Thursday, December 17, 2009
Could Texas be considered in Super Big Ten?
By David Ubben
News has seeped out that college athletics' 800-pound gorilla could want more than merely one bunch of bananas.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Big Ten is considering contingency plans that could add up to five schools with eventual plans to expand to 14 or 16 schools.
If that was to come, there would be no doubt that some of the Big 12's schools would likely be targets -- and top ones at that.
Early speculation has the Big Ten looking east at Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse as its primary targets. Those schools match the academic and athletic profile the Big Ten would like to have to match its current 11 members.
I still think that Jim Delany's first call about expansion would go to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to gauge his school's interest in joining the Big 12. I think the Big Ten will be thoroughly convinced that Notre Dame is not interested before it stops pursuing the Irish.
But Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska also have been mentioned as potential candidates.
And another huge target in the Big 12 has been speculated about. Some have theorized that Texas perhaps might be the school that best fits the Big Ten's profile for an additional team.
I still think it's extremely far-fetched to think that Texas would join the Big Ten. Travel costs alone would be staggering, but Texas generates more money with its athletic department than any other college.
And while Longhorn fans might salivate about regular conference games against schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa it would be hard for me to see happen for one main reason.
The Longhorns' current deal with the Big 12 gives them a favorable cut of half of the television money from the conference's basketball and football television packages. Because schools like Texas and Oklahoma appear more often, they receive more money than schools like Iowa State and Kansas State.
In the Big Ten, a model of revenue sharing has been in place for many years. Smaller schools like Northwestern share as much of the television money for the Big Ten's packages as prime producers like Ohio State and Penn State.
It would be hard for me to ever see Texas giving up that advantage. In a sense, they have it too good where they are at now to give that up for more money in the Big Ten.
We also remember how the Texas Legislature played a big part in the formative stages of the Big 12. It would be hard for Texas to be able to escape the conference from which it helped create less than two decades ago, considering all of the politicians who are graduates of other schools who can throw roadblocks along the way.
Expansion of a massive national athletic power like Texas, North Carolina or Florida might sound far-fetched for geographic reasons. But be assured that Delany is thinking about some out-of-the-box scenarios that would result in his conference taking a national foothold in college sports and helping immediately improve the distribution of the fledgling Big Ten Network. I'm sure his expansion plans go well past Rutgers, Missouri or Notre Dame.
Huge growing markets in Texas and Florida would be the best places to try to get the Big Ten's fledgling network established.
It's fun to think about such scenarios. I know I've been bombarded by comments and e-mails in the last several days.
I don't think we'll see the Big 12 raided by the Big Ten in their expansion plans.
But I do expect that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is working on getting a contingency plan ready.