Berry Tramel

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Emails in on Big 12 realignment

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 3:17 pm •  Published: February 27, 2010

The new emails are in, and lots of talk about conference realignment, college hoops and the draft.

Bill wrote about the future of the Big 12: “I’m a Cowboy and here are my admittedly ignorant opinions on conference re-alignment possibilities. If the Pac-10 takes Utah, they will take BYU as well. BYU is a much larger school than Utah and they command attention in Utah like OU does in Oklahoma. Can you imagine the OU alumni and fans if OSU wanted to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten and leave OU behind? This would be similar. BYU is the OU of Utah. The Utah legislature won’t allow Utah to leave without having BYU attached to the deal. Besides, would you really prefer Colorado to BYU? The same thing applies to Texas and its schools. The four Texas institutions in the Big 12 taken as a whole benefit from being together in one conference. Even if UT, with or without A&M, were to gain from joining the Big Ten or Pac-10, the others would suffer greatly. As a legislator in Texas, if the aggregate benefit of the four together is more than the aggregate benefit of UT leaving for another conference, you would force them to stay together.”

No way will the Pac-10 take BYU, under any circumstances. The Pac-10 is run by a bunch of elitists. And those elitists want no part of a fundamentalist university like BYU. You might be right that Utah politicians wouldn’t let Utah leave without BYU having a place to go, but that place to go could be the Big 12, which wouldn’t mind BYU’s politics. As far as Texas, that’s an interesting point. There was a time when Baylor and Tech had to be considered by UT. No way could Texas leave without A&M, but I’m not sure if Texas AND the Aggies now could leave without Baylor and Tech. The political leadership has changed from the ’90s. Enough to screw Baylor and Tech? I don’t know.

Clay: “I agree the Big 12 would lose Texas in a heart beat if they change the revenue stream. Previously it was said that our TV contracts haven’t been real good, but it should change when they are renewed in a couple of years. It would seem your argument for better scheduling in football nonconference games would allow for a bigger payday for the conference. Last year there were weekends with no attractive games for the networks.”

You’re exactly right. And by the way, Texas might be turning around a little, playing a little better schedule. The Longhorns have UCLA this season, UCLA and BYU in 2011, and Ole Miss in 2012.

Kevin, a Nebraska fan: “Just something I wanted to ask you about Texas being the engine that runs the B12. I wanted to point out one thing that I completely disagree with you on. Our TV market. In the 2009 Gator Bowl, NU/Clemson produced a 4.1 rating, or a 58% increase from the previous year’s game. And in the 2009 Holiday Bowl, the game had a 3.7 rating with 4.2 million viewers and I could argue a majority was Nebraska, since Arizona doesn’t have much of a following for football, as compared to 2007 when UT played ASU and drew 4.2 million viewers as well. It should also be noted, since maybe you don’t know, that NU is the No. 4 most profitable football team in college football (according to Forbes) behind UT, Notre Dame and Penn State with a $49 million dollar profit in 2009. So while I am not in any way saying UT is not a big driving force, NU is right there with them. I mean, a large amount of our fan-base DOESN’T stay in the state of Nebraska. We’ve become spread out across the entire U.S. Anything to assist in the debate AGAINST the TV ratings thing. I really just can’t see our ratings being THAT bad when we have such a large fan base.”

Then you need to get your eyes checked. Fan base and television market are not anything close to the same. Need a bowl team? Need a sold-out stadium? Nebraska’s your man. Need a TV market that will boost your network contracts by tens of millions of dollars? You won’t find it in middle America, other than Texas. This is the way the world works. TV sets are like the Chinese army; they overwhelm you with numbers. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois. Those are huge states, and the Big East is looking to add even more, like New Jersey or New York. Not Nebraska. Nebraska offers the TV markets of Omaha and Lincoln. Texas offers the TV markets of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin. And draws the same kind of national crowd that Nebraska would draw. The Big 12′s network contracts would be cut severely without Texas. They would not be significantly impacted without Nebraska.

Larry, a Texas Tech fan: “Feudalism worked well for a long time, for the guys in the big houses. I have always considered the Big 12 to be an oligarchy run by and for the benefit of three schools. Any pecuniary benefits accruing to the other nine of us are just whore’s pay. If ever the Mountain West were to be admitted to the BCS party, I’d vote for my school joining without a backward glance (assuming the Texas Legislature, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the UT Law School Alumni Association, would allow it). Does DeLoss Dodds realize that he is not going to be able to bring the Austin Mafia with him if they go to the Big 10?”

