As the day began on Monday and rumblings of a last-second, desperation effort to keep the Big 12 together were beginning to gain traction, if the various schools involved had Facebook pages, their relationship statuses would have looked like this:
"University of Texas: In a relationship with the Big 12."
"Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State: Married to the University of Texas."
"Texas A&M: It's complicated."
The Aggies' desire to go try and play at the highest level of competition in college football was eventually quenched, as various mysterious power brokers -- like a SHITLOAD of them -- reportedly worked tirelessly to keep what remained of the traditional conference landscape of college football intact.
According to ESPN.com...
The source said the people involved were business executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors, network executives with ties throughout college athletics, administrators at many levels throughout the NCAA membership and a "fair number of them without a dog in the hunt."
I mean, damn, if I had that many people working on my marriage, I might actually still be married. (Truth be told, a $20 million TV contract would have been enough for me to sign on for another 15 years or so. Somewhere, my ex-wife probably disagrees, but I digress...)
So now Dan Beebe, a guy who was one University of Texas decision away from being the most well known "college sports consultant" on hotjobs.com, is all of sudden the guy who held it all together....for now. I mean, am I the only one who looks at all of the flirting that went on, all of the back room conversations, the Near Miss (and yes, if it was as close as Chip Brown was reporting it to be, then the Pac-16 concept's sudden death gets its own proper noun), and thinks that this whole thing might be built on quicksand, especially if what's being reported about this Big 12 TV deal is true -- that it's based on consultants and network executives expectations and is not signed?
Call me crazy, right now this thing feels like a season of 24 where Jack dismantles a nuclear bomb, kills a few bad guys, and finds out who the mole is -- all events that seemingly resolve storylines -- and yet you look up and it's only Hour #9. Usually at this point, as minute 58 of the episode ticks down, Jack gets a phone call from Tony Almeida or someone who is either Chinese or Middle Eastern warning him that "it's not over yet." And then we get to watch Jack rip ass for another fourteen hours.
That's a little how this feels. For now, I'll assess final Pendergast Realignment Strength (PRS) rankings for all parties involved. Remember, PRS ratings are a totally, completely subjective score (scale of 0 to 100) of how much college football "hand" each entity has at this moment in time when it comes to being enriched/confused/swallowed up by the current college football landscape. So here we go....
SEC -- Was apparently really, really close to finally breaking into the Texas recruiting turf by wooing Texas A&M in as a 13th member, but ultimately the Aggies chose to stay at home. I said all along that the SEC adding anybody would be like the Yankees going out and trading for a high-priced arm -- do they make you better? Sure. Do you need them? Absolutely not. Bonus points for SEC fans that they can make fun of Texas and Texas A&M for being "scared of the SEC." They love doing that. PRS RATING: 99.6
TEXAS -- If this whole process did nothing else, it reinforced Texas' place in the college football universe in business terms. They're every bit the independent that Notre Dame is (and then some) in terms of the clout they bring and the autonomy they have. The difference is that Texas has the burden of a bunch of cousins and relatives that they have to help subsidize -- like I said last week, Texas is Vincent Chase in Entourage. Assessing their situation, they're still a big fish in a familiar pond with smaller fish that they know, and they get their own $5 million per year aquarium! (The aquarium is the future Longhorn TV network, in case you needed an explana-- ...never mind.) PRS RATING: 99.2
NOTRE DAME -- As I watched Texas struggle throughout this process with trying to do the best thing for themselves while simultaneously dragging along all of their relatives and watch all of the different factions forming within and between the conferences, all I could think was "Do all of you see now why Notre Dame values their independence?" Put it this way -- we all have friends who are married right? Some even happily, God bless them. But are any of you super-jealous of your married friends BECAUSE they're married? Conversely, raise your hand if you're married and you're jealous of a LOT of your single friends....yeah...there you go....go ahead, get 'em up....it's cool....now, look at all those hands. THAT'S why Notre Dame isn't giving up their independence. That and money. Next. PRS RATING: 91.2
Quick side bar, Notre Dame-related -- I think it's funny how everyone talks about the Irish having "their own network" (it's actually not "their own," it's called NBC and they program a lot of other shit, but whatever)...and now the deciding factor in Texas keeping the Big 12 together is the Horns' ability to have their own network (like an actual Longhorn Network) and there's no criticism at all. Don't get me wrong, Texas should get everything they can -- this is America, after all -- but I think it's funny that Notre Dame gets frowned upon for "their own network" that's not even theirs, and Texas is lauded for their "forward-thinking approach of getting their own network." Maybe I'm the thin-skinned one, what the hell...
