Dallas Colleges: Conference realignment

Commish talks about Big East's future

January, 19, 2012
DALLAS – After taking part in a celebration at SMU for its future membership, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said Thursday the conference’s expansion wouldn’t end with additions coming in 2013.

Marinatto reiterated the conference's wishes to expand to at least 12 football schools, but he would not discuss a timetable or potential schools to be pursued.

“We’re working very hard,” Marinatto said. “I made it a practice over the last year to never discuss institutions specifically by name, so I’m not at liberty to get into specifics, but yeah, we want to get to at least 12 and that’s been our goal. We’re very happy with where we are, but obviously we have a little bit more work to do.”

Marinatto included, for at least 2012, West Virginia in the roll call for the conference. In 2013, Boise State, San Diego State, Houston and Central Florida will join, along with SMU. Whenever West Virginia leaves for the Big 12, an issue that hasn't been resolved, the additions will leave a total of 10 football schools in the Big East.

Marinatto said he participated in the two meetings that concerned the future of the BCS after the national championship football game in New Orleans. He characterized the meetings as “brainstorming sessions” which yielded 50 or 60 ideas of what the future could hold for the BCS system.

There will be another meeting at the end of January and another in February to continue these discussions as part of four meetings scheduled before any new manifestation of the BCS is finalized.

Marinatto believes some changes will be made, but said they will add to the good the BCS has done to college football, in his opinion.

“I think everyone around the table agrees the BCS has helped college football in so many ways,” Marinatto said. “It has made college football relevant and it has given schools that may have not had the opportunity to play in some of the major bowls the opportunity to play in some of the major bowls, but there’s also another side to it, and that’s the discussion. How do we keep what has been put in place, that’s been so helpful to so many, and at the same time reduce some of the negatives that go along with it?”

Losing the conference’s BCS automatic-qualifying status was not a concern of the commissioner, citing the strength of the programs the conference added in this newest phase of realignment, if, of course, automatic qualifying bids remain part of the BCS framework.

The addition of new teams is also a bargaining chip in landing a major TV contract in September of 2012, which Marinatto believes will provide the stability that the conference has lacked over the past year.

“Most of the expansion initiative’s complete, but when that’s done, certainly the glue that will continue to hold us together will be that when we get to the market, we can deliver with the kind of TV agreement similar with what the other five major conferences have, and that’s something we anticipated,” Marinatto said.

The final step in the process once expansion has been finalized for the conference and a TV deal is in place is to discuss the matter of divisions in a conference that will span across the entire country. All teams that will be members of the conference will have a vote in any major decisions such as a TV deal or the formation of divisions.

AQ opportunity knocks for SMU

October, 15, 2011
DALLAS -- SMU's ticket to the big time -- BCS automatic-qualifying status -- is on its way via the latest round of conference musical chairs. The Mustangs, along with four other schools, are expected to be officially invited to join the Big East in near future.

The proposed move has been met with excitement at SMU, which has made no secret of its desires to move into an AQ conference. Despite the Big East's seemingly shaky standing with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU defecting, the league remains a step up in stature from Conference USA.

"We will continue our efforts to achieve the university's goal of competing at the highest level of college athletics and are evaluating opportunities in the conference landscape," Mustangs athletic director Steve Orsini said in a statement released during halftime of Saturday's SMU-Central Florida game.

The Big East's invitation to the five schools is divided with SMU, UCF and Houston potentially joining in all sports. Air Force and Boise State would be football-only members.

Orsini believes the commitment made to athletics, namely the coaches and facilities for football and men's basketball, has positioned SMU to take a step up. Orsini held talks with the Big 12, while continuing to monitor the ongoing conference realignment.

SMU's chief rival, TCU, had agreed to join the Big East for next year with the same AQ goal in mind before snagging an invite to the Big 12 with Texas A&M's departure. The Big East's losses forced the league to become aggressive in reconstituting its football membership, opening a door for SMU.

Turgeon not crazy about 18 league games

June, 28, 2010
Many of the Big 12's basketball coaches embraced -- at least publicly on Monday's summer coaches teleconference -- the idea of playing an 18-game conference schedule in which the 10 teams will play everybody twice.

With 12 teams, the conference played a 16-game schedule in which teams played division teams twice and inter-division foes once.

Oklahoma State's Travis Ford, Baylor's Scott Drew and Missouri's Mike Anderson all talked about the positives of a balanced, 18-game schedule, such as crowning a true regular-season champion and retaining the league's high RPI. The Big 12 finished the 2009-10 season ranked as the No. 1 conference in both the RPI and Sagarin Ratings. When Nebraska and Colorado leave, the Big 12 will lose two of its poorer performers.

