Do you hear it?
No, it isn't the chorus of Longhorn fans clamoring for Mack Brown to get out of Dodge... Although, if you turn your head towards Austin you are certain to pick up those screams, no doubt.
The sound I am talking about is the sound of Big 12 schools, fans, coaches, ADs and administrators grumbling and squirming over the latest round of realignment news, which will send Maryland and Rutgers running to the BIG.
There are, right now, a group of five super conferences: The Pac 12, The Big 12 (10), the BIG (14), The SEC (14), and The ACC (13). And, in college football, all other conferences are simply superfluous. There are quite clearly two separate groups in college athletics now, the haves and the have nots, and if you don't belong to one of the above groups you are essentially irrelevant.
And, you know what? The ADs and Presidents don't even care that you know that, they made it incredibly clear last week when they announced the new details of their playoffs where there are two distinct groups: The Fantastical Amazing Duo of Five, and Those Other Five Schools That We Are Legally Obligated To Mention and Must Include in Some Minimal Way In Our Evil Scheme.
As a Big 12 fan, and a TCU fan, I look at this ever changing landscape and wonder, "How is the Big 12 going to react?" I was asking myself the same question almost every year for the last three, as schools started shifting around to find the best bang for their athletic buck.
Many fans want the Big 12 to expand quickly, adding schools like Louisville, Cincinnati or BYU who are very clearly excited to join the Big 12 and would jump at any opportunity to do so.
But, let us remember folks, what is this all about? Money, cash, bucks, silver and gold. And adding schools like Louisville and BYU do not add money to the pot, they simply take cash out of it.
I love the Big 12 revenue model. Once TCU is a full member (in 2015), they will have an equal share of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 media revenue, about $20 Million a year. Add to that our Tier 3 revenue from FSSW, an expected $2-4 Million in additional funds. All together, that is $25 Million or so in additional athletic revenue that will allow TCU Athletics to be cash flow positive for the first time in its modern age, something less than 30 NCAA schools can boast.
The current Big 12 media contract runs for 12 years, clear into the 2020s, and every Big 12 institution has signed a grant of rights to this league ensuring that nobody can get out, unless they crave suicidal thoughts. Sure, there is a look in around the 2015-2016 athletic year, but there is no chance ESPN or FOX will agree to increased payments to the league just on the basis of a Louisville, or a Cincinnati, or a BYU, they simply do not add enough eyeballs.
The equation is simple, TV executives crave three things: Large Markets, Large Ratings from 18-54 males, and high profile match ups. Please tell me how those schools that would say yes to the Big 12 in a heartbeat can provide that?
That's right, they can't. So we stay put, for now.
Now, for shit's sake, let's say Florida State and Clemson see Maryland get a sweet buy-out deal from the ACC, roughly $15 million, and decide they have the donors to cover it, I would welcome these schools in a heartbeat. While these two schools have been up and down on the competitive landscape the last few years, one (FSU) certainly brings a large market and alumni base, and the other (Clemson) can bring along the eyeballs. As long as a few of these variables are in play, the Big 12 media consultants will be able to play ball and ESPN/FOX will be inclined to listen.
Now, I am not saying we would see MORE revenue per school, that is quite unlikely under any circumstance. But, could we see an equal AAV for 12 institutions with these two institutions coming aboard? Yes, that is likely. Could we see an equal AAV for 14 institutions, if you add in Cincinnati and Louisville? Maybe, I would bet a small decrease in year-to-year AAV would be likely.
And no, we are not going to bring the Longhorn Network into this... The Big 12 model is set, a school controls their Tier 3 rights, this is not going to chance folks (at least I don't think it will), and to tell you the truth, I don't want it to either! But, that is another story for another day.
Either way, the math is clear. The Big 12 is sitting pretty right now and has no reason to move. We are not in fear of being poached. Instead, we are the poachers and the only way forward right now is to wait and see what happens in the ACC.
If FSU and Clemson find a way out, then the end game becomes clear: To 12 or 14 we go, with the Seminoles and Tigers in hand.
Strap in folks, it is going to be a bumpy ride.