Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The First Wave

Rumors

In early 2010, rumors became prevalent that there was something in the works between the University of Texas and ESPN about creating their own network dedicated to exclusive content similar to the network that Brigham Young University provides their base. This obviously was sufficient enough to cause concern between the haves and the have nots, threatening to expand this divide even further.

In March of 2010, the Big 10 was sitting stagnant with 11 teams. The conference publicly “leaked” a list of possible candidates to add to the conference to provide the coveted 12th member necessary for a conference championship game, and all of the additional revenue that goes along with it. This is controlled by NCAA Rule 17.9.5.2 (c) which states, “Twelve-Member Conference Championship Game. [FBS/FCS] A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division…”

The five schools were, “Notre Dame, Missouri, Pittsburg, Syracuse, and Rutgers”. Each of those from media markets of substantial size and following.

Image courtesy of tonightsforecastdark.blogspot.com


Notre Dame, through its status as an “Independent”, was reluctant to give that up, but the athletic director Jack Swarbrick admitted that “there is probably not a long standing status quo anymore“.

Dan Beebe, the commissioner for the Big XII conference was obviously concerned about losing a charter member such as Missouri or Nebraska and as such on May 13th, issued this strongly worded statement.

We need to come to terms with (who is leaving) and we need to have a frank conversation in Kansas City. We need to talk about where we’re going and who’s on the plane when it takes off. I will be very direct and talk about that with our membership. We’ve got a lot of good things in store for us if we stick together. It would be a shame, given that all boats have risen with this tide by the Big XII, that they think they can have a better future somewhere else.

Additionally, Beebe made it perfectly clear that this “high tide” that he was referring to was raised by the biggest boat in the water. Whatever the University of Texas, and the rumored Longhorn Network wished to do, they were free to engage in. This massive disparity concerned the University of Nebraska and the University of Colorado enough that they requested a private meeting with the commissioner. What was said at the meeting was never made public, but less than three weeks later, the first domino would fall.

The Cold War Gets Hot

Image courtesy of Military Humor OPFOR

On June 10th, 2010 Colorado announced that it was leaving for the Pac-10. The very next day after Colorado announced its departure from the conference, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents announced its acceptance to become the 12th member of the Big 10. The Big XII was now down to ten, and full on panic mode ensued.

The first step for the Big XII would be to rally the remaining schools, and try as hard as they could to try and keep them. Unfortunately for them, the Pac-10 had other ideas. The Conference board of regents sensing the blood of a wounded animal in the air, created and offered a lucrative collective package to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech to join together with Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State to create what would be the Pacific Coast Conference East, with Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, UCLA, and USC in the West. All of the schools in the proposed Eastern half voted to accept the offer, except Texas. Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-10 conference gave the collective group until June 15th to make their decision.

For Texas, the interest was there. They felt that this was going to be a pivotal, and positive move, but there was a major caveat to the offer. If the University of Texas wanted to join the Pacific Coast Conference, it was going to have to give up their new television network. Ultimately Texas felt that it would be far better to go into a relationship with ESPN, and on June 14th, turned down the realignment offer.

Following The Money

In order to fill the void, and bring in the twelfth member, the Pac-10 invited in the University of Utah, and announced they would officially be rebranded the Pac-12 on June 17th. Fans and people at all levels were understandably (and not so understandably) upset.

As the rest of the summer cooled off, so too did any further expansion talks. The Big XII was able to get at least a temporary stay of execution, and everyone publicly declaring that most was forgiven, and in general that we should all be looking to execute one collective hug. ESPN, for their part stayed quiet.
From a much more cynical approach, the Chancellor of Louisiana State University was quoted as saying, “I think we could end up with two enormous conferences, one called ESPN and the one called Fox.”

Up next, Part 4. Wave Two

References
1. leaked information
2. NCAA Rulebook
3. tonightsforecastdark cartoon
4. Swarbrick Interview
5. Beebe Quote
6. Unicorns!
7. Colorado Leaving
8. Realignment Map (Made by me)
9. Fan Video Comp.
10. Dr. Lou’s Incoherent thoughts
11. LSU Chancellor Quote

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