There has been a lot of talk about expansion lately. It’s difficult to Google “college football” or “NCAA” right now and not find yet another article explaining what it is and why it’s happening.
Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo sports, writes an extensive article on why the Big 12 is suddenly the goat in this situation. It’s a long read, and it’s obvious what side of the fence Mr. Wetzel stands on, but it also brought something to mind for me—an SEC fan—who is admittedly a tad confused by the expansion hoopla; why is this good for college football?
The Pac-10 will, allegedly, look to add six teams to their league (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and either Baylor or Colorado). In doing so, they will hold the largest market share as far as television revenue goes—making them a very attractive conference to sell to the highest bidder for broadcast rights.
My question is, why would any true fan of college football want a 16-team league? With that many teams, you start to phase out natural rivalries and, in part, you begin to water down the true heart of why many people watch the games—the passion and the pageantry.
With that said, it’s obvious that the move, if made, will be totally about money. This isn’t about anything else.
It has nothing to do with enhancing the landscape of college football or bringing about a powerful conference that rivals that of the SEC or the Big Ten—although that’s precisely the angle being preached to the common fan—no, it’s about dollars and sense.
Whatever conglomeration of conference team members brings in the most dollars, makes the most sense—period.
Which brings about another question, one that I haven’t seen answered in any of the blogs, media rhetoric, television interviews, or Twitter talk I’ve imbibed; what if this model fails?
It’s an honest question to ask, right? After all, the Pac-10 could be making a huge statement by extending an offer to Texas, but what good is all the revenue Texas would bring, if their counterparts bring little to the table.
Texas is a powerhouse and they always have been. They don’t need the Pac-10 or any other conference’s invitation to continue to hold that title—it’s Texas. However, the other five teams that ride on the coattails of Texas, including Oklahoma, benefit from this partnership more than any other.
Remember, the revenue generated by bowl appearances, BCS wins, and network revenue, is divvied up amongst the conference members—split 16 ways—no matter who is the most responsible for the generation of those funds.
It’s not as if USC, Texas, or Oklahoma will be able to negotiate a 70-30 split—whoever is the best representative for the conference that season, gets the most money. It doesn’t work that way. Teams like Baylor, Washington State, and Texas Tech, stand to make a killing if this expansion model works as planned.
However, if it doesn’t work, then you have a conference that is not unlike that of any other conference at present—all the cream rising to the top.
In my opinion, college football’s popularity has very little do with revenue for the fan. Don’t get me wrong, I understand business models and I know that at the end of the day, you have to be able to compete with the big boys if you want your university to thrive at the national level.
Most university presidents welcome the revenue stream that comes in from football, baseball, tennis, and the like because it gives them the brick and mortar money to continue building their academic programs. I get that, I do.
However, just because you make something bigger and add a pretty bow to it, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be better. Consider the Western Athletic Conference which expanded to 16-teams in 1996.
They had four divisions and were, at one time, considered to be one of the best mid-major conference teams in the land.
It wasn’t long before teams started to see that the arrangement wasn’t as beneficial as first thought. It was hard to cover the expenses of traveling and recruiting on a budget that saw minimal increase from the maximum exposure. It just didn’t make sense.
Of course, the revenue possibilities now are better than they were then but that doesn’t truly make life any better for a team like Washington State, does it?
I don’t know, maybe I a little too old school. I was fine with the way the conferences were aligned already and figured, if anything, it was time the big boys started kicking the dead weight out—bye, bye Baylor and so long Vanderbilt—in order to add teams that are beginning to make head way in their programs. That, to me, makes the most sense—increase the quality, not the quantity.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, it’s clear that change is on the horizon. The question remains, for me and some others I am sure, is that change really going to be for the best?
What say you?