BILL SELF -- From Friday to Monday, Bill Self went from playing rivalry games with BYU in the Mountain West to remaining the most storied, successful program of what is now, top to bottom, the strongest basketball conference in the country. Seven of the ten teams that remain in the Big 12 made the tournament last year. This week's events resulted in an underrated home run for the Big 12 basketball-wise -- they shed two donkeys in Nebraska and Colorado and get back to a true 18-game round-robin schedule. PRS RATING: 86.4
MACK BROWN/BOB STOOPS -- Since its inception, the Big 12 has staged fourteen conference championship games. In eleven of them, one of the participants has had national title game possibilities going into the game; in FIVE of those games, that team lost (and Texas came within one second of losing last year). Coaches like conference titles, but they love national titles. When one gets in the way of the other, that's bad. Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have been vocal about the detrimental FOOTBALL effects (which are separate from the financial gains, of course) the conference title game has. A ten-team league means no conference title game, it would seem. PRS RATING: 84.7
TEXAS A&M -- So did Texas A&M get a little bit of a "rub" from being considered for the SEC or did they just show themselves to be UT's lackey by going along with the plan in the end? That's up to you, all I know is that they're on the verge of making a lot more money and established that "Texas doesn't have to have A&M with them where they go, but it sure helps." Put it this way -- I think casual fans in the Midwest and on the East Coast see A&M as a more of a player than they'd realized at the beginning of last week. PRS RATING: 82.0
DAN BEEBE -- Say what you will about Dan Beebe, but even if you believe that there's still a nuclear bomb waiting to go off somewhere down the road in the Big 12, the dude at the very least got a rock-solid stay of execution, which is a hundred times more than he had on Friday. Conference stability is based on good football, tradition, and television deals. The Big 12 already had good football, the acrimonious tradition is not a fixable thing, so credit to Beebe for fixing the one thing he could fix (or at least address) -- television. Fight the fights that you can win, Beebe did that. PRS RATING: 66.3
COLORADO -- They say that the two best days in a boat owner's life are the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it. I have to imagine that's how the Pac-10 feels with Colorado right about now. Thought to be the precursor to a Pac-16 on a subtly euphoric Friday for the Pac-10, the Buffs are now...well...a boat. What was a fun, quirky addition to a sixteen-team league with the Texas and Oklahoma schools is now the dope-smoking cousin playing xBox all day on the Pac-10's couch, and probably not nearly enough to get the other Pac-10 schools the $20 million TV payday they were counting on. PRS RATING: 64.5
UTAH -- How do you counterbalance inviting the dope-smoking, bastard cousin to join your league? Load up on Mormons, of course! It would appear Utah is now the apple of the Pac-10's eyes (and who knows if BYU would follow -- much higher Mormon factor). Total consolation play for the Pac-10, but potential monster upgrade for Utah. PRS RATING: 64.4
LARRY SCOTT -- Did anybody's star fluctuate more than Scott's the last week or so? He went from being the Steve Jobs of college football on Friday to trying to pilfer schools from the Mountain West in like the 25th-biggest TV market on Monday. Amazing. Part of me wishes that Larry Scott was actually Michael Scott's brother so that he would quit the Pac-10 and steal Cal and Washington State and go try and start up the Larry Scott Football Conference (Office fans know what I'm talking about). PRS RATING: 64.3
HOUSTON -- We'll never know (or at least won't any time soon) what the proliferation of 16-team superconferences would have done to or for the Coogs -- would they have been part of it, would they have been outside looking in? We don't know. In that sense, this near-status quo is good for Houston. Their access to the BCS hasn't changed and if they can establish themselves as a dominant team in C-USA, then if the Big 12 ever decides to go back to twelve teams, you would have to think a strong U of H program (with a shiny new stadium, to boot) would be a prime target. Mack Rhoades has to be ecstatic with how this played out. PRS RATING: 60.5
