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Koltarik Korner: Texas A&M-ageddon

Koltarik Korner: Texas A&M-ageddon

Last summer, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was staring his conference’s death in the face.

Colorado left for the PAC-10. Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten two days later. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas were all rumored to be going to either the SEC orthe PAC-10.

And then suddenly, everything stopped. Beebe saved the conference by negotiating a huge TV deal for the remaining schools (especially Texas), and the world would have to deal with a bizarre reality where the PAC-10 and Big Ten have 12 teams, and the Big 12 has
10 teams.

Well, congratulations Dan Beebe. You managed to save the conference just long enough for Texas to alienate the other schools even more by creating its own self-centered (literally and metaphorically) network. Now we’re back to where we were last year.

Except this time, there will be no last-minute TV deals. The Big 12 is going to die. The only question that remains now is when.

Last week, Texas A&M announced that it will depart the Big 12 by July 2012 if it is accepted by another league. The Aggies have made it no secret that they want to join the SEC, and barring an unlikely “no” vote by the SEC presidents, they’ll get their wish. And if they don’t, the PAC-12 will pounce on them quickly.

Speaking of the PAC-12, Oklahoma University President Dan Boren confirmed four days later that his university has fielded calls from several interested conferences. The hot rumor now calls for Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to join the PAC-12.

This would, without a doubt, kill the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma are the flagship schools of the Big 12. If they go, or if even one of the two leave, so does the conference. And Oklahoma is sick of Texas.

So what does this mean for the rest of the nation? For starters, there would be five Big 12 teams (Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor).

During last year’s realignment chaos, Missouri hit the panic button and asked the Big Ten for an invite. Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany, having just added
Nebraska, said no.

This time around, despite repeatedly making statements to the contrary, Delany may have no choice other than to add Missouri, lest they get left behind in the super-conference arms race. Notre Dame has the opposite problem. The long-time football independent has been targeted by the Big Ten for what seems like forever, and Notre Dame, thanks to its lucrative TV deal with NBC, has always said no.

Well, the Fighting Irish might have to change their tune. And at that point, the Big Ten might as well grab two other teams that fit their geographical mold and quest for TV revenue (Syracuse and Maryland come to mind).

When the Big 12 dies, a new era of Division I athletics will begin. It will be an era where at least three 16-team mega-conferences dominate the landscape of
college sports.

Nobody knows exactly how it will look, but several schools would be completely screwed over by this scenario, and some conferences (like the WAC, which has now become the worst conference in the FBS as a result of last year’s realignment wave) will end up folding.

Iowa State, long considered a bottom feeder in the Big 12, would have nowhere to go. Not even the Big Ten would be interested in them, because they have nothing to contribute other than being a natural rival for some schools in the Big Ten. Baylor would most likely be forced to downgrade to a mid-major conference or join the Mountain West.

And what about Kansas and Kansas State? They have strong basketball programs, but this conference realignment is about two things: TV revenue and football. The two Kansas schools will wind up somewhere, but their fans may not like the result.

In fact, many sports fans across the nation won’t like the new reality facing college sports. Money doesn’t care about the fans, and that’s what is controlling conference realignment.
Get ready for a bumpy ride.

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