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Maryland to join the Big Ten

The dominoes have resumed falling.

Maryland is joining the Big Ten, leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference in a shocker of a move in the world of conference realignment that was driven by the school’s budget woes.

The announcement came Monday at a news conference with school President Wallace D. Loh, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and athletic director Kevin Anderson.

“The membership of the Big Ten enables us to guarantee the financial sustainability of Maryland athletics for a long, long, long time,” Loh said.

Loh added that Maryland athletics has been living “paycheck to paycheck.” The school had eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year.

“The director and I are absolutely committed to begin the process to reinstate some of the teams we had to terminate,” Loh said.

Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten member starting in 2014.

“Really in the last year it’s become so obvious that major conferences are expanding outside of their regions,” Delany told the AP in an interview before Maryland’s news conference on campus in College Park. “You have multiple major conferences all in multiple regions.

“It seemed to us that there was a paradigm shift occurring around us. And therefore the question is how do you respond to that in a way that stay true to yourself, but is also only responsive not to the world you want but the world that you live in.”

And Rutgers will apparently join them, meaning the Big Ten will technically be the Big Fourteen. Connecticut is now reportedly going to join the ACC to fill Maryland’s slot, meaning that the Big East will at the very least have to redo its divisions before a single game has been played. Did you think we were done with all the conference-hopping? Yeah, me neither. Now we wait to see who’s next. Again.

Get ready for UT TV

The Longhorn television network, coming soon to a cable or satellite provider near you.

University of Texas regents on Wednesday gave their blessing to the school’s pursuit of a so-called Longhorn network of cable TV sports programming.

Regents met behind closed doors with school President William Powers Jr. to discuss the plan. The regents’ academic affairs committee then publicly voted to allow Powers to pursue and sign a contract.

ESPN has confirmed it is in talks with Texas to distribute the proposed network. ESPN and school officials have declined to discuss how much it would be worth or other details. Fox Sports, reportedly interested in developing the network, declined comment Wednesday.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said the school is “working on a deal but (we) do not have it yet.”

[…]

Texas is expected to model its network after the Big Ten Network, a 3-year-old venture that is reportedly delivering about $70 million a year to the conference. A Longhorn Network would be Texas-specific programing, although Texas football and basketball rights are now part of deals the Big 12 conference has with ESPN/ABC and Fox.

I guess I’m not really clear on what this means. I’m also not really clear on just how much content one school could provide.

Because most of UT’s marquee games will be carried by its Big 12 partners, the so-called “Longhorn Network” will likely broadcast only one live football game and a few men’s basketball games per season. Dodds and women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky have said the rest of the schedule will include coverage of lower-profile sports and non-athletic programming such as concerts and campus events.

Doesn’t exactly sound like Must See TV to me. At least with the Big Ten network, you’ve got a lot of contributors to the total amount of programming, and by that I mostly mean live sporting events. But the UT folks seem to think this is a potentially lucrative revenue source, so who am I to argue with them.

Utah to join PAC 10

In case anyone still cares. Oh, and the Big 10 is having some scheduling issues now that they have 12 members. Boy, no one could have predicted that.

I think I’ve decided that the now-misnumbered Big 10 and PAC 10 should keep their monikers, but do all of their business in base-12, so that their names become accurate. By the same token, the Bix XII should adopt the octal system. Might make for some confusing game summaries at first (“what do you mean, Smolensky rushed for AB yards?”), but we’ll get used to it in time.

Finally, 26 members of the legislative delegation from the Houston area sent a letter to Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe and the presidents of the Texas Big XII schools advocating for UH’s inclusion. The letter, for which you can see the Beebe example here, was signed by all Harris County State Reps except for Patricia Harless, Joe Crabb, John Davis, Scott Hochberg, and Dwayne Bohac; non-Harris members Larry Taylor, Charlie Howard, Randy Weber, and John Zerwas; and Senators Rodney Ellis and Mario Gallegos.

UT headed to PAC 10

So says the Statesman.

The University of Texas is virtually certain to abandon the Big 12 Conference for the Pacific-10 Conference when its governing board meets Tuesday. Texas Tech University is expected to follow along.

Texas A&M University officials apparently are undecided on joining the Pac-10 or the Southeastern Conference. Baylor University’s prospects for joining the Pac-10 remain bleak. And the Big 12 is history.

