What I took away from this week’s developments is the following:
• A football championship game increases the odds of expansion significantly. (NOTE: I’m just saying it increases the odds significantly, NOT that it makes it inevitable.) A round robin schedule that guarantees a rematch among ten teams is asinine and that will quickly become apparent (if it’s not already).
• The pro rata that Big XII Commissioner Bob Bowlsby confirmed exists and the means of divvying that new money (by giving the newcomers a smaller cut initially and splitting the rest among everyone else) only makes expansion much more enticing.
• No traditional TV network completely changes the paradigm of how you select expansion candidates, because it’s no longer about the TV market you can allegedly bring to the conference. Goodbye UConn, UCF, and USF. The Florida schools may continue to hold out the vain hope that they can still bring a fertile recruiting base to the conference, but that’s a pipe dream.
• No traditional TV network also means that no P5 school will defect to the Big XII in any circumstance, now. Why would an Arkansas, Florida State, or even a Nebraska ever consider leaving the guaranteed equal share of their respective conferences to come over only to immediately make less money than Texas? Sure, any of them could leverage their own third tier rights and probably make as much as Oklahoma…but that’s still less than half of what Texas pulls. Had there been a Big XII network with the Longhorns rolled in and everybody pulling an equal share, it might have been possible for an Arkansas or FSU to consider a change, but certainly not now.
• Expansion candidates will now be vetted based primarily off the school’s brand and football/athletics competitiveness and overall fit. This vaults BYU back up to the top spot (if it ever really dropped far). Nobody can realistically argue that they are not already a P5 caliber athletics program (see: BYU beating OU and Texas in football recently). They are Big XII Team Number Eleven, in my book.
• I’m wondering if the pro rata allows for bringing in just one team, because it’s intriguing to consider just bringing in BYU and calling it a day, at least for a couple years. They’re the one program everybody could agree would bring a quality athletics program in, and if the Big Ten got by scheduling 11 teams for 20 years, there’s no reason the Big XII can’t do the same for a few years until they decide on the twelfth team.
• Houston is back in the mix based off it’s recent (not just last year) success. Whether the Big XII already “owns” the Houston market is a moot point, now. See what Boren said about fans wanting to watch games against quality opponents. Both Cougar schools are definitely that, and any Sooners fans who are acting like they’re not looking forward to the chance to pound Houston all the way back to Conference USA in September are full of it. Quality games also includes the history Houston has with the other Texas schools; who are Longhorns fans, TCU fans, etc going to get more excited about playing should there be expansion: Cincinnati, or Houston? Houston is my second expansion pick. (If adding a fifth Texas school is ultimately deemed too much, then Cincinnati is my alternate.)
• I still maintain that Oklahoma and Texas can’t just bail on the conference without significant political resistance within their respective state legislature’s about leaving OSU and Tech behind. Some may argue that A&M got out just fine, but they weren’t the flagship school of their state, nor did their departure cause the conference to collapse. (Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado, for that matter, did not have in-conference brethren they were leaving behind, so there was never any political fight to be had.) OU and Tx leaving on their own effectively reduces their states’ Power 5 schools from two to one (in Oklahoma) and from five to two in Texas (Tx and A&M). (The same applies for KU and K-State.) The political resistance in both states’ (three, including Kansas) to such a move will be fiercer than anybody really is accounting for.
• Finally, this leads to the most realistic option for Texas and Oklahoma leaving the conference after the GoR expires, which is basically what they had the chance to do at the beginning of all this: take their state schools and go west, to the Pac. This forms a logical eastern division of the Texas and Oklahoma schools, the Arizona schools, Utah, and Colorado. I know the Az schools will hate it because they’ll be cut off from California, but they’d have to adapt by recruiting in Texas, instead. This allows Tx and OU to both leave the conference with minimal political blowback (though TCU and Baylor will fight in vain to stop it). If Tx and OU leave the conference in nine years, that is how it will happen.