Yes, I think Dodds realizes it.

Toby: “I enjoyed your articles on the Big 12. I am native Okie living in SEC country. Regarding your list of possible schools to join the conference, I think BYU may have a broader appeal than just TV sets in Utah, because of the presence of Mormons throughout the western U.S. and California. Also, I recently read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune that said there is a strong sense in Provo that the liberal Pac-10 schools would oppose BYU because of the ultra-conservative politics of the LDS. I have always thought Arkansas was a better fit for the Big 12 than the SEC (and their recruiting has never been the same since they no longer play games in Texas like they used to), but I know it is highly unlikely they would leave the SEC. So, if CU makes the unwise move of bolting for the Pac-10, my vote is to add BYU.”

I agree completely. Heck, I’d probably vote BYU over Iowa State right now.

Bruce: “With the news of UT seeking greener pastures, I see a decent chance OU gets screwed, especially considering that OSU is likely going to be a millstone hanging from OU’s neck. The Big 12 in its current form is only going to last at most 10 years but more likely no more than five. There are already too many schools in it resentful of the power that UT wields and the big ado that has arisen in the past two weeks only enhances it. Even though fans of every other school hate it, if they are honest with themselves they know that losing UT destroys the conference in terms of national image. The two killers for OU are if UT goes to the Big Ten and that is the sole addition. I have doubts that UT would be able to leave A&M in that kind of bind, since the Texas legislator is controlled by former Aggies. The worst scenario is UT and A&M leave for the Pac-10 and the Big Ten snares NU or MU. Under the first scenario you can go on with Utah, TCU or New Mexico and move on after taking a pretty damaging hit and an especially bad one for OU because UT would be more likely to drop OU than A&M as a nonconference game. Under the second scenario, there is nothing outside of the 20 million or so people in its footprint that anyone cares about watching on TV. OU would still have a national name but they aren’t playing anyone in conference games that the nation is going to really care about seeing. They basically become the Big East 1500 miles west. No way OU stays nationally relevant for very long in football and it happens even faster if UT decides to end the OU series. The best that OU can hope for with that is that the SEC sees value in adding them and three other schools (Mizzou, Miami, FSU, Georgia Tech, OSU or Clemson) to make a 16-team conference, however unlikely that may be. Short of that pipe dream, the best for the remaining Big 12 is for it to become a nine-team Big East Western division and plays the Big East Eastern division in a title game but not in any interdivisional games. I won’t even attempt to think about how that basketball tourney would work. For OU, the best scenario outside of complete madness if UT leaves is that the Big Ten or Pac-10 decides to go beyond 12 schools. If we start under that pretense that save Utah or BYU no non-BCS team is going to get a call. Why would the Pac-10 whore itself out to Boise with their 35k stadium and 10 years of I-A tradition just to add a title game and divide the pie by another slice, especially considering how bad they are in every other sport? Then the list of viable candidates for Big Ten and Pac-10 expansion come from either the Big 12 or Big East. I doubt any team from the Big East is a primary target of the Big Ten. Pitt is not a bad fallback option but doesn’t add to the footprint of the conference and though it is a national name adding it to the conference doesn’t make the cable company in say, Tucson, we have to add the Big Ten Network to our basic lineup without other schools being added as well. So most of the new blood for each of these conferences would come from the Big 12. If the Pac-10 goes beyond 12 schools, it’s likely to go to 16 schools, assuming it keeps up with the tradition of traveling partners, which wouldn’t be a terrible idea since basketball can now easily have weeknight doubleheaders with teams in the central time zone.”

Thanks, Bruce. And go stretch your legs. I actually cut this email more than half. It was 1,450 words originally. Amazing how people can get so worked up. I think, Bruce, that you are too pessimistic. I think Texas is with the Big 12 for a long while. I think the other league members know Texas steers the boat. And if the Big Ten can’t get Notre Dame, it very well could come after Texas. But it might not, and even if it does and UT rejects the Big Ten, the Big Ten almost certainly next would look East, toward Syracuse or Boston College or Rutgers. They would bring more television sets than Nebraska, Missouri or Kansas, and that’s what it’s all about. I sort of like the Pac-10 Eastern Division concept. That would be kind of cool.

