Isn’t it amazing how things can change. Left for dead 2 years ago and still very unstable earlier this year after losing Texas A&M and Missouri, the Big XII has not only made themselves one of the top four conferences in the country but also has put itself in a position to challenge the SEC as the top conference in the nation. Even now, it’s remarkable that this could possibly be happening. Now the question is, will the Big XII take advantage of this golden opportunity it currently has, an opportunity that will probably never come again. An opportunity to secure it’s existence as long as college football is played.
I know, as most read this, they are thinking to themselves that I gotten carried away. That even though the Big XII has had a remarkable turn around, there is no way they could possibly challenge the 6 time producer of the national championship but hear me out. How can the Big XII do this? This is how.
First thing’s first. The Big XII should not sign the new 9 year extension agreed to with ESPN which will lock up their rights until 2025. They should let their current contract expire in 4 years and take their first tier rights to the open market. College sports have been undervalued for years and ESPN is no longer the only "payer" in town. NBC Sports is dying to get more college sports programming and Notre Dame is the only major college that NBC broadcasts. NBC’s contract with the Irish ends in 2015. NBC would love to add a major college conference to it’s programming. On top of that, Fox has said that they would like to start a network to rival ESPN and just maybe FOX would like the Big XII’s first tier rights to go along with the 2nd tier rights that they already have. The extension that has been agreed to by the Big XII and ESPN will bump each Big XII school’s payout from the current $15 million to $20 million and an additional $5 million per year, that’s nothing to sneeze out, just ask FSU. With the Irish’s contract ending in 2015 and the Big XII’s ending in 2016, it’s the perfect storm for both. Accepting the extension and not letting their first tier rights go to the open market would be selling themselves short. The $5 million that the Big XII schools will be giving up in the short term would be a wise investment in the long term.
After adding Texas A&M and Missouri, there is no doubt that the SEC is about to be the highest paid conference and rightfully so. There is no doubt in my mind that the SEC will get a minimum of $25 million per school in their new deal with ESPN. It would not surprise me the least if the SEC gets as much as $30 million per school. If the Big XII wants to get paid like the SEC then they need to be SEC-like. If the Big XII can duplicate the strength of the SEC then there is no reason that they can not only get paid as much as the SEC’s new deal but more than likely surpass it considering the SEC’s deal will already be 3 years old by the time the Big XII is ready to sign their deal.
The Big XII can not become SEC-like by following the DeLoss Dodds’ 10 is perfect plan. It can’t become SEC-like by adding just 2 schools, even if those 2 schools are FSU and Notre Dame. They need to go much bigger than that, like in 6. The Big XII should add all of the ACC’s "football" schools. Expand by adding not only Florida State, but also go after Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech at first. Jump on Virginia Tech before the SEC does, if you lose them to the SEC, make Miami the fourth school instead of the fifth. Then go after the big prize, Notre Dame and not just for their Olympic sports.
With the new college playoff coming, a conference gives the Irish, it’s best shot at getting into the playoffs and don’t think for a moment that Notre Dame doesn’t realize that. Without a conference, Notre Dame would have to go undefeated to be in the top 4, while in a conference, a 1 loss Irish could get in. As far as Notre Dame’s TV deal, the Irish know that they are worth more to the networks as a member of a conference than as an independent, and we can’t forget that in the Big XII, the Irish, as well as all members of the conference, get to keep their precious 3rd tier rights to sell. If the Longhorns can get $15 million and their own network, don’t think Notre Dame couldn’t sell theirs for at least $10 million, which is huge for the Irish considering they are currently getting $15 million for their 1st tier by NBC. If Notre Dame comes aboard then you can add the 5th ACC "football" team, Miami, if hopefully the Big 12 has beaten the SEC to Virginia Tech. If either Virginia Tech or Notre Dame balks at the Big 12’s offer then NC State and Louisville should both be there waiting, both new markets for the new conference.
Look at what these six schools would bring to the Big XII. Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech have all won national championships. As a matter of fact, these 6 bring 23 total national titles. The current Big XII can only claim 13 titles from 3 schools, Texas, Oklahoma, and TCU. The only one in the bunch that hasn’t won a title is Virginia Tech, arguably the best football team of the bunch.
What else does the Big XII get? They get instant rivalries which the networks love. FSU-Miami is the obvious but Miami also has a history with Oklahoma and Notre Dame, the Catholics vs. convicts, and who can forget the 1991 Miami-Texas Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame’s history includes both Georgia Tech and FSU. West Virginia use to play both Virginia Tech and Miami while in the Big East and after the embarrassment of last year’s Orange Bowl, I’m sure Clemson wouldn’t mind a chance to redeem themselves against the Mountaineers. You also have the familiarity of the ACC teams with each other. I’m telling you, this is major TV programming!
With 16 teams you can divide the league into either 2 or 4 divisions. I prefer 4 because I like the idea of conferences not only having a conference championship game to sell but also conference semi-finals to sell to the networks. Here’s what the potential Big XII could look like.
Southern Division- Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami
Northern Division- Iowa State, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Virginia Tech
Midwest Division- Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Texas Division- Baylor, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech
Tell me how attractive would a Big XII playoff consisting of Oklahoma vs. Texas and either a Florida State vs. Notre Dame or a West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech be to the networks or answer this, if the current Big XII is worth $20 million per school, how much would this new power Big XII be worth to the networks on the open market? Lots!
This proposed 16 team Big XII would be as good as the SEC from top to bottom. It may even be better. If the Big XII wants to take on the SEC for the title of top conference in the country, then they better have some bullets. This will give them the bullets.
Now, I know the SEC and Big XII just signed a huge deal to play each other on New Year’s Day, business is business, but do you think that the Big XII could ever get any better revenge on the SEC for taking A&M and Mizzou than to expand in to 3 different states in the heart of SEC country and take Virginia Tech? I don’t think so.