I've held off as long as possible, but ... it's time. Sigh. "MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™ 2011" just got its own section. Buckle up.
First of all ... really, A&M? Yesterday was Sheldon Day -- something Mizzou fans have been anticipating for about four years now. And you had to go put that all on the backburner? All because you're pissed at Texas? This will not be forgotten. (See, Governor Perry, that's how you write aggressively in the passive voice.)
Second of all ... really, A&M? The season is about to start. You've known about the Longhorn Network for months. And you choose NOW to get pissy about it again? I agree with Patronizing Richard Justice below: you've got to leave now because if you don't do so after whining and pouting and making fall practices all about you, you, you, then you're not serious, you'll never be serious and you get to stop talking now.
Now that that's out of the way ... my current thoughts on MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™ 2011:
Is Mizzou Staying in the Big 12? (In Other Words, Is the Big 12 Still Going to Exist?)
This thing isn't set yet. Right now, Texas A&M is a member of the Big 12 and will be for at least the rest of this academic year. Three things still have to go down before anything is a "done deal," no matter what A&M writers are saying behind paywalls.
1. A&M regents still have to vote on it. I'm sure there are some on the board who are sold on the SEC and have been for at least the last year, but I'm willing to bet that for a decent percentage of them, the SEC is going to be a hard sell. The reasons should be obvious: you're leaving your rivals. You're leaving your chief rival, with whom you've been paired in a conference for a hundred years. You're wanting to move into the most ridiculously difficult division in all of college sports, the SEC West, where your best hope is to become another Arkansas, putting a good team on the field and hoping to squeeze into the conference title game once per decade or so. You just left the second-hardest division in the world, the Big 12 South, which you failed to win once in its last 12 years of existence. There's a good chance some regents are very resistant to this idea, but we'll say there's still a good chance of eventual approval. Chances A&M clears this hurdle: 80%.
2. The Texas Legislature has to avoid screwing this up. Granted, having the Governor on your side is a huge asset (just ask Baylor), but no state government is more involved in the whereabouts of their universities than Texas. The move has to get approval, and A&M has to avoid a "You have to take Tech with you" scenario. Likely, but not guaranteed. Chances A&M clears this hurdle: 80%.
3. The SEC still has to vote them in. As we see from the Sporting News link below, this hasn't happened yet. Evidently, it might happen tomorrow, but we don't know yet. I doubt that every school in the conference is going to be high on the idea of adding a 13th team, especially when there's not a no-brainer 14th team to follow. But let's face it: if SEC commissioner Mike Slive tells them to vote yes, they'll probably vote yes. Chances A&M clears this hurdle: 85%.
So A&M needs three things to happen, and all three are likely to happen. But here's the deal: remember how basic probability works? 80% x 80% x 85% = 54%. There are still so many landmines here. This is far from a done deal, but it's further along than a lot of us probably thought it would be, especially since, you know, fall practices have started. (Again ... really, A&M? Now?)
(There's also a fourth hurdle: Texas figures out how to stomp out A&M's leverage just like they did Mizzou's last year. But I think they're a little handcuffed by the Longhorn Network at the moment, so I'll ignore this for now. But the burnt orange shadow is still looming.)
So let's say A&M does leave. Their departure, in a vacuum, means nothing. They're a good program, but losing them won't kill the Big 12. Only Texas and maybe Oklahoma have that level of clout. If the SEC were to choose an ACC team as its 14th program and stop, there's nothing guaranteeing that anything else would change, at least in the short-term.
But we know how aggressive the Pac-12's Larry Scott is. You know he'll be calling Oklahoma immediately, and you know he'll be calling Oklahoma State and Texas Tech directly after that. (Bully for Tech, by the way. If A&M leaves, then suddenly they become the lynchpin for a lot of Pac-12 activity. Not as much as Oklahoma, of course, but their leverage will go through the roof.) And you know Jim Delany's goal, when he stirred all of this up in December 2009, was not "I'm going to float out a bunch of rumors about moving to 14 or 16 teams and expanding the Big Ten Network's footprint all as a ruse to end up with only Nebraska."
How these two conferences respond -- and whether the SEC looks to Mizzou or another Big 12 team for School No. 14 -- will dictate how all of this plays out.
Is Mizzou Going to the SEC?
If Mizzou also wants to come to the SEC, just remind everyone Road House was set there. INSTANT ADMISSION GRANTED.
If you believe the rumbling, Oklahoma doesn't really want to end up in the SEC. And why would they? Or to put it another way, why in the hell would a true, annual national title contender want to face a gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, etc., in an SEC West, then potentially face Florida, Georgia, Auburn, etc., from the SEC East? If we're trying to figure out who the SEC adds, and if OU isn't on the table, then the SEC either looks at Missouri, or they look to the ACC.
If the SEC is simply looking for balance, then it makes sense to add A&M to the West, then add an ACC team -- Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, whoever -- to the East. That causes the least amount of overall shuffling. It's clean, it's tidy, etc. I've heard FSU is the first choice, and I've also heard that Clemson and Virginia Tech are the first choice. In other words, we have no idea.
The thing about ACC teams not named Virginia Tech, however, is that they add nothing to the footprint. But as our friend T. Kyle from Dawg Sports mentioned below, the SEC has a national footprint -- it's called ESPN (and CBS, for that matter) -- so the "footprint," in and of itself, doesn't mean as much to this conference as it supposedly does to the Big Ten. That hurts Mizzou's prospects, obviously, since our ties to the St. Louis and Kansas City markets are part of our overall draw. But it still is a draw, since right now the SEC is not the biggest show in StL and KC. Adding viewers there, adding marketability there ... that still matters, and Mizzou is still a possibility. And culturally, Mizzou is a decent fit. As good a fit as Virginia Tech, anyway. We won't know how strong their candidacy is, obviously, until A&M makes its move (or doesn't). Until then, the rumors will be incredible -- some positive, most negative. Ignore them. Or at least, have fun with them.
