Emails in on Big 12 realignment
The new emails are in, and lots of talk about conference realignment.
Justin: “Disagree with you on where you put A&M. A&M should be put with OU and Nebraska and KU. The SEC asked A&M to join their conference in the early ’90s, and Texas politics prevented it. The SEC and Pac 10 would love to have A&M.”
I don’t think so. And here’s why. A&M has slipped in status. There was a time, and the early ’90s certainly was that time, when A&M football was considered a big deal. But now? I don’t see it. In fact, you could argue that no program has been hurt by the formation of the Big 12 as much as has A&M. Think about it. In 1995, when the Big 12 formed, you could argue that the best football programs in the Big 12 were 1. Nebraska; 2. Colorado; 3. Texas A&M. Don’t believe it? OU was a mess and getting messier. Texas was just floating along, not doing much. Kansas State had yet to rise. Look at what’s happened to A&M in 15 years. Oklahoma and Texas have totally eclipsed the Aggies. Texas Tech passed the Aggies. OSU caught the Aggies. You could argue that Missouri has caught the Aggies. If you ranked the Big 12 football schools in order of status today, A&M is not in the first division. And that’s not just a three- or four-year slump. That’s been going on for a decade. A&M flourished when the Southwest Conference was weak. When the SWC was powerful, back in the early ’70s and ’60s, A&M wasn’t much. That’s got to be a red flag for any new conference. The Aggies historically wither when the competition stiffens.
Mike: “Something I have yet to read; what about the other sports? Besides tradition, the geographical interests and economic aspects (for travel alone) should be a substantial concern for all athletic departments, university chancellors and the general public that wishes to travel to away games. This isn’t just about the obvious football powers within the Big 12. What about Nebraska’s women’s volleyball team? OSU’s golf team and wrestling team? The cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, tennis and others that often are not money making sports and whose travel budgets from breakup and reorganization may make them obsolete?”
Conference realignment is about football mostly and men’s basketball a little. Period. Nothing else matters. The minor sports won’t go away; they are protected by necessity. The NCAA requires schools to field a certain amount of teams of both sexes. Nebraska’s volleyball team is a blip on the radar. Same with OSU’s golf team. And any conference realignment would, by design, make enough extra money to offset increased travel costs. But don’t go thinking that wrestling teams and tennis teams are going to start flying all over the country. Like my proposed Pac-10/Big 12 merger. OU’s soccer team wouldn’t go play Washington every year. Divisional play would be paramount.
Tommy: “Kansas over OSU? LOL. Love it, Berry. Please, please, keep your Norman bias intack for the paper and the radio.”
Tommy. The word is “intact.” Please stay out of the public marketplace of ideas wearing your OSU colors. You are hurting your school. But you raise an interesting point. If you had a lick of charm, you would have asked the question this way: Why Kansas over OSU? And here’s the answer. Kansas brings the Kansas City television market and a nationally-elite program in one of the two sports that matters. And for those leagues that care about academics, KU is considered one of the better schools in the Big 12. OSU does not bring a television market, so long as OU already is included. The Sooners bring the OKC and Tulsa markets. And OSU does not provide a nationally-elite program in a sport that matters. OSU’s salvation is its ties to OU. The state legislature isn’t likely to let the Sooners leave without the Cowboys, though you never know.
Josh: “I enjoyed your comments regarding Texas, et al, going west. Great minds must think alike, I’ve been telling people this since the conference talk started. It makes too much sense academically, financially and competitively. I think the academic side of the conference realignment cannot be understated. Of course this is about money and football, but the mission of these universities is to educate. The Pac-10 has seven members of the AAU, and the conference basically doubles as a research consortium. Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado and Kansas are all members of the AAU, and in a merger scenario would seem likely to go to the Big-Pac (along with OU). Which brings me to my next point; I wouldn’t sell Colorado short in this scenario. Although the athletic department is in disarray at the moment, Colorado brings the Denver market; it is academically on par with several Pac-10 schools, Colorado is a more liberal institution much like the schools on the left coast, and yet another factor is that California is home to more CU alums than any other state not named Colorado. The Buffs are a synch to be included. If this scenario does indeed play out, I believe politics will decide the final spot. OSU, Texas Tech and Kansas State are the schools involved in the precarious situation. It is a scary yet very realistic thought for an OSU psycho such as me.”
Now that’s a good letter. Insightful, shows a working knowledge of the landscape but admits to some fear of the unknown. And OSU should be concerned. It’s possible OSU could be left out. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s possible. Here’s the deal on Colorado. Everything Josh said is true. But what if the Buffs literally don’t have the money or the stomach to stay in the main race? What if Colorado says forget it, we’re going to downsize, go to the Mountain West Conference and quit trying to keep up with $100 million budgets?
