Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Did Saving Big 12 Cost Big Ten Notre Dame?

Just when it looked like Notre Dame would have to join the Big Ten, Dan Beebe altered everything by saving the Big 12.

Sure, Beebe, the Big 12 commissioner, had to grant Texas everything but the Fountain of Youth (Joe Paterno still has that locked away in a secret Nittany Lion vault), but the fact remains that now that the Pac-10’s bid to take Texas and a big chunk of the Big 12 is done, expansion fever will cool.

At least for a little while.

If the Pac-10 had become the Pac-16 (it’s the Pac-11 right now, and has invited Utah to make it 12 teams), the ripple effect would have likely created four 16-team leagues and jump-started a national playoff.

Notre Dame’s desire to remain an independent in football would have left it as an outsider in such a scenario and likely forced it into a conference, almost certainly the Big Ten

For now, at least, it can wait.

Who would have guessed that a few days ago when Colorado bolted for the Pac-10 and Nebraska joined the Big Ten. The Big 12 was on the verge of disappearing. Then Beebe went to work and somehow got assurances that future TV deals would generate a lot more money for each conference school. The conference also agreed that Texas could have its own TV network. It would not have been able to do that in the Pac-10.

This seems unfair given that Texas already has the nation’s most profitable athletic department. In 2008, the last year figures were available, it totaled $138.4 million in athletic revenue, the most in the nation, $20 million more than second-place Ohio State.

Do you really want to be giving those guys even more money?

Fairness isn’t a priority. Clout is and the Longhorns have plenty of it.

Of course, all this could change by next week. The SEC made strong overtures to Texas A&M. Rumors are swirling about Arkansas leaving the SEC for the Big 12, although Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said the Razorbacks aren’t interested in leaving the SEC.

Right, and aliens DIDN’T land in Roswell, New Mexico.

Anyway, for now the Big Ten is focused on getting Nebraska on board for the 2011 football season (the same for all its other sports) and dividing up the league into divisions so it can have a Big Ten football championship game.

But don’t be surprised if the league and Notre Dame have some secret, secret talks. In the long run, football independence will have to end.

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