One coach, however, isn't exactly thrilled about the extended conference season. Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. Turgeon called it a grind and said it could force him to dial down his non-conference scheduling.

"As a coach, I think it's really, really tough. I was in the Missouri Valley [Conference] with 18 [games], I was in the Pac-10 with 18. I'd much rather play 16," Turgeon said. "Scheduling, you can get out and find you a couple more [non-conference] games, get a couple more wins and now you got a couple more tough games. Of course, our league is going to be really tough. I saw coaches, I know the Big East went to 18, it's a grind, 16's a grind. It's hard and then you add two more. It makes it really tough on a basketball team.

"I think our non-conference scheduling may change a little bit. I've always been real aggressive scheduling non-conference, we play a lot of quality opponents. That might change in the future. We might not play quite as many because I know I have two extra games in the league. It will be interesting, but I know it's tougher on coaches, but it's great for the fans."

Self confident about Big 12's staying power

June, 28, 2010
Kansas coach Bill Self believes the Big 12 as 10 is here to stay. He said he's confident that football, college athletics' driving financial force, won't rise up again soon and threaten conference alignment.

"That became very apparent that football was definitely driving the bus," Self said. "I feel great about our league. I feel better about our league today than I've felt over the last seven years that I've been in the leauge. Not that I didn't feel good about it; I think there's been a commitment by 10, that certainly nobody has one foot in, one foot out.

"I think this is a long-term deal, without question. I think that's how everybody's looking at it. With the thing still up in the air television-wise that hasn't been finalized yet, I know they're working diligently on, it could be a situation that we could be locked up even longer than any of the other established leagues have been locked up. So, I see this as being a permanent situation."

During the week or so when the Big 12's very survival looked bleak, Self was vocal about his belief that Kansas would not be left out of a major conference had the Big 12 Conference dissolved. Rumors swirled that the Jayhawks, one of the premiere basketball programs in the country, would have little choice but to join the Mountain West Conference.

He said that was never a consideration.

"I never feared that we weren't going to have a home. I never feared that we weren't going to be in a BCS conference. My problem that I had was the uncertainly that we could lose a recruiting class or whatever in the meantime trying to determine where we would go. I'll be real honest, I think one of the common threads that we had was Lou Perkins' contacts. I think that was a big player in the situation...I felt assured that we would land somewhere, but just the uncertainty of it is what was the biggest problem because there was no many media reports out there that we would go to the Mountain West or we'd do this or we'd do that, that wasn't even a thought.

"The thought was keep the Big 12 together, the Big 10 together -- or Big 10 now, I guess, which is still the Big 12 -- but keep our 10 together and then if that last-case scenario, if we don't do that, then we'll sit tight and decide what avenue is best for us."

Did Beebe leave door open for expansion?

June, 17, 2010
First came this emphatic statement: "We're not looking to expand at all." Those are the words of Big 12 Conference commissioner Dan Beebe on Tuesday as he explained how the Big 12 avoided collapse, emerged richer as 10 and how it plans to move forward as such.

In the same breath Beebe managed to turn "at all" into: "And certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic five-state area now."

If the Big 12 as 10 is not looking to expand at all, why the need to add the caveat of well, not in the five states we currently occupy? In college athletics we've learned never say never and no could mean yes and vice-versa. As long as money is green, nothing is certain.

This becomes all the more intriguing with word that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, seeing green fly out the window now that he's suddenly left without the coveted Big 12 football championship game at his palace in Arlington, is eager to bring his alma mater Arkansas into the Big 12 fold -- oh yeah, and maybe even Notre Dame.

I'm no geography major, but I do know that Notre Dame is in the great state of Indiana and that Arkansas, although it sits next to Big 12-occupied Texas (hence, the beautiful border town of Texarkana) the Natural State is actually in Arkansas. The Big 12 currently reaches into Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

While Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, in office a couple of years since coming from Pittsburgh to replace the legendary Frank Broyles, quickly nixed Arkansas to the Big 12, the move actually makes some sense. Leaving the SEC was always dismissed simply because of the financial muscle of the conference, but clearly we're seeing a Hog pity party that includes unhappiness with a lack of true rivalries, a lack of success in football and diminishing recruiting returns in Texas, once fertile Hog grounds.

The Big 12 has assured itself a highly profitable future after the threat of Texas and others moving to the Pac-16 (and possibly Texas A&M to the SEC). Arkansas could get in on that new revenue, get back to its natural, hated rival in the Longhorns and likely begin competing immediately as a top-four football program in the Big 12.

When Long says no, he might mean yes, in time, just as Beebe said the Big 12 won't expand, er, at least not in the current five-state setup.

