Looks like it is going to be a long, hot summer on the expansion front with reporters chasing ghosts and rumors of ghosts.
A radio station in Kansas City got everybody hot and bothered yesterday when it reported that the Big Ten had already extended offers to four schools: Missouri, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Rutgers. For the rest of the day there was one report after another from those respective campuses saying: “That’s news to us.”
Understand that a story like this is not true right up until the minute that it is. In other words, the invitations won’t be (officially) extended by the Big Ten until that league already knows they will be accepted.
The Big Ten is not going to extend and invitation to a school and say “No hurry, guys. Just do your homework and get back to us when you can.”
Nobody will get a chance to say “No” publicly to the Big Ten.
So let’s talk about something we do know when it comes to expansion and it is this: There has been speculation that if Missouri and/or Nebraska leave the Big 12 that SEC member Arkansas would be tempted to go back to its Southwest Conference roots. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier speculated as much on a recent conference call of SEC coaches.
Let me tell you in no uncertain terms why that won’t happen. Back in 1991 Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the SEC because athletics director Frank Broyles, one of the shrewdest administrators to ever walk on a college campus, could look down the road and see that he’d make more money—a lot more money—in the SEC. Commissioner Roy Kramer had a plan that entailed a 12-team conference with a championship game.
You’d have to say that Frank Broyles was right. In 1990 the 10 SEC schools shared $16.4 million, about $1.6 million per school. Today, the SEC now has a $3 billion TV contract with CBS and ESPN. This season each SEC school will receive about $17 million in shared revenue during the spring meetings in Destin.
When you are trying to guess what school will land where if there is expansion upheaval, remember that these decisions made on the basis of money. Also remember that the SEC and the Big Ten are the big financial dogs in this game. Arkansas is not going to jump off the SEC train for less money in the Big 12. And they would get less money.
Berry Trammel, the fine reporter with the Daily Oklahoman, pointed out earlier this year that while the Big Ten and the SEC share their revenue equally, the Big 12 does not. The Big 12 puts half of its revenue in a common pool which is shared equally. The other half goes into an “appearance” pool and is passed out based on the number of times a team is on TV. Obviously a system like that accrues greater benefits to Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. The gap between Texas, which will earn about $12 million this season, and the bottom team in the league is several million dollars.
Obviously, the other members of the Big 12 don’t particularly like this arrangement but those three schools, especially Texas, make up the engine that drives the financial train. You want Texas to leave? Try changing that formula.
Missouri will go to the Big Ten if offered for that very reason. Do you think Arkansas wants to jump into that environment? No chance.
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