If we were in June 2010, this would be a novel blog post. Unfortunately, I don't use the right side of my brain too often, so this isn't particularly original. Thanks to the very eager fans of Texas A&M and their Twitter following fanatics, yet again for the umpteenth time in just over a year, the specter of the Aggies going to the SEC and impending Big 12 dissolution is nigh (is anyone surprised by this?). After coming so close last year to having a Southwest Conference-type collapse, the Big 12, as many of you know, has acted like Wile E. Coyote in those Looney Tunes cartoons: walking on air over the edge of the cliff, not yet having looked down to their impending 400 foot doom. While the Coyote hasn't reached for the "Uh-oh" sign yet, A&M fans keep waiting for the proverbial ACME anvil to drop.
Why does the Guardian over in the UK have a Looney tunes picture?
As it is, though, because of the rumor mongering, he-said/he-said/she-said, reading-between-the-lines of Dan Beebe and Deloss Dodds quotes, and the power of the Twitterverse and social media, people in Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri are talking about the return of the planned Pac-16. So it got me thinking: do any Stanford fans (or heck, Pac-12 fans) really want the Pac-16 to come to fruition without A&M OR Texas?
Of course, what prompted this discussion in the first place was the "Oh, by the way" announcement by ESPN and UT that they planned on airing high school football games on their Longhorn Network last month (which was nixed by the Big 12). It certainly didn't help, either, that the network made public its desire to get a Big 12 conference football game on its network earlier this summer or that they supposedly offered $5M to Texas Tech to broadcast the Tech-UT football game. What has finally tipped the cup over in favor of realignment happening faster than expected was the revelation of the contract between ESPN and UT. Among the gems found in the contract:
A best effort would be made to show additional Big 12 football games
A best effort would be made to secure the TV rights to air away football games
A best effort would be made to show the Texas State UIL football playoffs, specifically the State Championship(s)
Texas could not partake in any future Big 12/conference network
ESPN is given exclusive negotiating rights with Texas for airing all sporting events for 60 days if UT ever goes independent
Texas has the ability to "censor" (to put it lightly) any broadcasters who do not portray UT in a positive light
As it was written, I certainly sympathize with A&M alums and supporters as well as the rest of the Big 12. How the conference members allowed it to happen, despite clear signs that it would be detrimental to the Big 12 even back last June, I'll never know. So to that end, I certainly don't blame the Aggies for causing hysteria in Texas and much of the South, clamoring to join the SEC. What I take most issue with is that this is happening less than a month away from kickoff and the start of conference seasons for not only football, but volleyball and soccer, but that's a discussion best left for the comments sections.
Jon Wilner, the West Coast equivalent of Chip Brown when it comes to being so right and so wrong at the same time, laid out recently what might happen if A&M (or Oklahoma or Missouri) decide they're leaving the Big 12 in the near future. His basic gist? There aren't really any good schools left to take if the Longhorn Network's contract isn't dissolved. Larry Scott already made clear that the network is a clear deterrant for the Pac-12 to invite Texas. Texas, though, was supposed to be the feather in the cap for the Pac-16, while the other schools were going to be the price to pay for including Texas, including the Tier 3 schools of Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Does the Pac-12 really want any of the remaining schools in the Big 12 if it collapses? Does it raid the Mountain West? Does it take BYU, despite clear objections from the fans of several Pac-10 schools last year? How about the WAC and Hawaii? Below, I've quickly compiled a list of some of the FBS schools west of the Mississippi that conceivably have as much a chance as anyone to join the Pac-12, assuming A&M and UT aren't available. Do any of them appeal to you?
New Mexico State
UTSA (FBS in 2013)
|Air Force Academy
San Diego State
Texas State (FBS in 2013)
Bruins Nation and CGB already did polls over there recently and the majority of them seemed to favor eastward expansion without UT, but only in the sense that it benefits UCLA and Cal. I'm a little more interested in a broader perspective, so yes, other Pac-12 fans, you're welcome to chime in. From those schools above, do you see the 13th, 14th, and potentially 15th and 16th teams? Take into account that while football is the driving force behind expansion, the conference probably would be reluctant to add football-only members. Feel free to leave your comments below.