Larry: “I certainly understand why Sooner media would prefer that the likes of Texas Tech be consigned to the Irrelevant Leftover Conference. I’m old enough to remember 1995, so let’s be honest here. Our inclusion in the Big 12 had most of the old Big Eight media miffed in the first place. And I can also appreciate that those long November rides home from the South Plains have to be getting old for the Sooner Nation. But you folks have a lot to learn about Texas politics. None of the three state schools can split on their own without approval of the Legislature, and believe it or not Texas Tech will have plenty of support. And not just from Tech alumni. The three schools also have a long and storied history together and a fair amount of mutual respect. They aren’t going to just blithely abandon one another because some West Coast conference, the NCAA or ESPN crooks their finger at them. And as competitive as we are with one another, we’re all Texans and proud of it. We are heavily invested in our rivalries. Neither UT nor A&M will take kindly to a sister institution being shoved to third-world status by faceless heathen outsiders. UT, to its everlasting credit, has already spurned the Pac 10 once when they unofficially took a run at the Longhorns but wouldn’t consider including Tech, which Texas had insisted as a condition of any possible interest on their part. And really, if the question of which state’s schools get included in any new conference alignment comes down to a high-stakes political pissing match between, say, Kansas (or Oklahoma for that matter) and Texas, does anyone actually think Texas loses?”
Here’s a bit of trivia that will surprise a lot of people. The Southwest Conference played longer without Texas Tech than it did with Texas Tech: 41 years without Tech, which was in the Border Conference, 40 years with Tech. So let’s not get all misty-eyed over UT-A&M-Tech allegiance. Some legislators would fight for Tech, but the Longhorns aren’t going to the mat to support the Red Raiders. That’s just silly. Texas was ready to go to the Pac-10 solo in 1994, had someone (Donnie Duncan) not provided a better alternative, in the form of the Big 12. Personally, I think leaving behind Baylor would create more of a political problem for UT and A&M than leaving behind Tech.
Tom wrote about the Big 12 baseball tournament: “Who thought up a format where all Saturday games were meaningless? Attendance ought to be great. With this format, the tourney ought to go the way of the softball tourney. Away. This is what is wrong with the Big 12. The SEC tourney is having record crowds and they set up their tourney like the College World Series; two double elimination tournaments and one championship game. Every game is meaningful. It is almost like the Big 12 doesn’t want to compete and it shows. So while the SEC has record crowds the Big 12 presents Meaningless Saturday! You know, I think the coaches don’t want to compete to a certain extent. I was reading Bob Stoops’ comments about the coaches voting 12-0 against playing the Big 12 title game. The softball coaches cancelling their tourney. Baseball coaches want this round robin mess. If you compare with the SEC, they compete across the board. No one’s voting against the championship games or canceling a tourney. They just compete. It should be no surprise when they win.”
I think there’s some truth to this theory, but I also am slow to throw rose petals at the SEC. I don’t think the SEC football coaches are all that crazy about the football title game, either. The Big 12 baseball went to this format because of some goofy concern about using too much pitching. Or not using enough. It is a total mess. I mean, you’ve got OU starting a game at 10:50 p.m. Wednesday and you’ve got four games on a Saturday that are total exhibitions. An absolute mess.
Jeremy: “I saw on your online video where you mentioned the Big 8 Tournament was “OSU, OU and two other teams …”. That’s the second time I’ve heard you mention or write that. I went to two Big Eight tourneys (’95 and ’96), but neither were four-team affairs. I honestly can’t remember if the whole conference came, but there were at least six teams. In ’95, I vividly remember OU, OSU, Nebraska, Iowa State and Kansas being there. Also, looking at the OU media guide, back in ’83, they played Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State in the tourney, which means there were likely at least six teams there as well. In the next years, it’s inconclusive, just going by who OU played. I’m just curious if the Big Eight did play a bigger format, then went to four teams in the ’80s, and then came back to the bigger format in the ’90s or something like that? You going out to any of the games? I’ll be out tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.”
If someone I know is kidnapped, and I begin a frantic search for them, and some mysterious clue points in the direction of the Brick, I’ll take several shots of whiskey for the first time in my life and force myself to go out there. Otherwise, it’s a pass. The format is just horrible. You don’t know when your team is playing. The games don’t mean anything. You need other teams to win to advance your cause. It’s ridiculous. But for the history lesson. In 1983, a batch of rainouts plagued the conference. So in an emergency vote, they brought six (or maybe all seven) schools to the tournament. Otherwise, it was always four. At least starting in 1977. In 1976, they had all eight teams and it stretched out over a week. In 1993, the Big Eight expanded to six teams. I don’t know why. Don’t remember. So I guess the final four tournaments were six teams, the first one was eight and 1983 was six or seven. But from 1977 through 1992, every year except ’83 was four teams.”
Jason wrote about my blog concerning Kelvin Sampson as an NBA head coach, which said most NBA coaches concern themselves with defense and let the offense take care of itself: “For it to work, you would have to be right about the offensive end of the floor. As much as I loved Sampson’s teams’ effort, it seemed too much of the time like getting a non-desperation shot off before the 45-second shot clock buzzer was Mission Impossible; 24 seconds into the shot clock was about the time Quannas White would take the hand-off out by mid-court to reset the offense for the second of three resets on each possession.”
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