Edgar: “Texas wasn’t going anywhere. They would never have abandoned the SWC castoffs. The Big Eight bailed out the old SWC. If the league lets UT bully them out of lunch money, wusses. By far the NFL is the most successful sports enterprise in America and it practices good old-fashioned socialist revenue sharing. In MLB’s unfettered winner-take-all free market, all yawn as the Yankees win a title.

I think Texas would and could leave Tech and Baylor, if it served the ‘Horns’ purpose. And in the last nine years, nine franchises have won the World Series and 14 have made the World Series. In the last nine years, six NFL franchises have won the Super Bowl and 13 have made a Super Bowl. I don’t like baseball any more than the next guy, but at some point we’ve got to quit talking about the NFL’s parity and ignoring baseball’s.

Mel, a Mizzou grad: “Your assertions about Texas/Big 12 revenue sharing are all just fine and the old Big Eight schools know/recognize all about the Texas/OU side of things. But there are two things that are really off base in your article. Believing anything Dan Beebe says in support of anyone other than Texas is like believing Nancy Pelosi. Do you really think anybody (even the people whose puppet he is) takes him seriously?? What a joke! And if MU likes what it hears from the Big Ten, it is a strong entity to step away from Texas. If that happens, Colorado will seriously welcome Pac-10 conversations, and at that point, Nebraska will weigh its options as well. No matter how much Nebraska may benefit from its alliance with Texas and OU, it does not like playing little brother to those schools. It wants respect and I have a feeling they will consider jumping if MU does. Let’s be honest. The Big 12 has catered to certain schools at the expense of MU (can you say KU in the Orange Bowl after losing to MU?) . There are certain things that MU will always allow to the Bigger Boys, but letting KU football (and Lew Perkins) walk over an MU presence will not be tolerated without long-term consequences. There is a political presence in the state of Missouri that is highly independent, and when it comes to a league insulting this school with its strongest rival, that does not go away ever!”

Let me get this straight. Missouri is still sore at Kansas for going to the Orange Bowl, so it’s going to stand up to Texas? That’s nonsense. It’s getting old, hearing the North talk about puppet commissioners. Missouri is not in any kind of position of strength. Missouri will not “like” what it hears from the Big Ten. Missouri is on the Big Ten’s doorstep, begging, with hat in hand. And Missouri is a last-ditch option for the Big Ten. Mizzou, and to a lesser degree Nebraska, has no political pull. Missouri adds nothing to the Big Ten. Nebraska adds good football but is the worst kind of conference addition. They bring no TV sets and they will beat your butt. Meanwhile, Colorado doesn’t have the money to do anything, including leave. You’re right. Texas has been calling the shots in this league. For one reason. Because it can.

Jay wrote about OU’s desire to produce a DVD series on its history: “I can tell you what OU should be doing – whatever Notre Dame does, because ND is the only collegiate football power with 2,000 years of experience in promoting itself. It is a place where religion and football have been intentionally intertwined. Just like OU.”

You know, here’s one thing I thought about on all this conference alignment. What if OU went independent? And here’s what I think. I think Sooner football would be OK. I think it could put together a solid schedule and still be a national contender. But basketball would get murdered. Absolutely murdered. Basketball would fall off the face of the Earth.

 Jason wrote about my use of Boomers as a Thunder side name: “If the Boomer nickname truly bothers Okie State alums so much, why haven’t they done anything about Boomer Lake in Stillwater?”

Because it’s not Boomers that really bothers people. It’s having nothing to bitch about.