That, in a nutshell, is how the high-stakes, high-dollar game of college athletics conference realignment — Texas edition — is shaping up this weekend after Friday’s announcement that the University of Nebraska will leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. A day earlier, the University of Colorado said it will quit the Big 12 for the Pac-10.

One highly placed Big 12 school official said there was no doubt that league members UT, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would join the Pac-10.

“The decision has been made,” he told the American-Statesman. “We’re bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M.”

Texas A&M is apparently considering a move to the Southeastern Conference.

Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has been on record as saying he believes both schools should remain in the same conference. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, however, indicated during last week’s Big 12 spring meetings that Texas and Texas A&M need to play each other regularly in all sports but hinted that did not necessarily mean they had to be members of the same conference.

“We really like the relationship with Texas,” Byrne said at the time. “We have a long relationship with them. We have the Lone Star Showdown in every sport.

“I can’t imagine us ever not competing against the University of Texas.”

The major concern Texas A&M seems to have with a move to the expanded Pac-10 is the increased travel and likely increased missed class time for all sports except football. A move to the SEC seems more logical to A&M, if a move is necessary.

“There is a two-hour time difference,” said Byrne, who was once the athletic director at Oregon. “The travel between Eugene, Oregon and College Station is 2,200 miles. That’s a long way, sports fans.”

More on that is here. I don’t know how seriously to take that. On the one hand, I think the geographical concerns make a lot of sense. On the other hand, I think the Bleacher Report raises a good point:

If A&M were to part with Texas and head to the SEC, they would almost certainly have to maintain the annual Thanksgiving game with the Longhorns, forcing them to not only play an SEC conference schedule that is at this point way out of their league, but to also play a non-conference game against a perennial top-five team.

If A&M were a strong enough program to handle this type of schedule, it would be a great scenario as their strength of schedule would undoubtedly put them in a position to play for the BCS title every season.

However, they are not.

A&M, at this point, will be lucky to finish .500 in SEC play.

Playing Texas each year would almost guarantee another loss, giving them a best case scenario of going 6-6.

This won’t work for long.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, and I’ve no doubt that the Aggie faithful would believe that moving to a “better” conference would make it easier to bring better recruits to A&M, thus raising their game. I’d just ask how well that worked for them in the move to the Big XII.

Honestly, I have a hard time seeing the two schools part ways. If you thought the Lege might get involved on Baylor’s behalf, you can be certain they will take notice of a UT/A&M divorce. In the meantime, thinking about it does allow for some entertaining scenarios, as Sean Pendergrast demonstrates.

On a related note, the Mountain West Conference has gotten in on the expansion game by adding Boise State. I wouldn’t count them out as a final destination for some of the currently left behind Big XII schools, no matter how mountain-free they are. You almost have to feel sorry for Missouri, as it was their initial flirtation with the Big 10 that was the catalyst for all this, and now here they are with no place to go. Hey, maybe Conference USA will take them. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? C-USA would be a pretty good fit for Baylor, in any event. It’s all written on water till the big boys finish up with their business. Stay tuned.

Bye-bye, Big XII

Good-bye, Colorado.

The Pac-10 announced Thursday that the University of Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 to join its conference.

“This is an historic moment for the conference, as the Pac-10 is poised for tremendous growth,” commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

“The University of Colorado is a great fit for the conference both academically and athletically and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10.”

[…]

A source with direct knowledge of the Pac-10’s discussions about adding more Big 12 teams told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Thursday that from the Pac-10’s perspective, it’s “simply a matter of who signs next.”

Colorado’s move might spell the end of the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska is also poised to announce its move from the conference to the Big Ten.

Texas and Texas A&M officials are scheduled to meet Thursday at an undisclosed location to discuss the future of their athletic programs and the Big 12 amid speculation the league could be raided by rival conferences and broken apart.

Did someone say Nebraska?

All signs are pointing to a Nebraska move to the Big Ten.

A source close to the Nebraska program told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that athletic director Tom Osborne informed some staff members within the past 24 hours the Cornhuskers were going to make the move to the Big Ten conference.

A source with knowledge of the Big Ten’s plans confirmed to ESPN.com that Nebraska will join the Big Ten by the end of the week or early next week. The source said the formal process of accepting a candidate either has started or would be under way shortly, as Nebraska must formally apply for admission to the Big Ten.

“It’s going to happen, unless something crazy happens in the final hours,” the source said. “I think by this weekend, it’s going to be wrapped up.”