Is Mizzou Going to the Big Ten After All?
The other fun rumor floating around yesterday is that the Big Ten is still aiming big, hoping to somehow bring Texas and Notre Dame aboard (along with A&M, which ... LOL YEAH RIGHT). If things explode, Mizzou's ticket to the Big Ten probably depends on these two schools.
I don't think Texas will work out for them even if the Big Ten truly is aiming for them (though if they did, entertain yourself all day by envisioning Nebraska fans' reactions to Texas coming aboard with their Longhorn Network). So even if Notre Dame does freak out and join the fray (and if Larry Scott were able to bring OU, OSU, Texas Tech and a 16th team aboard ... that might be enough to sway them), that leaves the Big Ten with at least one more opening. And that takes us to everything we wrote about last year, when we were weighing our merits with Rutgers', Pittsburgh's, etc. Mizzou has a more valuable athletic program than Rutgers, but obviously the key is how important RU's New York/New Jersey ties are to the BTN. And if Notre Dame resists the temptation (which they still could do, especially if Texas goes independent) and the Big Ten still wants to expand, then I do think Rutgers and Mizzou become the key pieces because of the oft-mentioned footprint.
Is Mizzou Going to the Big East?
This time around, I take comfort in one specific thing: I'm basically 99.99% certain that the worst-case scenario here is the Big East. And while that would result in a dock in revenue ... it's not bad for a worst-case scenario. Extremely winnable BCS football conference + best basketball conference of all-time (with, presumably, Mizzou, Kansas, KSU and ISU jumping aboard)? That's not awful. Give me the Big Ten or SEC first, but that's not awful.
It's easy to see how the Big East becomes a feasible option. They are standing back, poised to pounce on the Big 12's leftovers; now they just have to see who those leftovers are. If the SEC moves toward the ACC for Team No. 14 (or Teams No. 14-16) ... if the Pac-12 scoops up OU, OSU and Tech ... if the Big Ten lands Notre Dame, Texas, Rutgers, or Anybody Not Named Missouri ... then hello, Big East. Again, it would be the worst option, both because of revenue (a big one, eh?) and the fact that this means Mizzou would have been passed up by three different conferences (including the Pac-16), which is not exactly good for morale. But last year we were getting freaked out because the Plains Division of the Mountain West seemed like an option, and that scared the hell out of us. That, plus the "LOL WHO DOES MISSOURI THINK THEY ARE, OPENING UP THEIR BLOUSE LIKE THAT???!?!" sentiment, made MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™ 2010 a miserable, miserable experience.
I don't think that's on the table this time. The odds of Mizzou losing BCS conference status are quite small this time around. (Of course, Mizzou's fanbase has witnessed "small odds" events going against them before, so this probably isn't altogether comforting.)
Anyway, it does appear that August 22, a week from this coming Monday, is the day A&M will be voting to put up or shut up. I'm not nearly as convinced as others that they'll make the jump, but it's at least as likely as not at this point. If they do, then the next month or two get crazy, and for reasons beyond whatever is happening on the football field (seriously ... screw you, ATM, for this timeline). Buckle up.
It Hasn't Happened Yet
- Orangebloods: D-Day appears imminent for 10-member Big 12
- USA Today: Texas A&M official on SEC move: 'There's no agreement in principle'
The Sporting News: Source: Report of Texas A&M accepting SEC invitation 'just not true'
“Way premature,” the SEC source said. “Our conference presidents and athletic directors haven’t met about it, and that has to happen before anything goes forward. There’s a lot of work to do before we’re anything close to that.”
The Rivals.com Texas A&M website reported Thursday night that the Aggies had accepted an invitation from the SEC, and would join in 2012.
While the two sides still could come to an agreement, there are obvious problems—most notably the Texas legislature pressuring the Aggies to preserve longstanding rivalries with Texas and Texas Tech.
- PowerMizzou: Realignment And What It Means
- KC Star (Campus Corner): As the Big 12 turns, part II. What to make of it all.
- Post-Dispatch: Tipsheet: How does the SEC sound to Mizzou fans?
Big 12 Reactions
Houston Chronicle (Richard Justice): To save face, A&M must head to SEC
For the second time in about 14 months, the Aggies are holding their breath, stomping their feet and threatening to take their toys and bolt for the Southeastern Conference.
They've apparently discovered the Longhorn Network will be one long University of Texas infomercial, and you just can't get anything past the Aggies anymore.
They almost left last summer, and this time they have no choice. Otherwise, they become a laughingstock. To stay would mean taking a vow of silence.
It would also mean they were never serious about leaving in the first place, and who'll pay attention to any-thing they say down the road?
Once they go, the fun begins. That's when Big 12 commissioner DeLoss Dodds has his work cut out for him.
- KC Star (Campus Corner): What [KSU AD] John Currie learned from the first conference realignment scare
- Daily Oklahoman: Texas A&M departure would leave future of a Big 12 a Big Mess
- Team Speed Kills: Why the Latest Texas A&M to SEC Rumors Went Mainstream
- Team Speed Kills: Conference Realignment: Texas A&M to the SEC, the Size of the Shakeup and 52-Card Pickup
- Dawg Sports: Letting the Markets' Placement Decide: Ruminations on the Prospects for SEC Expansion
- CBS Sports: Reasons Aggies want to move to the SEC run deep