Mark wrote about my Mike Holder column: “I agree with you that Mike Holder probably made the right call in firing Sean, but he carried it out in an extremely poor fashion. You rightly credit Holder for fracturing the fan base. But it wasn’t because he fired Sean that fractured the fan base, it was the reasons Holder publicly gave for firing Sean that fractured the fan base. Basically, what you’ve said is Holder lied about why he fired Sean. I agree. Publicly Holder only said that Sean was a victim of Eddie’s success; that not making the NCAA tournament three years in a row was unacceptable; every reason given basically pointed to the won/loss record. I know this because I’m one of the fractured fans. I read every article, watched the new conference, read the transcript of the news conference and no reasons were ever given other than on-court performance. Sure there were rumors of other reasons, but the rumors went both ways. So I tried to stick with official public statements. Based on what was announced, the decision to fire Sean was completely wrong, unjust, unfair and totally unacceptable. Therefore, I could no longer support OSU basketball. I had been an avid Cowboy fan since I attended OSU in the late ’70s. I have rarely missed attending, watching or listening to Cowboys basketball in the last 20 years. I used to plan my schedule around Cowboy basketball. But in the last two seasons, I haven’t watched more than three or four games. I’ve turned down several opportunities to use our company’s season tickets, all because of the way Holder and OSU administration handled Sean’s dismissal. I used to think OSU had great integrity. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Leonard Hamilton suspended Richard Dumas two years in a row from post-season play. Our best player suspended. Hamilton could have easily dragged his feet, let him play, then handled it internally during the off-season. But Hamilton made the right decision for Dumas and OSU, he had great integrity. Bottom line, Sean Sutton was OSU family and you don’t treat family the way OSU treated Sean. All this misperception is because Holder decided to lie. If Holder had just told the truth, stating that his decision to fire Sean was primarily due to factors other than Sean’s won/loss record, but for privacy reasons he was not willing to talk about it publicly, I would have accepted that decision and statement. But Holder was deceived into thinking that lying would be the best way to handle the firing. In reality he was trying to take the easy way out. By blaming Sean’s firing on his won/loss record, publicly it would blow over faster and the fractured fan base would come back once OSU started winning again. But that’s the deception of lie. I believe Holder has done far greater damage to OSU than he would have if he’d only told the truth. I also wonder if Sean would have received help sooner if Holder had told the truth. I guess that’s something we’ll never know, but I must say, I’m surprised that you’re letting Holder skate on this issue. I’ve listened/read enough to know that you know the importance of being truthful. I’m surprised you missed the mark with this column.”

You’ve got to be kidding. You say Sean was family, and you don’t treat family the way OSU treated Sean? What do you with family? Throw them under the bus and then back over them? You wanted Holder to say Sean was fired for reasons he couldn’t talk about? Sean’s career would have ended right there. The way Holder handled it, he gave Sean a shot at straightening up. Holder took the bullet, took the criticism for firing a coach whose record wasn’t that bad. And he let Sean keep his dignity and, if he wanted, try to get clean in private. We now know that Sean squandered that chance, but that’s not Holder’s fault. And while Holder didn’t come completely clean, he wasn’t outright lying. Here’s the telling quote from Holder: “Whether it’s right or wrong, we have high expectations of our basketball program. We felt like we could do better and hopefully we will do better. Only time will tell. I feel like this is the best decision for us going forward.” But you’d rather Holder have said Sean was fired for reasons that have to remain private. Which means imaginations can run wild. Substance abuse. Chasing coeds. Embezzling funds. Turns out, it WAS that bad. But Holder spared Sean. There was no good way to handle it, thanks to Sean himself. I think Holder handled it in about the best way possible.

Brad: “How long has it been since OU football and basketball was this bad? The combined record of 2009 football (8-5) and 2009-10 men’s basketball (13-14) will be the worst since 1980-81, when the teams combined for a 19-20 record (10-2 football, 9-18 Basketball). Thank goodness for gymnastics.”

You know, this season could surpass 1980-81. If Capel’s squad loses out, it will finish 13-18, making a combined record of 21-23. Which will be worse than 1980-81 and send us back to, I don’t know, the mid-’60s to find a worse athletic year for the flagship sports.

Doug wrote about my blog chastising Jeff Capel for some of his actions this season: “I support Jeff Capel’s program. That said, anyone remotely associated with Oklahoma basketball this year would have a very difficult time arguing against this latest posting.”

Here’s my main point. Why are college coaches so off limits? They control their environment, from players to largely schedules, too, and yet if things go south, it’s never their fault. Until they’re fired. Why can’t we have solid dialogue about a coach’s fallacies, without lopping his head?

Jeff: “Your truthful inference provides a depth to the otherwise static nature of stats and promotional lit. In my neighborhood, we have a garage association. Nearly all of us being Sooners, conversation often turns to OU sports and the like. I find myself defending your work because my die-hard buddies think you’re an OU-hater. Of course that’s not the case. Mentioned to my wife last night while catching about three minutes of the OU-KU game that it was time the men’s coach was publicly questioned.”

Either I’m an OU hater or an OU homer. The difference is small. Two little letters in the middle.