Sean Pendergrast has more. For those of you keeping score at home, that would give the Big 10 twelve members, the PAC 10 eleven members, and the Big XII ten members. For now. Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows.

Actually, that’s a point that shouldn’t be a joke. Nobody knows what will happen; in particular, nobody knows exactly what the Texas public universities that are affected by this will do. State Rep. Jim Dunnam thinks they ought to be more transparent about it:

The current Big-12 debate should not be what’s best for just Baylor, or just UT. The center of discussion should be what’s best for Texas as a whole, and the debate should be conducted in public, not back rooms.

We have public institutions to improve all our lives: public parks, libraries, swimming pools, museums. Public universities and their sports programs are the same thing.

The UT, A&M and Tech charters speak of enhancing the lives of every Texan, not one football program. The “Core Purpose” stated in the UT “Compact with Texans” says, “To transform lives for the benefit of society.”

For Notre Dame, maybe it’s different. But UT, A&M and Tech are public. Their football teams are not owned by one Athletic Director or a Board of Regents. They were founded and are owned by the people of Texas. They are valuable assets of our state. Mack Brown has done a great job as coach, but it took the support of generations of Texans to get him and his team on the field. University board members serve to protect the public trust of the citizens of Texas. Not just wealthy alums. Not TV networks.

[…]

Backroom deals with TV executives trading our state pastime for rating points is wrong. When I vote on changing Texas by law and statute, I do it after public hearings, after public debate and with a public vote. Every Regent was appointed by Governor Perry and confirmed by the Texas Senate, and they owe Texans the same openness and transparency in this decision.

That’s from an op-ed he sent out, which may wind up in a newspaper near you, or you can just read it here. I think he’s right, and I think it’s time for there to be some discussion of what this means and how these schools should conduct this business. It shouldn’t just be the regents’ decision.

The Baylor-PAC 10 emails

It’s impossible to keep up with all of the Big 12/PAC 10/Big 10 stuff, and the many possible permutations of what could happen, but I was amused by the emails from a Baylor regent trying to whip up support for their inclusion in any mass migration to the PAC 16 over Colorado.

Wrote [Baylor regent and prominent lobbyist Buddy] Jones: “We cannot let the other schools in Texas (A&M, U.T., Tech) leave the Big XII WITHOUT BAYLOR BEING INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE. Long and short – if U.T., A&M and Tech demand that any move to any other conference include ALL TEXAS BASED TEAMS from the Big XII, we are golden. We need to be in a PACKAGE DEAL!”

[…]

Jones argues that Baylor is better than Colorado as a potential Pac-10 team because, “Baylor is superior to Colorado academically. Baylor has athletic facilities superior to Colorado. Colorado doesn’t participate in the number of sports that Baylor does. Baylor’s overall record in all collegiate sports dwarfs that of Colorado.”

Jones also points to Nebraska as being a key to the conference realignment. He opines that: “It’s hard enough get the home teams to stick tight. But harder still to influence a bunch of corn shuckers.”

I’m sure he meant that in the nicest possible way. The Denver Post managed to get a couple of people on the record about the Baylor-versus-Colorado thing.

Powerful Baylor alumni said today that the Texas State Legislature is looking into ways to help their alma mater.

As Kip Averitt, who retired in March after 17 years as a state senator and is a 1977 Baylor grad, told The Denver Post: “If it’s one or the other, I’d rather it be us than you.”

[…]

“I think there’s a desire to have regional participation in all of the athletics,” said State Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), Baylor class of ’86. “If you don’t have Texas and Texas A&M and Tech and Baylor playing one another, you lose the regional nature of your conference.

“It’s fun to play Ohio State every now and then but people come in day in, day out for that regional competition.”

[…]

“We’re on the same academic tier as Colorado,” Averitt said. “Both of our schools are at the top of the spectrum. That can’t be an issue. But for us down here, we’re kind of a family. We like to compete against our family.

“It’s nothing against Colorado at all. We like to travel up to Colorado from time to time. It’s a beautiful state. But when it comes to conference realignment, it’s a huge deal to Baylor University and central Texas economics.”

Colorado’s appeal to the Pac-10, besides a closer proximity, is it’s a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities. While Baylor is not, it’s considered one of the best academic institutions in Texas.

