Is stability the expansion endgame?

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
7:19
PM ET
Oklahoma's and Texas' board of regents granted their school presidents the authority to take action regarding conference realignment on Monday, but that doesn't necessarily mean immediate moves are imminent.

Maybe we get a moment to breathe here. Maybe that's a good thing.

There are plenty of folks who remain uncertain about expansion, including Pac-12 administrators. UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero released a statement Monday on potential Pac-12 expansion:
Expansion just for the sake of expansion is rarely a good thing. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "We may all have come in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now." Those of us in the same boat, the existing Pac-12 members, need to think long and hard as to the relevancy and value of bringing new members into the boat. Issues of academic compatibility, student-athlete welfare, competitive and financial implications all need to be thought out carefully by the various stakeholders. If further expansion is the right thing to do, then it makes sense to proceed.

The chief question: Is the conference's long-term future best served by being a 12-team league or by adding Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and becoming a 16-team league? That means Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott needs to paint a picture for the Pac-12 presidents about what might happen if other leagues expand and the Pac-12 doesn't.

One thing to understand: Just about everything here is about self-interest. Treat everything you read -- from named and unnamed sources -- as working an angle and you'll be better off.

Texas coach Mack Brown's speech on the Big 12 conference call? ("As much as we talk about money," Brown said, "as much as we talk about college football, as much as we talk about realignment, as much as we talk about great games, playoffs and all that stuff, we better go back and make sure that we're taking care of the players and that the players and the high school coaches are always considered in the equation.")

Right. Texas wants the Big 12 to survive because it's the Texas League, where it gets to do anything it wants. (And what do high school coaches have to do with this?)

Baylor's polling of Big 12 fans about conference expansion? Right. The poll wouldn't exist if Baylor were part of the foursome talking to the Pac-12. Or it might have emerged from Lubbock if Texas Tech were left out.

Even Guerrero, packing a Martin Luther King reference, is working an angle. His chief worry is UCLA falling further down the conference pecking order.

So don't listen to any of these guys. They all have agendas.

But you, the college football fan, do not get enriched by any of this, expansion or no expansion. In fact, you're the one who pay all the bills. You buy tickets. You watch TV. Your passion has created this multi-billion-dollar market that is driving these decisions. Your agenda is the game you love and your willingness to spend money -- and time -- on it.

I wonder if you're being taken for granted. No, wait. I don't wonder. I know. And I hear your massive skepticism.

Still, I am cautiously optimistic a Pac-16 would work and even work well, that it could be organized in a way that satisfies most fans interests. And as a college football entity -- heck, college sports entity -- it would be a powerhouse.

To me the larger issue is reaching an endgame where we can find long-term stability. How much of a guarantee would we have that four or so 16-team super-conferences will settle in for the next decade or so? Not much, I suspect.

That ultimately becomes an issue for the guys on the revenue end to consider: If upheaval becomes the standard, that eventually could significantly erode fan interest.

And then the next set of TV contracts might not end up leaving the schools so fat and happy.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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