Realignment, TCU, the MWC and BCS

June, 15, 2010
Since the breakup of the Southwest Conference, TCU has competed in the WAC, Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference. So, as the Big 12 situation unfolded day-by-day and hour-by-hour, TCU could at least marvel at the maneuverings without fretting where it might end up. It sure made it easier to celebrate its latest athletic triumph as the Frogs are headed to the school's first College World Series.

There was, however, an option being discussed by the five would-be leftover Big 12 schools to absorb some or all of the 10 MWC schools and retain the Big 12 name. Now that the Big 12 will carry on with 10 teams, TCU isn't going anywhere. But, the MWC might still be affected if the Pac-10, now sitting with 11 teams after adding Colorado, invites MWC cornerstone Utah.

If Utah were to leave, it would reduce the MWC to nine teams almost immediately after it expanded to 10 by adding Boise State last week. The Broncos were considered the final piece to the MWC gaining BCS status and an automatic BCS bid in two years when the four-year evaluation period ends.

"We feel like we are on the cusp of becoming a BCS conference," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said Tuesday afternoon. "If you look at the mathematical equations, in two years when we're being reviewed, if all the things play out like the way they've been playing out, we have a great shot at being a BCS conference and having an automatic bid. With or without Utah."

Within the MWC, Boise State is now thought of as an insurance policy in case Utah heads to the Pac-10. Boise has played in two BCS games -- defeating Oklahoma in a classic 2007 Fiesta Bowl and beating TCU, 17-10, last year in the Fiesta Bowl.

MWC officials believe the conference's run at achieving BCS standing will be successful -- with or without Utah.

Tech makes it official, commits to Big 12

June, 15, 2010
Not that it was ever in doubt, but Texas Tech put its stamp on the new Big 12, the last of the 10 schools to do so after the board of regents met Tuesday afternoon.

Here's a statement Tech released:

"As we"ve said during this period of instability in conference alignments, our goal has been to preserve the Big 12 Conference. We are proud to announce that this has been done and that we are recommitting to our status as a member of the Big 12 Conference.

"We worked carefully through this process in consultation with our colleagues in the Big 12 South and have come to the conclusion that remaining in the Big 12 is best for Texas Tech University from the perspectives of revenue, rivalry and the welfare of our student-athletes.

The Big 12 is a tremendous fit for Texas Tech both academically and athletically. Remaining in the Big 12 will allow us to play our traditional rivals and maintain those competitive associations we have developed with the Big 12 North members."

Big 12 boss Beebe pleased with outcome

June, 15, 2010
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe conducted a 45-minute teleconference Tuesday morning to discuss issues surrounding the survival of the 10-team Big 12 Conference.

At the moment, nine teams have committed to the league. Texas Tech is the lone school that has not, but is expected to once its board of regents meet this afternoon.

Beebe concluded the teleconference by saying: "We've landed in a good place, not just for the Big 12, but for all collegiate athletics, in my opinion."

Here are a few points of interest:

*Beebe said the Big 12 did not extend its current television deal or agree to a future deal, but rather was given indications by networks and analysts of future: "We had extremely strong verification, based on analysis by our consultants and others, and media companies themselves, that we are in a tremendous position to execute future agreements that will put our member institutions on par with any in the country, so based on that and that information and that verification, I think that solidified in a lot of our member institutions' minds the future of the conference."

Also on the TV front, Fox is not in position to begin televising a national over-the-air game of the week. The Big 12's current deal with ESPN/ABC continues through 2015-16: "During negotiations for the future of that in 2015, we will consider any of the competitors. I had a great relationship with the Fox broadcast people through my association with the BCS when they had the BCS contract. We love the ABC and Disney family, but we understand and are appreciate, even hopeful, of competitors being in the marketplace when our rights become due. And certainly, the projection is that there's a high level of interest, not only by Fox and ABC, but by other media companies for broadcast rights as we go forward. We're very excited that that level of interest will drive the rights fees up like it did in the recent ACC negotiations."

*The Big 12 will not look to expand because the member schools appear to like the 10-team format that would produce a nine-game conference football schedule and an 18-game round-robin schedule in basketball, which allows a team like Kansas to visit all the conference teams each year: "The 10 that are remaining, now that we have it, there are a lot of positive feelings about having 10...We're not looking to expand at all and certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic five-state area now. So, we're very comfortable with where we are. There's no interest in having an expansion review at this point and I don't think it's going to come in the future."

