What the sports blogosphere doesn’t need is another piece discussing conference realignment. However, I do know there is a small handful of people in this world who [for some reason] care what I think about Iowa State athletics. Given that conference realignment certainly has the potential to dramatically impact our beloved Cyclones, this update is for those folks.
If you’ve had your head in the sand recently, let me give you the pertinent cliff notes:
- The Big 10 apparently has some level of interest in Nebraska and Missouri.
- The Pac 10 apparently has some level of interest in Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado (although you could swap Baylor for Colorado given some rumblings from Texas legislators).
- The Big 12 has apparently presented some sort of “ultimatum” to Nebraska and Missouri, demanding that they pledge their loyalty to the conference by some date (believed to be June 15th or thereabouts).
Given the most recent developments, I actually feel quite a bit better about this realignment stuff than I did a few days ago. The Pac 10 flirtations, now combined with the ultimatum given to Nebraska and Missouri, may (ironically) end up being what saves the league. Essentially, the news of this ultimatum means that Nebraska and Missouri will soon need some sort of assurance from the Big 10 that an invitation is coming. If the Big 10 isn’t ready to go down that road yet, or if they would prefer to wait out Notre Dame, the common thought is that Nebraska and Missouri will be forced to recommit to the Big 12. Why? Because if they don’t, there is a strong possibility that this lack of a commitment will spook the six Big 12 teams that the Pac 10 has flirted with, encouraging them to flee the conference. If, down the road, the Big 10 invites never arrive in the mail at Nebraska and Missouri, they would be returning to a decimated league. That’s quite the gamble to take.
So, if Nebraska and Missouri recommit, it is believed that Texas and the gang would follow suit. After all, where will Texas find a sweeter deal for itself than right here in the Big 12? At that point, everybody takes a deep breath and comes back to the table. The topic of conversation then becomes the formation of a conference TV network to start generating increased revenues. This is where the league members not named Texas need to be unified. If Texas ends up pursuing their own “Longhorn Network” (which they are reportedly interested in doing), the imbalance within the conference will be as bad as ever, and the rest of the Big 12 loses its bargaining power when it comes to forming a conference TV network. A TV package without rights to the Texas games isn’t nearly as appealing to Fox, for example, when it comes time to negotiate. Assuming the remaining 11 schools would be in favor of exploring a conference TV network, it will be interesting to see what power these schools could wield to actually block Texas from pursuing their own network.
So what if the Big 12 does fall apart? What if Nebraska and/or Missouri don’t respond to the ultimatum? What if the Pac 10 raids the Big 12 South? It would certainly be a step down, but I could live with a New Big XX with the remaining members (Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State) poaching respectable schools from the Mountain West and other vulnerable conferences. I think I’d prefer a New Big XX to joining an expanded MWC, but even that wouldn’t be nearly as bad as being “homeless”, assuming this expanded conference received an automatic BCS bid. Something along these lines would make for a respectable league:
New Mexico State
San Diego State
Admittedly, this is a scary time to be an Iowa State fan. There are a lot of questions to be answered, and many of them could be answered within the next week or so. If you have to pick just one piece of news to track, keep an eye on Nebraska. If you’re hoping that Iowa State remains in a recommitted Big 12 with a shiny new TV network in the future, you have to hope that the Big 10 either isn’t nearly as interested in Nebraska as has been rumored, or that they don’t give Nebraska a thumbs up prior to the Big 12’s deadline. If Nebraska doesn’t take its ball and go to the Big 10, I think the Big 12 survives as is, and maybe even grows stronger as a result of all this drama.