Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big 12 stares at dollar menu, hopes for steak

Depending whom/what you choose to believe, the following things are true: West Virginia has been (or will be) accepted into the Big 12, Louisville is fighting to take West Virginia's spot and escape the sinking ship that is the Big East and Notre Dame may or may not be interested in moving to the Big 12 for all or some of its sports.

The first two are directly related to Missouri's impending jump to the SEC and the open spot that move would create in the Big 12. There's room for more teams since there will only be nine without Mizzou, but it sounds like 10 is preferable to Oklahoma and Texas, and we all know that Oklahoma and Texas get what Oklahoma and Texas want. The first choice for a replacement was West Virginia, and that went swimmingly ...

ESPN reported that the Big 12 told West Virginia it will be accepted into the conference pending formal approval, citing a Big 12 source. Earlier Tuesday, The New York Times reported that West Virginia had "applied and been accepted" to the Big 12.

Wednesday morning, The Associated Press reported that the Big 12 "approved bringing in West Virginia to replace Missouri when the Tigers complete their move to the Southeastern Conference," citing a person with direct knowledge of the decision.
... until Louisville invited itself to the table and made things kinda awkward for everybody. The latest from ESPN:

The New York Times reported Wednesday that U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, had lobbied Big 12 officials -- including Boren, a former U.S. senator -- to include Louisville in expansion plans.

The Times quoted a person with direct knowledge of the plans as saying: "I think it's 50-50 right now between West Virginia and Louisville."

The Associated Press, citing a person with knowledge of the situation, said West Virginia was preparing Tuesday to announce the move with a news conference on campus with Big 12 officials on Wednesday. The school and the league also were working on a news release when university leaders received a call from the conference telling them to put those plans on hold, the person said.
Ouch. There are two takeaways here:

1. Hit the lights if you're the last school out of the Big East.
2. "It's 50-50 right now between West Virginia and Louisville."

If I had to guess (I don't but will), I'd say West Virginia still ends up getting the invite because football is all that matters. From that standpoint, replacing Mizzou with West Virginia is basically a wash and therefore a win for the Big 12.

As for the Big East ... yeah.

I said this about a month ago:
Either everybody bails and starts looking for a home or the conference adds Villanova and a couple other bottomfeeders and becomes the Mountain West Northeast. Either way, West Virginia and UConn will be slutting up and looking for a way out. There just aren't enough football-relevant programs to keep that conference afloat as anything other than an afterthought, which is kinda sad but not that big of a deal unless it leads to Notre Dame doing something (unlikely).
In reality, it's gonna be a combination of those two scenarios. Everybody who can bail to a better/more stable conference will, and while there are enough basketball-only holdouts that there'll still be some crappy version of a Big East well into the future, let's be realistic: Replacing Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia/Louisville with Army, Navy, Temple, etc., yields the Mountain West Northeast. This conference will not be relevant in football in three years.

And that brings us to Notre Dame. Being Notre Dame, the thought of competing in basically a mid-major conference in everything other than football is obviously appalling, so an alternative must be found (maybe):
The discussion of ND possibly moving its non-football sports to the Big 12 continues to heat up. The subject is actively being discussed by Big 12 administrators and the Irish.

We reported on Monday that ND will decide in 60 days if it is going to move its non-football sports out of the Big East (and possibly into the Big 12). If Notre Dame does make such a move, it is being proposed that the Irish would remain independent in football but begin playing up to six football games against Big 12 competition. has reported that Texas would love to replace Texas A&M on Thanksgiving with Notre Dame, if possible. That still may be a bit of a longshot.

One high-ranking official at a Big 12 school holds out the hope that if Notre Dame moves its non-football sports into the Big 12 it would be a "segue to full conference membership in a year or two - about the time the first tier TV rights (held by ABC/ESPN) are negotiated."
As always, keep in mind that Orangebloods is essentially DeLoss Dodds' third-person blog and includes lots of inside information that means little other than "this is what the important people at Texas want." Take everything with a Texas-sized lick of salt.

That said, the Big 12 might actually be able to hook itself to Notre Dame because it'll offer something no other conference will: desperation-inspired flexibility. The Big 12 isn't desperate for survival, but it's desperate for schools that will be of some interest nationally come negotiatin' time. Notre Dame has no interest in joining the Big Ten or ACC because those conferences are perfectly happy and profitable and have no reason to make sacrifices like "sure, keep your NBC deal" and "go ahead and play six nonconference games," which are still dealbreakers for a school desperate to retain the independence it sees as necessary to maintain a national "brand." The Big 12 doesn't have the luxury of a river of money and might be willing to negotiate (Texas gets its third-tier rights via the Longhorn Network, so Notre Dame could keep the NBC deal temporarily and then switch to a similar setup that I'm surprised doesn't already exist).

If ND's options five years from now are (a) complete football independence dooming other sports to irrelevance and (b) partial football independence* and a stable Midwest-ish conference for all the nonrevenue sports, the choice would probably be easy. I say "probably" because ... like ... we're talking about Notre Dame, where independence has become as much of a source of football-centric pride as any of the stuff that happens on the field.

Standard disclaimer: I'll believe it when Notre Dame is playing in Bloomington Winston-Salem Ames.

*My understanding of the talked-about scenario is that ND would technically retain its independence but strike some sort of scheduling deal for six games against Big 12 teams. Given the obvious interest in playing Notre Dame and Notre Dame's obvious lack of interest in playing pretty much everybody other than Oklahoma and Texas, I could see that turning into a hilarious fight that would end with DeLoss Dodds telling everybody to sit down and shut up while he puts together the conference's schedules for the next 10 years.


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