Douglas: “I’ve been saying this for six weeks. He’s paid the big bucks to figure it out and properly motivate everyone. I don’t expect to make the Great Eight every year, but missing the tournament is unacceptable.”

I would disagree. I don’t think missing the tournament is unacceptable. Sometimes things happen. But OU is about to finish 4-12, 13-18, something like that. That’s getting unacceptable. And let me say something about the NCAA Tournament. When a traditional tournament team misses March Madness, there’s a trend that argues, see, it’s not as easy as everyone thinks. Yes it is. For a good basketball school in a major conference, the NCAA Tournament is very easy to make. A school like Oklahoma (and Oklahoma State) has to play its way out of the tournament, not in.

Bob: “Is Capel showing signs of being John Blake-like? Great recruiter but low to average coaching skills. Too early to tell?”

No, it’s not too early to tell. Capel is nothing like Blake. Blake was clueless. Capel is not.

Kent: “Good article on Capel. The first year wasn’t on him. This year is on him. Next year, he will be under heavy pressure. It’s like OU football. A bad year coaching. Injuries happen. Line up and play.”

I don’t think there will be any heavy pressure on Capel next season. But Capel has nowhere near the injuries football had. This team stunk before Warren got hurt.

Jim: “Good to see you and your paper chastising someone who needs it. Sometime I wonder why the paper is not tougher on some sports figures in the state. I also think Capel will become a better coach, but his decision on not letting the players dress in OU garb and not using the dressing room was just plain stupid. How do you back down from that if it doesn’t work? Which apparently it did not and only served to further alienate his team.”

Excellent point. Capel left himself no wiggle room.

Mitchell wrote about the NFL Draft: “As to Dez Bryant and his NFL future, I am not as optimistic as you and most the other pundits predicting greatness. Of course, he may wind up with 1,000 catches and I will eat my favorite dish, stuffed crow. But until I see it, here is my exhibit list: 1. Hart Lee Dykes: After getting every school from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast on probation, the highly over-rated one from Bay City flopped in the NFL. While he had great hands, he was no blazer and couldn’t run routes to save his life. But we were told he was going to be a superstar. 2. Rashaun Woods. This OKC product had flypaper hands and the speed of Alex Karras. His NFL career was el-busto. If he were a baseball player his patron saint would have been Clint Hartung or Clint Hurdle. We were told he was going to be a great ” NFL receiver, something akin to Jerry Rice. He played more like Anne Rice. 3. Adarius Bowman: Boy was he going to be a great pro, we were told. Best receiver in the Big 12. Big, fast and physical. Look out NFL, here comes the next Paul Warfield. So far, Bowman’s career makes Malcolm Kelly, by comparison, look like Don Hutson. Based on the above, I am skeptical about OSU ends at the next level. OSU receivers are like Texas Tech quarterbacks. They are best undrafted and products of the system. Throw in Bryant’s other issues, and I’m not buying this hype. And not to pick on the Aggies too much, I must also say that anyone who thinks Zac Robinson is an NFL quarterback should be forced to watch old Randy Dean highlights from Northwestern.”

Who in the heck is Randy Dean? And by your theory, Sam Bradford has no chance in the pros, since OU hasn’t had a quarterback throw an NFL pass since before World War II. I think Dez will break the OSU mold. And Dykes was not a bust. He had 49 catches for 795 yards (16.2 yards per catch) and five TDs as a rookie. In Year 2, he had 34 catches through 10 games, for 549 yards (16.1 yards per catch). Then he got hurt and never played again.

Karan: “A talented, law-abiding, normal and decent athlete was a delightful read over breakfast. Thanks for an encouraging and uplifting column. I wish Russell Okung much future success.”

Here’s an untold story. Athletes of Nigerian descent. They seem to be pretty solid citizens. I go to church with a couple of Nigerian families, and they’re high achievers.

Jeff wrote about Tiger Woods: “How come the PGA Tour suspended John Daly for ‘unwanted publicity?’ But yet, they don’t fine Tiger Woods? I guess this isn’t ‘unwanted publicity?’ I mean he disgraced his family, and his sponsors, and even made the world make fun of the PGA. So why doesn’t he get suspended, too?”

John Daly’s antics made Tiger look like Andy Griffith. But Daly still didn’t get suspended. Only when his behavior carried over to the course. Not showing up. Walking off. Being a goofball in the middle of a round. That’s when he got suspended. If you started suspending people for private-life nonsense, our society would crumble.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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