think programs like Oklahoma State, Boise State and San Diego State would be net positives in terms of media rights money, nor any of the other Big-12 leftovers outside of maybe TCU, and they’re a non-starter for reasons Max pointed out. Texas and Oklahoma were the prizes from the Big-12 and it’s a massive flex by the SEC to grab them. The question now is how does the B1G respond? From a school culture standpoint the Pac-12 schools are a great fit, but from a geographic standpoint, not so much. Not to mention the likelihood that the B1G probably isn’t looking to add more than 2 to 4 programs, so then you’re talking blowing up the Pac-12 and then all the subsequent political fallout of state schools getting split up, etc.

If the B1G were to look west to expand the obvious programs from a fiscal standpoint are the two L.A. schools, but that obviously also means a real pain in the butt for travel. Assuming that the money would overcome that significant problem, the best-case scenario then would be Washington lobbying to also get included, probably with (yuck) Oregon.

Jeff- Yeah I don’t think a 26 team conference is realistic. But I think if the PAC is gonna make moves do it with the B1G. Makes the most sense from all angles IMO.

Basically what Kirk just said.

Kirk- But I wonder if the B1G’s play wouldn’t instead be to try to raid the ACC. North Carolina checks a lot of boxes for them, and Virginia could too.

Andrew Berg- Let’s just join the SEC. Husky Stadium is at least on the southeastern part of the UW campus.

Jeff- But yeah there’s a chance this ultimately hurts the Pac-12. Let’s see what Kliavkoff is made of.

Kirk- There’s zero chance this doesn’t significantly harm the conference, if not end up destroying it.

Andrew- Plus, we’re closer to a bunch of SEC schools than we are too West Virginia and/or Rutgers. My dream scenario is that the SEC absorbs the entire P5 and divides it into divisions that are basically the conferences circa 1990

Kirk- Jen Cohen needs to be working the phones with Mike Bohn and Martin Jarmond and do her best to make sure that whatever the L.A. schools do, Washington gets included.

And unfortunately that also will need to include Oregon.

The bigger question I have about all of this is whether this really does benefit the SEC, Texas and Oklahoma? Yes, they will increase their revenue, and I suppose that’s the end of the discussion. But from a competition standpoint, the SEC is getting so big that it’s really now a confederation of two smaller conferences. And for Texas & Oklahoma, I wonder if their path to consistent CFP appearances isn’t better by sticking it out in the Big-12.

Andrew- Yes, that’s the bare minimum necessity. There’s still value in this conference, especially the LA, Bay Area, and PNW markets, however that shakes out.

Kirk- But my fear here is that the decline of west coast CFB is now going to manifest in the Pac-12 blowing up or much more definitively being relegated to 2nd tier status with the SEC and B1G ruling the sport.

You can bet that Bohn is crunching the numbers right now trying to figure out if USC would be better off as an independent.

Aarron Sieverkropp- I think SC is gonna look to leave by itself- personally I am a fan of joining the B10- but in al l reality we probably will be forced to look at adding Schools like Boise maybe UNLV and maybe a Texas school.

Baylor with their recent scandal may be too hot for the Pac 12 to touch- this is where the commish of the Pac 12 makes their money by keeping everyone in the boat and pushing forward- would it make sense to add Notre Dame and give them a ton of $$$- since they play 2 Pac schools already every year.

Kirk- I don’t think the financials work for Notre Dame joining up with the Pac-12. They’re already tied to the ACC in every sport but football (and I believe they play a semi-ACC schedule there too) so there’d be some entanglements they’d have to get out of. But the bigger issue is would joining this conference improve their revenue? I have serious doubts about that.

That would be the major power-play by the B1G, to see if they could finally get Notre Dame in the boat. And from a financial standpoint, that might be too much for Notre Dame to resist.

Aaron- Honestly the pac 12 should make every effort that they can to pick up a school like Notre Dame and not settle unfortunately Larry didn’t leave much in the tank for us to use.

I would love to add maybe Nebraska though and another Midwest B1G school along with a Texas school.

Kirk- Oh, for sure they should kick the tires on that. All I’m saying is the conference doesn’t offer nearly as much allure financially as other options for Notre Dame. I’m not sure that joining the Pac-12 wouldn’t decrease their revenue.