Athletically, Baylor boasts the most Big 12 championships outside of Texas and Nebraska. Baylor officials quickly point out that Colorado does not carry non-revenue sports that are popular in the Pac-10 such as softball, baseball and men’s tennis.
“We think that also should be a consideration,” Averitt said. “We’re across the board.”

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Frank Sinatra crooning in the background?

I dunno. I guess it could happen. Baylor’s arguments are quite logical. But I think Buck Harvey is correct in that logic will be trumped by numbers.

Colorado doesn’t dominate its region the way Nebraska does. But it is still the state’s largest school with the potential to be more. Baylor, bordered by UT on one edge and A&M on another, isn’t a growth business.

Then there are the numbers. Boulder, Colo., is 25 miles from Denver and is included in that city’s television market. It’s the 16th largest in the nation, the reason four major pro sports are there.

Waco is combined with Bryan and Temple on the same list, yet is 89th overall — just above Jackson, Miss.

This sure is fun to watch, isn’t it? In closing, I leave you with Dan Wetzel, who makes a strong case for how supporting a football playoff would have saved the Big 12 from the current attempts to pick its carcass, and Sean Pendergast, who compares the spot the Big 12 is in to that of the Big East of 2003. Check ’em out.

Baylor versus Colorado

Like Justin, I find this a little hard to believe.

Political forces in the state of Texas are preparing to demand that Baylor — not Colorado — should be one of the schools in the mix should the Pac-10 extend an invitation to six Big 12 schools to join its ranks, according to Orangebloods.com.

[…]

“If you’re going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we’re going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don’t think so. We’re already at work on this,” the site quoted a a high-ranking member of the Texas Legislature as saying.

The source said that there is a block of 15 legislators working to make sure that Baylor, not Colorado, is invited to join the Pac-10. The source pointed to the political and economic importance of keeping the Big 12’s Texas schools together as well as Colorado’s recent athletic struggles and lack of sports such as baseball, softball and men’s tennis.

Hard to imagine there are 15 legislators who care that much about what happens to Baylor, but I suppose anything is possible. Let’s just say I will remain skeptical about this until such time as I see some names attached to these reports. More on that from a PAC 10 perspective is here.

Meanwhile, what the PAC 10 decides to do is dependent in part on what the Big 10 decides to do.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who chairs the men’s basketball committee, compared the conference’s discussions here to his committee’s shortly before it expanded March Madness to 68 teams. At one point, the idea of a 96-team field was floated before the more modest change was adopted. That could be what happens in the Pac-10 — with the latest whopper just a bombshell that spurs talks.

“We went through an exercise of due diligence and really decided to look at all the possible scenarios and all the options to see what might be in the best interest of the association long term,” Guerrero said. “We’re doing the exact same thing here. We’re in a due-diligence process.”

USC athletic director Mike Garrett, whose football and basketball programs are under investigation for NCAA rules violations, declined comment.

The future look of the Pac-10 could depend on what happens with the Big Ten. If Notre Dame elects to join that conference, the likelihood is that any Pac-10 expansion would be modest. But if the Big Ten pulls in Nebraska and Missouri instead, the Big 12 could be in danger of crumbling. The Pac-10 wants to be position to scoop up some of those schools, particularly Texas, which brings with it a large, lucrative TV audience.

The NCAA Tournament analogy is instructive. In the end, we could get Notre Dame to the Big 10 (which, as it currently has 11 members, would make it another Big 12, albeit not in name) and little else. Until Nebraska and Missouri make up their minds, for which they reportedly has two weeks to do, we’ll see a lot of speculation. And a multidimensional Prisoner’s Dilemma:

In the middle, the Big 12 presses against these encroaching walls with increasing uncertainty, much of it rooted in distrust across the North and South divisions. A unified membership committed to the future of the conference would likely be safe from the poachers, and on some level, it’s possible no individual member is actually anxious to leave the conference as it’s existed since 1995; as Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said last week, he prefers remaining in the Big 12 if “the conference stays intact, completely intact, with all 12 members.” That depends on the conference’s anchors, Nebraska and Texas, neither of which is interested in remaining without the other, but neither of which can guarantee it isn’t ready to ship out for (literally) greener pastures.

The PAC 10 Commissioner has been given the authority to pursue expansion, so the dominoes are lined up and awaiting a catalyst. And once again, let me just say as a Rice fan, my heart breaks for these guys. May they all get indigestion while they make up their minds just how obscenely rich they want to be.