I don't know that I can think of a business endeavor in which there are more educated, "book-smart," intelligent people that looks more like the work of a bunch of high schoolers hepped up on caffeine pills than collegiate sports conference realignment and expansion.
Consider for a moment that roughly a week or so ago, Big XII expansion was dead in the water. The league had evaluated candidates, determined none of them brought enough to the table to move from a ten-team league to a 12- or 14-team league, and they began making plans for the 2016 season. Then, news broke that the ACC was forming its own TV network, run by ESPN, and all hell broke loose.
An ACC network, which would make the Big XII the only Power Five league without its own conference TV outlet, would emphatically and clearly say what everyone knows already — the Big XII is built on a metaphorical fault line (let's call it the Four-League, 64-Team Structure fault line) that could swallow it whole.
So suddenly, the solution to strengthening the league's spot in the Power Five became doing the exact thing they had determined just a day or so earlier wouldn't strengthen the league at all. And so it was that all ten Big XII schools voted unanimously to evaluate expansion. That's a key distinction here that has been lost on some — the league did not vote to unequivocally expand; it merely voted to assess doing so (which is exactly what the league had presumably been doing when it nixed it two days earlier...and yes, my head hurts.)
Educated people making decisions like teenagers — I told you, this is the Big XII. If the conference were a publicly held company, shareholders would have jumped ship two years ago. However, its stature — or more appropriately, the fact that Texas and (perhaps) Oklahoma are still part of the conference — keeps it in the mob cartel that is the Power Five.
So, late last week, the pay window opened again for schools like BYU, UConn, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis and yes, the University of Houston. Rightfully, the school went back into sales mode, because for survival purposes, it must. For most of them, the Big XII conference's TV money represents a tenfold jump from what they're already making. There's too much at stake not to say "How high" when the Big XII says "Jump!"
And as in any sales pitch, as a salesperson, you do your best to understand the criteria that your prospect is using to evaluate your wares, and while the Big XII pays lip service to academics, facilities, brand cleanliness and the like, in Texas, the hindrance to the University of Houston's efforts always seems to have been good ol' Texas politics — in other words, the other Texas schools (mainly UT) saying "hell no" when it comes to Cougar admission into the conference.
And then a funny thing happened late last week. Greg Fenves, the president of the University of Texas, tweeted this...
...and after checking to make sure it wasn't a fake account, most UH fans (and UT fans, for that matter) went into overdrive to find out what changed. Speculation centered (and still does) on maybe some quid pro quo going on with UT rubber-stamping its approval of U of H as a Big XII school in exchange for U of H softening its stance on Texas opening up a Houston satellite campus.
Fenves's tacit approval of the Cougars then opened the floodgate, somewhat predictably, for the other Texas schools to follow suit. First, Texas Tech's incoming president...
...and then TCU's baseball coach...
So now the fun begins — a nightmare of a sales process in which numerous schools pitch to a client that has no idea what they're looking for or how many of them they need, if they need them at all. And they might just change their minds tomorrow without any warning.
Whimsy is the only constant when it comes to the Big XII.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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