Loftin said that Texas A&M was making a 'hundred year decision' when A&M started exploring the options of other conferences. The overriding sentiment here in the Longhorn Nation is that the Aggies may have been being petty. Things aren't working out, so they're taking their ball and heading elsewhere.
However, in imagining the scenarios that could unfold as this plays out, I'm starting to think that what we've been being fed is not the whole story.
I feel we're missing here the undertones of a discussion that is happening above the heads of the fans. The landscape of college football is probably going to change forever, and while we all know what the final destination is, we're going to be none-the-less surprised when we arrive.
The talk after the last alignment shuffle was all about "super-conferences". Why move to larger conferences? It's all about the money. More schools in a larger conference structure can collectively bargain for larger TV money. Four "super-conferences" would effectively have a monopoly on upper tier collegiate athletics, and would be able to squeeze every last dime possible out of the television networks.
The college football "haves" don't want to be amateur any more... they want NFL size money, and whether they need to pay the players or not is an afterthought. The AD's of top tier schools around the nation are smelling blood in the water.
Knowing this, it's apparent that "super-conferences" are primarily in the interest of the schools, and not in the interest of the television networks. Right now the T.V. networks are facing a divided collegiate world and it's probably keeping their costs down.
Back during the last realignment, with CU and NU moving out of the Big 12, this picture could have become clear to the schools. Maybe they realized they had the upper hand, and started a slow slip towards a more organized "upper-tier" of college football.
The first move to create one "super-conference" would have to be moving Texas A&M to the SEC. A&M and Texas discussed the PAC back when CU moved over. A&M didn't feel the PAC was a fit, so things stalled for a year or two. There was also the "Tech Problem".
Now, with A&M packing its bags and leaving, there's a nice package of four teams that could pull out of the Big 12:
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas.
The result would be the first super-conference. It's not the first time we've talked about heading to the PAC, and it still makes sense.
Now, the PAC has its own regional networks as part of the conference, potentially removing the LHN as an obstacle. If we make that move and divide the teams into their "logical" regional areas, we would have a "West" and a "SouthWest" division. The "SouthWest" division of the PAC would have coverage in these cities, listed by TV market size:
By picking these 8 teams:
Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.
Every single team in that division would be bringing something to the table, and the television deal would be monstrous. Those 8 teams would be negotiating TV deals along with the California teams that would be covering Los Angeles(2) and SF-Oakland-SanJose(6).
Step back and think about it. Four of the top 10 TV markets in the country would be held by this PAC-16, not to mention the significant holdings of Seattle, Denver and Phoenix giving this PAC-16 seven of the top 20. A&M is taken care of by joining the SEC, their fanbase's pride fed and their position in the coming era of college football secure.
So what are the barriers? Well for starters it would destroy the Big 12, and I assume the new PAC 16 would demand that they have the Big 12's BCS bid. This could cause an arms race between the PAC-16 and the SEC/Big10, but with teh SEC moving to 14 teams, maybe the SEC is waiting for another BCS bid to make the move to 16. Again, we can't rule out the possibility that the PAC, Big 10, and SEC are colluding in this process.
Also, some plan needs to be made for the teams in the Big 12 that don't move to the PAC. The Big 10 and SEC might be looking to poach teams to make it to 16 as well, though there's no doubt that there will be some losers in this scenario.
Talks along the line of reforming the BCS have already occured, we've heard the announcement that the PAC and Big 10 were considering a "plus-one" format.
Could this be a prelude to four 16 team conferences? Four Conference Champions? Two "Semi-Final" bowls, One Champion?
This may not happen this year, or even next year, or even in the next 5 years. But, to me, it makes too much sense... and money, to ignore.
If A&M and Texas are on the inside of this transition, it's possible that Texas would even encourage A&M to find a new home to make this neat 16 team package work. We haven't seen Texas make any strong moves to keep A&M in the conference, and that would align with us having another agenda that didn't necessarily involve A&M being tied to us and doesn't involve independence.
This potential PAC-16 would be a conference without peer in the college sporting world. The remaining three mega-conferences would be free to split the last 6 of the top 10 TV markets to our 4, paving the way for the long term success and stability of this 16 team configuration.
If you think with your wallet, you have to think about the PAC-16.