It this finally over? That is always a dangerous question to ask when it comes to conference realignment. The best way to answer that is probably with a very confident, "for now." For now could be a few hours, days, months, or years, but for now it appears that the Big 12 will stay together.
For those of you not following along, the Big 12 had just a little bit of life pumped into yesterday afternoon when Oklahoma said it would consider staying in the Big 12 if certain conditions were met. The two biggest sticking points being commissioner Dan Beebe must find his way to the nearest exit and there must be limitations put on the Longhorn Network.
Many folks raised an eyebrow at the news wondering what the possible change of heart could mean. Well, it didn't take long to find out with the Pac-12 announcing on Tuesday night that the conference couldn't be expanding at all, rather sticking with its current 12 (and new) team format.
“After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Scott said in a statement. “While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.
That was followed up with Oklahoma's president, David Boren, announcing Oklahoma had decided to stay in the Big 12.
“After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Scott said in a statement. “While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve."
Ok, so now what? Well, that's a great question. All eyes now appear to be turning back to finding a team to replace Texas A&M whose exit to the SEC while not official, is all but a done deal in nearly everyone's eyes (except maybe for Boone Pickens).
BYU is on the tip of people's tongues again as a possible expansion candidate along with a few of the Big East football schools including West Virginia, Louisville, and TCU (soon to be member of the Big East, or maybe not). Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, hasn't give up hope on Notre Dame yet, either, which still seems like a bit of a pipe dream. But then again a couple weeks ago, it appeared keeping the Big 12 together was a pipe dream, as well.
Before the Big 12 moves to expand, however, it needs to take a couple steps back and catch its breath for a minute. There's been a lot said from people both inside and outside the conference. Everybody needs to get together and start the rebuilding process slowly (the athletic directors are scheduled to meet next week in Dallas). If the league is truly sticking together, there's no rush to do anything.
Not to mention, if there is a plan in place to replace Dan Beebe, it doesn't make much sense to do anything until they've decided upon a new conference commissioner. And that could very well could take a while considering what the conference has been through. It appears Pac-12 commish, Larry Scott, wasn't willing to take on the issues the Big 12 has been dealing with and other potential candidates may very well see things the same way.
The biggest sticking point going forward is going to be the Longhorn Network, and more importantly, ESPN's role in potentially pushing their own agenda on the conference. This was the latest report from the newspaper in Austin.
Texas is committed to equal revenue sharing for all its Tier 1 and Tier 2 television rights with other Big 12 members, but Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds told a select group of reporters Wednesday afternoon that the Longhorn Network is non-negotiable and will not be compromised.
How the rest of the Big 12 schools handle this "non-negotiable" stance is going to be a huge factor in just how cohesive this group is going forward. Can the Big 12 truly be a stable conference with the Longhorn Network being part of it? The obvious answer is no, but then again, everybody has a different view on it. If they keep high school and conference games off of it, it may not be a huge deal and people can work with it. But if ESPN keeps pushing their agenda, it wouldn't be shocking to see someone do exactly what Texas A&M just did. That's not exactly the model of stability anyone is looking for.
While there's no question the league needs to expand again, they need to take their time and get it right this time. They had a chance to make changes after Nebraska and Colorado left but chose the status quo and instead focused on telling everyone how great everything was.
Things aren't great despite the league staying together. That much is obvious. But that doesn't mean they can't become great with a little work and compromise. Whether or not all of the nine remaing schools are willing to do what's necessary to get there remains to be seen, but they need to do it before they go dragging any more schools into the mess they've created. Clean up your own house first, and maybe somebody would be willing to visit and stay awhile.