Friday, June 04, 2010

Elections Have Consequences: Will Nebraska Break Up the Big XII?

After years of losing 11-1 votes over various matters in the Big XII Conference, the tables have finally turned with Nebraska holding the key to the very survival of the conference.  Kind of ironic how this seems to have turned out. Essentially Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman have been handed an ultimatum: either commit to the future of the Big XII now and eschew any interest from the Big Ten, or the Big XII dissolves.

I've long been in favor of Nebraska switching conferences for several reasons. Money is the primary reason; the Big Ten has the best revenue setup of any conference. But there is the issue of control of the conference as well. Right or wrong, there's a perception here in Nebraska that Texas sets the rules. When the conference was formed, Nebraska wanted the Big Eight's rules, traditions, and records to continue...but no dice. Texas wanted more stringent rules on academic qualifiers, and the rest of the league sided with Texas. Nebraska didn't want a conference championship game, but Nebraska lost the too. Even this week, Nebraska wanted the Big XII championship game to alternate between Kansas City and Dallas...but Nebraska lost that battle 11-1 once again.

To be sure, not every decision went against Nebraska. In fact, some votes (such as the revenue sharing rules) work in Nebraska's favor overall. I'm sure Iowa State and Baylor would prefer that the Big XII adopt the Big Ten's revenue sharing rules, but Nebraska and Texas aren't going to be budging on this one. So in some respects, Nebraska is also guilty of that which they accuse Texas of.

But is this worth breaking the Big XII up over? In the eyes of Nebraska it seems to be. The fingerprints of Texas seem to be all over the story of the Pac-10 inviting the Big XII South (swapping Baylor for Colorado), according to the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel. Texas wants the Big XII to succeed, because they think they can bully the rest of the conference around and game the system to their advantage. That's something they couldn't do in the SEC (schools like Alabama and Florida would call them on it), the Big Ten (everybody), or the Pac-10 (USC would stop them in their tracks).  No favorable revenue sharing, no ability to form their own television network instead of being bundled with the conference package. But if the game is up in the Big XII, then the Longhorns will do what's best for the Longhorns - whether that's in the SEC, Pac-10, or yes, even the Big Ten.

Ironically, this whole debate started when Nebraska got nervous that Texas would leave the Big XII and start a domino effect. So Nebraska opened themselves up to alternatives...and now the Huskers are the ones that seem to be in position to knock down the very first domino.

Here's what I think is happening:
  • Nebraska believes that an invitation from the Big Ten is forthcoming. Perhaps as soon as next week, as the Big Ten presidents are meeting this weekend in Chicago.  (Remember this from the "allegedly discredited" Kevin Kietzman report last month?) If the Pac-10 combines USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Cal with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC and Big Ten will need to add schools with a resume. Nebraska and Notre Dame have the biggest resumes of the potential free agents. No way that they get left behind, no matter what Chip Brown wants you to think.
  • The Pac-Ten will invite the six Big XII schools as well this weekend. This starts the college football armageddon that will force the SEC to react. That puts pressure on Notre Dame and, yes Texas too, to make up their minds because a new world order is coming to college football.  Not only is the Big XII on the endangered list, so is the Big East, which is the home of the Irish in most of their other sports.
  • Oklahoma and Texas A&M are going to be free agents and will likely be discussing their options with both the SEC and the Pac-10.  My money is on the SEC here, especially if Texas turns to the Pac-10 or Big-10.
  • Kansas may look today like they are on the outside, but as this shakes out, the Jayhawks will end up somewhere.  Probably the Pac-10, but you never know about the Big Ten.
  • Baylor and Iowa State are scared...and rightfully so. Kansas State may sneak through.
Next week should be awfully interesting.  Grab your popcorn...and a good travel guide to the midwest.  Maybe one of those GPS units for those road trips heading east.  Especially if Frank the Tank's suggestion that Nebraska could begin playing a Big Ten schedule in 2011 comes out to be true.

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