Bigger picture, does this round of realignment spell the end of old standards and assumptions within the Pac-12? For ever and ever, the conference presidents held on to an ideal of being the west coast version of the Big Ten, an association of very high academic research, non-secular institutions.

Would the school presidents be willing to bring in a school like TCU? Would they hold their nose and invite a Baylor? From a financial standpoint those are maybe the only Big-12 schools that make sense.

Aaron- Yes, short answer.

They have to in order for the conference to survive. I’ve heard Nebraska would like out of the B1G- would they jump to the Pac-12? Would the Pac-12 be in a better spot with Nebraska and a Texas school or the remaining Big 12 schools? That’s the biggest question- those schools will have to make their own conference or join someone like the ACC.

Kirk- It all comes down to money. Nebraska might like being in the Pac-12 better, but would they be OK with the reduction in media rights money?

Aaron- What I really think this does is also push for the tv contracts to be re-done earlier than their expiration date.

Kirk- The frame through which we have to view this is the upcoming media rights negotiations. Which schools would be a net plus to the per-school money distribution?

Aaron- They basically have to be done earlier.

Kirk- And I suppose we also have to ponder whether the Pac-12 will ditch the equitable distribution of money model they use currently. You can bet USC in particular isn’t real happy that Oregon State gets as much money as they do from the media rights deal.

Aaron- I would assume it’s all on the table now.

The likely schools that would push for that would be UW, Oregon and SC. I would bet they have the largest media footprint for viewers.

Kirk- Yes. But the flipside here is, if schools like WSU, Oregon State and Arizona get a smaller slice of the pie commensurate with their media footprint, how much does that exacerbate their ability to compete at this level and make them (even more than they currently are) perpetual doormats, and if so, what is the value that they add to being in the conference? Is it worth having the old rivalries and (effectively) built-in “easy” games?

The other thing Kliavkoff needs to do is reach out to Oklahoma and figure out if there’s any way to change their minds and entice them into the Pac-12 instead.

Which almost certainly would mean ditching equal revenue distribution in the conference.

What he can sell them is a competitive edge. There’s no way the Sooners are winning their conference 2/3 of the time in the SEC like they currently do. They would be much more likely to continue their level of on-field success in the Pac-12.

Aaron- I’m actually worried most that the Pac-12 presidents won’t respond quickly and we will be left behind. They let Larry last too long and also already missed on Texas and Oklahoma once.

Kirk- They might. That’s where Kliavkoff needs to earn his salary. I suspect he’s savvy enough to know what’s going on and how critical it is to move fast.

Andrew- I’m going to dream up a 16-team conference of semi-plausible teams. What would you think of this: UW, Oregon, Stanford, Cal, USC, UCLA, Arizona St, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma St, West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech.

Kirk- West Virginia would be such a massive pain in the butt in terms of travel. Think about all the non-revenue sport teams.

Andrew- In retrospect, I don’t think we were going to get Texas and Oklahoma. Texas used the Pac as leverage to force the B12 to let them sell their own TV rights. Once the B12 caved on that, there was no reason for them to come to the Pac.

Kirk- Yeah, we can fault Larry Scott for a lot of things, but not getting Texas & Oklahoma back in the day was always a massive longshot. Texas would have been a huge, huge pain in the ass for the rest of the conference.

In a way, I’m glad to see them go to the SEC. Go ahead, make a little bit more money than you already do and watch your football program become even less competitive. Have fun with that.

Andrew- The critique of that situation that I find valid is not identifying earlier on that we were Texas’s bargaining chip and refusing to be the patsy.

A non-reactive step for the Pac to take would be to use this moment to abandon amateurism. The athletic departments could essentially break away from the universities themselves. Rearranging conferences is just going to leave us slightly less far behind than the B1G and SEC. What can we do to differentiate from them or even leapfrog them in some areas? Just go to the next logical destination before they get there. The biggest obstacle in the past would’ve been alienating the NCAA, but that has never mattered less as their power wanes.

I mean, it’s a little crazy, but isn’t it the only thing we’ve discussed that isn’t essentially reactively playing catch-up? Wouldn’t that be the only option listed that would make the SEC ADs raise their eyebrows instead of chortling condescendingly? You know how much I hate those condescending confederate chortles

Max-