*The Big 12 will likely not look into staging a football championship game: "We can petition, I know my colleagues would support having less than 12 members and still having a championship. I'm not sure if we're going to do that or not. I think there's a lot of benefits to having the nine-game schedule scheduling out to that weekend in December where you can get a lot of exposure and also not have the potential to knock off a team that could be headed to the national championship in a championship game. We'll have some meetings coming up to decide how we want to structure it."

*On whether the conference would seek a new name, Beebe said he didn't know and wouldn't speculate before discussing with the conference members.

Listen up: Big 12 is in a better place

June, 15, 2010
More and more opinions continue to roll in as the college sports world tries to settle down after the Big 12 has stabilized overnight into a 10-team league.

ESPN analyst Bob Davie talks about how the Big 12 was conceived under difficult circumstances and how it is moving toward a better end. Listen Click here for the podcast.

ESPN analyst Mark May, who isn't happy about the movement because he prefers the tradition of the older conferences, explains why he always thought the Big 12 would shrink to 10 teams. Listen Click here for the podcast.

Texas coach Mack Brown understands why his school had to explore its options, but he was always hoping the Longhorns would remain in the Big 12. Listen Click here for the podcast.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock says there likely would have been one less automatic bid and one more at-large bid for the BCS if the Big 12 had ceased to exist. Listen Click here for the podcast.

SI.com senior writer Andy Staples thinks Texas' desire to have its own television network is what stopped the Longhorns from fleeing to the Pac-10. Listen Click here for the podcast.

Will Big 12 replace Colorado, Nebraska?

June, 15, 2010
Joe Schad talks about the chances the Big 12 replaces Colorado and Nebraska and thinks the Pac-10 will target Utah.

Notre Dame's Kelly breathes sigh of relief

June, 15, 2010
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly was quite candid to Bruce Feldman of ESPN The Magazine following Monday's announcement that the Big 12 would survive as a 10-team league.

The highlight:
"I was very excited to hear that Texas held together the Big 10 or Big 12 or whatever you're calling it. I thought that was pretty telling," Kelly said. "Obviously, if Texas goes to the Pac-10, there's a chance that there are super conferences and they'll cast a big shadow -- I would have been nervous whether we could've stayed on the sidelines. Now, if things stablize, nothing really happened in the Pac-10 if you look at it: USC Trojans went on probation, the best quarterback got kicked off the Oregon Ducks team and they took the Colorado Buffaloes. That's not such a big deal for me. The Nebraska Cornhuskers went to the Big Ten. Nothing else occurred for me to be nervous. Texas was obviously a huge piece."

Believe it, Big 12 sticking around as 10

June, 14, 2010
Texas A&M made itself the wild-card in conference realignment maneuverings, flirting with the SEC and threatening to set aside more than 100 years of rivalry with Texas to chart a new future.

But, the mega-TV dollars shoveled at the remaining Big 12 schools to avoid triggering an avalanche of mega-conference formation convinced the Aggies to walk away from the most powerful college football conference in the land.

"Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future," A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said in a statement. "As athletic director Bill Byrne and I have stated on numerous occasions, our hope and desire was for the Big 12 to continue. We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future."

Judging by activity on some Aggie fan sites, there is a contingent of disappointed and angry A&M fans who preferred a move to the SEC rather than compete in the 10-team Big 12.

A spokesperson for Texas Tech said the school's board of regents still plans to meet on Tuesday even though the Red Raiders will continue in the Big 12 conference. Tech was prepared to leave the Big 12 with Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for the Pac-10 until the 11th hour television rights deal was hammered out. It promises to practically double Tech and the other nine members' annual revenue.

Tech officials will comment on the decision to stay on Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Oklahoma president David Boren and athletic director Joe Castiglione said: "The decision to stay in the Big 12 represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our colleagues in the conference. We value the strong working relationship that has been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. We intend to work very hard to make the conference as lasting and dynamic as possible."

Texas president Bill Powers Jr., and athletic director DeLoss Dodds will also address the media on Tuesday, likely after the calm night of sleep in more than a week. Texas will reportedly reap up to $25 million between the new TV deal and its own network in the planning stages. Texas, A&M and Oklahoma will reap about $20 million annually in the deal, about $3 million to $6 million more than the other seven schools.

Baylor officials will likely also sleep well tonight. Baylor faced the unsettling proposition of being left out of a major conference if Texas and the others left for the Pac-10.

"Baylor athletics has a bright future and we look forward to continued success with our historic partners in the Big 12 Conference for many years to come," said Baylor Director of Athletics Ian McCaw in a statement. "We have been blessed with extraordinary efforts and leadership from the Board of Regents, President [Ken] Starr, key alumni and friends. We are both humbled and grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the Baylor family in recent days."

