Monday, August 15, 2011
Expansion intrigue is Scott's comfort zone
By Ted Miller
Boy, there was a lot of not-news this weekend, eh?
Of course, the reports of Texas A&M bolting to the SEC might have been premature but not necessarily inaccurate in terms of what is eventually going to happen.
Conference expansion, it seems, is not dead. At least rumors thereof are not.
So what does that mean out West?
It could mean nothing. Texas A&M could bolt the Big 12, and the Big 12 could replace the Aggies with Houston and things would stay fairly stable.
Who thinks that's the endgame? Me neither.
The big prize has been and will continue to be Texas. If another round of expansion roulette begins a few years before everyone thought it might, count on Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott making use of his speed dial with Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds.
I mostly agree with Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman:
I expect the six BCS conferences to fold into three: Pac 16, Big Ten and the SEC. And I still think if A&M leaves and the Big 12 chooses not to expand, a nine-team league won't work, Texas and others will join the Pac-12, and the Longhorn Network will be allowed under the current Pac-12 television package that already includes six regional networks: Arizona, Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Mountain network with Colorado and Utah.
While Scott has been quoted as saying the Longhorn Network can't work in the Pac-12 framework of equal revenue sharing and the conference's total ownership of its network and regional networks, anything can be made to work if the money is right.
Texas with an equal slice of the Pac-12 pie and its own network separate from the Pac-12 is a huge win for the Longhorns, yes, but Texas in the Pac-12 -- or whatever it would then be called -- is a huge win for the Pac-12. A give-and-take negotiation, in the end, would mean more revenue for everyone, which is the ultimate goal here.
That said, plenty of folks with a dog in this hunt are saying that's not going to happen, such as Texas Tech president Guy Bailey.
"Here's the deal, what the Pac-12 offered last year, and I think they would be open to this year, is a package deal," Bailey told [Fox Talk in the Morning on KJTV 950 AM in Lubbock]. "You'd have to have four schools and Texas is the cornerstone to that. Remember, the issue last year came down to the Longhorn Network. The University of Texas wanted its own network for tertiary rights and the Pac-12 doesn't allow that. We can cut that out right there. I don't foresee that happening."
In other words, there's lots of intrigue here. The wheels are spinning in the heads of many conference commissioners, school presidents and athletic directors at present. It would seem there is weakness in both premature, impulsive action but also in being cautious and reactive.
Which is why I'm betting Scott is perfectly comfortable with these developments (or temporary non-developments). He wanted a Pac-16 in the first place. He's been on record for a long time espousing the likelihood of "super conferences." This is his comfort zone.
Scott isn't sweating this. He's grinning.