BOISE STATE -- So you went from being the Gonzaga of the Western Athletic Conference, a program where conference really didn't matter anymore (you had respect and were scheduling out of conference games without much difficulty) to a conference where Utah may be looking to get out (which means BYU may not be far behind) and TCU is always ripe to be picked up by the now ten-team Big 12? Which if any of that goes down means...well, you're basically back in the WAC. Congrats, I guess? PRS RATING: 55.9
MISSOURI -- Remember the storyline arc in The Sopranos in Season Four where Paulie, a typically loyal Soprano family guy, was getting disgruntled and began leaking information to Johnny Sack (underboss of the New York Lupertazzi family) thinking that Johnny was his friend? Johnny told Paulie "Oh sure, Carmine talks about you all the time!" (Carmine Lupertazzi was Johnny's boss and the biggest wheel in the New York mob.) In short, Paulie thought "Yeah screw Jersey! New York WANTS ME!!" Then at a wedding Paulie actually ran into Carmine and Carmine had no idea who he was, and then at that moment Paulie realized "Oh shit, I've been played by New York. How the hell do I go back to Jersey now?" Well, pretend Missouri is Paulie and Jim Delaney is Johnny and the rest of the Big Ten is Carmine. And watch this video...
If it's any consolation, Mizzou, Paulie was one of the few Soprano soldiers that survived the series. So there's that. (Bonus points for the Missouri governor cracking Nebraska and Colorado on their way out the door, even if he somehow now thinks a ten-team Big 12 will get more NCAA bids than a 12-team league. God bless ya, brother.) PRS RATING: 48.2
ACC -- In the movie Ransom, there's a scene where Jimmy Shaker (the kidnapper of Tom Mullen's son, played in award-winning semi-psychotic fashion by Gary Sinise) warns Mullen (Mel Gibson) that even though Mullen got his son back, you better remember that he can be stolen at any time and that Mullen will have to ask himself every day "is today....Jimmy Shaker Day?"
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That's kind of how the ACC (and via ripple effect, the Big East) has to go through life right now -- they now know that the SEC is willing to expand for the right school/program. So all of a sudden if Miami becomes "The U" again or if Florida State rises to prominence, the ACC will have to wonder every day...is today...Mike Slive Day? PRS RATING: 39.5
PLAYOFFS -- I hear a lot of people talking about how, with the "four 16-team superconference" approach now out the window, that we're that much further away from a playoff. People who espouse this, however, are under the false assumptions that (a) we would have had only four superconferences without major lawsuits (do the math, there's more than 64 teams who would have legit beef, trust me) and (b) a playoff is even a small fraction of the motivation behind all of the near shakeup. It's not. It was being done to maximize television deals for the regular season and conference title games. You know who was silent throughout all of this noise the last two weeks? The bowls. This just in...they tend to be less silent when "playoffs" are part of the discussion. We were NEVER closer to a playoff in this whole process. Ever. PRS RATING: 9.5
SESAME STREET -- I know it's nothing new (and no longer funny to crack jokes about it) that the Big 12 has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve teams. We get it, it's stupid, it's ironic. I just feel for the good people of the Children's Television Workshop who are going to have to find some way to get Grover to explain this to future toddlers and kindergarten kids. Good luck with that! (And stop making Cookie Monster eat vegetables. THAT is fucking stupid. He's Cookie Monster, not some salad-eating pussy.) PRS RATING: 0.0 (and as usual, the kids get screwed....)