MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA 2010™: Deja Vu All Over Again

I hinted in today's links that I wanted to expand a bit on one of the links provided.  The Dallas Morning News' Kate Hairopoulos uncovered a DMN article from 1994 discussing the SWC's ongoing breakdown and possible realignment scenarios.  It really is fascinating.

By any scenario, SWC unlikely to survive
Randy Galloway
Publication Date: February 21, 1994

Within the next few days, it may simply die. Dead and gone after nearly 80 years.

Or it could be granted a stay of execution, but that would be strictly temporary, and only prolong the inevitable.

Or - and be advised to stay tuned on this last option - what happens next might involve a nuclear attack of political and financial warheads. Only the strong will be left standing. Nobody else gets out alive.

Nuclear attack of political and financial warheads.  Sounds rather familiar.

[B]usiness is business. And the cold-blooded question of the moment is this:

Do the University of Texas and Texas A&M owe it to the state's heritage, or to Austin politicians, to preserve and protect the other six SWC members?

And if not six, how about Texas and A&M looking out for the best interest of say, well, two other members?

My answer is "no" on both counts.

Well ... mostly no.  Two of the remaining six were salvaged.

But first, as we enter what should be a critical week for all eight SWC members, let's review how the scoreboard currently reads.

To begin with, the recent demise of the College Football Association means the Southwest Conference has no TV contract beyond 1995. That alone tells us the SWC is sitting in a boat that won't float.

But there are two different television proposals - from a combination of ABC and ESPN - being offered the SWC, and both come in conjunction with that once unfriendly neighbor from up north, the Big Eight Conference.

In one deal, there would be an alliance with the Big Eight, meaning the SWC stays fully intact, at least for now. This is a temporary thing, however. It brings instant TV money, but officials at Texas and A&M will tell you it's like slapping a Band-Aid on a bazooka wound. It doesn't stop their bleeding.

Meanwhile, TCU, SMU, Houston and Rice are praying for the alliance. It buys them more time. As the conference schools with the least to offer, overall, they need time to sell themselves.

Just like the Big 12 / Pac-10 TV alliance.

What those four don't want is what's behind Door No. 2. The second proposal with the Big Eight is a merger, and with this a blackballing would take place.

The inside word from Big Eight country is if that conference is going to restructure and lose its identity, it wants to call the shots on a 12-team league.

It would start with Texas and A&M, obviously. It would include Texas Tech, and then, from the troubled Western Athletic Conference (which also has been shut out of TV money), Brigham Young is eager to jump. And is wanted.

Baylor then would be cold-shouldered. But a second version of the merger has Baylor included in the mix, meaning either a 13-team conference or the addition of another school to make it 14, resulting in two seven-team divisions.

In the protect thy own butt process, Texas Tech and Baylor officials want the merger, like right now.

I almost missed the BYU mention because I was too busy wiping the tears from my eyes, laughing at the "Big Eight wants to call the shots" piece.

Sources say it could have happened last week. But, and here we go, Texas, for sure, and maybe Texas A&M, threw out an anchor. They say they still are studying all options, and for them, a Big Eight merger might not be best. Might not.

What if both thought they would be better suited in a "southern division" of the Pac-10 with Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC? What if Colorado jumped the Big Eight and also went to the Pac-10 and that southern division? Texas is known to be a favorite of the Pac-10, and there are Austin whispers about Longhorn honchos also talking up A&M with that conference. Both schools have the high academic standards sought by the Pac-10.

The more things change...

You also hear that Texas Tech made Pac-10 overtures on its own, but found zero interest.

Well ... yeah.

Then again, what if Texas hooked up with the Big Ten, an option that seems remote. What if A&M joined the Southeastern Conference, which doesn't seem remote.

The more things change...

Anyway, Texas and A&M have been in a holding pattern. This delay reportedly has caused serious anger in the Big Eight, most of it aimed at Texas. The Big Eight has threatened to move ahead and cut its own deal with ABC and ESPN. If so, it's instant death for the SWC.

But is that instant death actually what Texas and A&M are waiting on? It removes all conference obligations, and they would be free to cut their own deal. Is this why West Texas politicians in Tech's corner and state house reps friendly to Baylor are gearing to bring heavy pressure on Texas and A&M? Because they believe the foot-dragging on the Big Eight thing is calculated subversion?

Again, the Big 12 was formed on shaky footing with plenty of bitterness.  As with relationships in real-life, you can usually pretty quickly tell what's going to cause the relationship to fall apart, even if you don't know when that might happen.

Do not, under any circumstances, discount this political pressure factor. Four years ago, statehouse muscle was used effectively against Texas and A&M when Arkansas jumped to the SEC and the other two were rumored to be planning the same exit.

We might think we know what's going to happen this time around, but political pressure is only beginning to come into play.  Maybe the Pac-16 gets away with inviting Baylor, maybe they don't.  Maybe ATM's chats with the SEC (plus whatever chatting Texas has been doing in private ... though with Chip Brown hiding in DeLoss Dodd's office, there might not be any Texas secrets remaining) this time around are more serious, but maybe they get pulled back in with the others.

But these are much different times than then. It's a dangerous jungle out there today. Positioning yourself for survival is important to everyone, even the big boys like A&M and Texas. If political heat is involved, and it will be, the Aggies and Longhorns will muster their own statehouse forces this time.

This is war, and this is business. Sadly, this might also mean the end is very near for the Southwest Conference.

Just a fun read all around.  We might think we're in uncharted waters right now ('we' as in the collective world of college sports ... not just Mizzou fans), but we're really not.  All the same forces that are out and about right now were just as forceful 16 years ago.  Of course, when the dust settled, not nearly as much happened as was once expected -- the SEC added two teams, the Big Ten added one, and the Big 8 and SWC half-merged.  This time around, the stakes may be higher -- the Pac-10 is looking at adding six, the Big Ten three to five, the SEC up to four, and the second-most powerful conference in the country could completely dissolve.  But until it happens, it's still probably not guaranteed to happen.  Just ask almost Big 12 member BYU.

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