Contingency plans were under way among the five schools that would have been left out -- Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State. Those schools' athletic directors were to gather Monday night in Kansas City, a city that is also at ease because it had just been awarded the lucrative Big 12 basketball tournament through 2014.

One plan on the table was for the remaining five Big 12 schools to absorb some or all of the 10 Mountain West Conference schools and retain the Big 12 name and the automatic BCS bid that would come with it. Now, Kansas and Baylor can rest easy, but the MWC might have other issues to tackle.

With Kansas locked into the Big 12, the Pac-10 will reportedly target Utah as its 12th team. It added Colorado last week. If Utah accepted a potential invite it would reduce the MWC to nine teams just days after it added Boise State to get to 10. The MWC, which has been home to TCU since 2005, is hopeful it will gain BCS standing in two more years once a four-year evaluation period ends.

It's unclear at the moment how the possible loss of Utah would affect the MWC's chances.

What is clear is the Big 12 conference lives on -- at least for 10 teams who might decide to start fresh with a new name.

It appears the only loser -- other than disappointed Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott -- might be Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Cowboys Stadium was just awarded the Big 12 football championship game through 2013. But, with 10 teams, the Big 12 likely will not play a title game.

Of course, the Big 12 remain with 12 teams, as contentious as that might be, for at least another year or two. Nebraska is hoping to begin play in the Big Ten in 2011. Next up on the Big 12 agenda is the league's football media days in July in DFW.

That should be just chummy.

Source: Influential people helped Big 12

June, 14, 2010
ESPN.com's Andy Katz has an interesting story on some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that kept the Big 12 Conference from dissolving.

Katz, citing an NCAA source, writes that a diverse group of influential people got involved and helped save the Big 12. Here's an excerpt.
In an unprecedented move, a number of influential people inside and outside of college athletics mobilized over the past week to save the Big 12 Conference, stave off the Pac-10's move to expand to 16 schools and prevent a massive reorganization of college athletics.

An NCAA source with direct knowledge of what occurred told ESPN.com that the aggressiveness of the Pac-10 caused various factions of the collegiate sports world to coalesce. They then worked to slow and try to stop the pace of moves that would have left a number of schools searching for a new conference home.

The source said the people involved were business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a "fair number of them without a dog in the hunt."

According to the source, this collection of interested and influential people made phone calls, visited in person and held conference calls with the Big 12 schools that were being pursued, including Texas, as well as Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. The influential group also helped broker the new television deal between Texas (and the other schools considering leaving the conference) and Beebe, who represented the remaining Big 12 schools.
Read the whole story here.

Texas: Not going anywhere

June, 14, 2010
Texas just sent out a release announcing that it will remain in the Big 12 Conference.

The league will move forward with 10 teams after Colorado and Nebraska defected last week.

The Big 12 appeared to be dead as of Friday, but an 11th hour brokering of a major TV deal that will handsomely reward the remaining 10 teams, and in particular Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, according to reports.

By remaining in the Big 12, Texas turned down an invitation to join the Pac-10 and form the first superconference. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have followed Texas. Texas A&M either would have joined the Pac-10 or the SEC.

Texas president William Powers Jr., athletic director DeLoss Dodds and women's athletic director Chris Plonsky will address the media on Tuesday morning.

The news is a major relief to Baylor, which was staring at an uncertain future had Texas and the others left the Big 12 in shambles. Kansas is also breathing a sigh of relief.

In difficult times, Big 12 finds treasure chest?

June, 14, 2010
The threat of Nebraska jilting the Big 12 sent a shiver down the conference spine so fierce that we were told a Cornhusker exit would crumble the league faster than a failed Jenga move.

Now with Nebraska and Colorado gone, and no football championship game, a 10-team Big 12 is suddenly worth more? Will the Big 12's Sugar Daddy please step forward?

An 11th hour TV deal is apparently saving a conference that on Friday was being read its last rites. Out of nowhere, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma are reportedly being promised an annual take of $20 million. The remaining seven schools are swooning at $14 million to $17 million. Everyone would make about twice what they did under the current Big 12 TV deal ($7 million to $11 million). Not bad for a dying conference.

In these difficult economic times, the barely breathing Big 12 is suddenly swimming in cash equal to the SEC?

Earlier this month, the Big 12 announced it woud distribute a record $139 million to its 12 members. That topped the $130 million distribution the year before. And now, the Big 12 -- granted, with 10 mouths to feed instead of 12 -- is positioning itself to dole out between $170 million and $200 million? Without Nebraska. Without a football title game.

Perhaps commissioner Dan Beebe actually found a treasure chest in his backyard.

The Big 12 has a Sugar Daddy. And apparently just in time.