Conference realignment is always a topic in the offseason, especially considering the current state of the Big 12.
The SEC Network is a cash cow. The Big Ten Network is lucrative itself. Even if the Pac-12 Network lags behind and the ACC Network isn’t scheduled to launch until 2019, both leagues are relatively secure in terms of television.
The Big 12, on the other hand, is a different story. It doesn’t have a network — no, the Longhorn Network doesn’t count — or any plans for one at this point, which means less money being poured into those 10 programs. Also, being TV partners with FOX instead of ESPN results in fewer eyeballs on its games.
While Oklahoma was recently in the news for possibly shopping for a new conference affiliation, I wrote a column suggesting that Texas would be the primary target for the SEC if the Big 12 were to fall apart.
Here are some of my favorite comments from this past week. To say the least, there wasn’t a lot of love for the Longhorns:
I’m well aware of the fact that Texas is the main reason why the Big 12 has struggled to keep up with the rest of the Power 5.
Texas A&M got so sick of the Longhorns having too much pull that they jumped ship to the SEC in 2012 and said goodbye to a rivalry dating back to 1894. The Aggies have shown zero interest in reviving that intrastate clash.
While the ‘Horns are indeed a traditional power in every sense of the term, they have only won the Big 12 three times since its inception in 1996 — even Kansas State has done it twice — and none since 2009. Of the four national titles officially claimed by the university, only one came after 1970.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma has taken the conference 10 times and owns seven national championships. The Sooners’ all-time winning percentage (.721) is appreciably better than that of Texas (.707). OU is no doubt superior on the field.
Nevertheless, the Sooner State doesn’t have nearly the same gravity from a football perspective as the Lone State State.
As we’ve seen, the most important factor in conference expansion is the ability to add TV markets. That’s why A&M was targeted, as well at Missouri. Previously, St. Louis and Kansas City weren’t watching a lot of SEC.
The Ags have helped grow the SEC in the state of Texas tremendously. Johnny Manziel was one of the most exciting quarterbacks the league has ever seen. Myles Garrett was just the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. High school players across the state are increasingly more familiar with programs like Alabama and Florida.
Still, we’re talking about Texas here. This wouldn’t be like adding, say, Louisville when Kentucky is already a member institution. Even if their collective ego is twice the size of their résumé, the Longhorns are the bluest of blue bloods.
Instead of simply grabbing an extra slice of the state of Texas, as you suggest, why not just own it outright?
I wrote a column for Monday proclaiming that college football players are indeed paid. They’re just paid indirectly.
The arguments for and against paying players resemble conversations in this country on gun control. Each side of the aisle stands its ground and believes the other is flat-out nuts. Nothing will ever change their minds.
I’m of the opinion that being a scholarship athlete is a privilege, not a right, and that all needs are met — room, board, books, tuition, food, plus the endless perks that are implied for big-time football players — on campus. It’s not an ideal system, although it’s a lot better than the alternative for most of these kids.
Yes, an awful lot of people are making an awful lot of money on this game, and none of them suit up on Saturdays in the fall. It’s reasonable to believe that the players themselves deserve more than non-monetary compensation.
However, to draw parallels between scholarship athletes and pre-Emancipation Proclamation slaves is dangerously ignorant.
Based on what I’ve read about the slave trade and forced migration, it bears little resemblance to National Signing Day. People from African nations didn’t put three hats on a table to build up the drama before deciding on a plantation.
Football players live in the best dorms. They eat the best food. They are outfitted head to toe in team-issued gear. They have tutors and trainers of every possible specialty on staff at their daily disposal. To borrow a rather popular expression, every guy wants to be them and every girl wants to be with them.
But most of all, this enviable lifestyle is chosen. People of color aren’t ripped away from their homes and families by white property owners with antiquated laws and superior firepower on their side in the name of blocking and tackling.
Slavery is the ugliest chapter in this land’s history. College football may be imperfect, but it’s not an American tragedy.
I wrote a column Wednesday suggesting that giving players a bonus for graduating would be a better idea than simply paying them to play.
I’m not quite sure what sport you’ve been paying attention to, but the richer schools always have an advantage over the poorer schools when it comes to recruiting. This is hardly a revolutionary concept.
If Alabama could afford to offer high school prospects $100,000 at graduation but Mississippi State could only do $50,000, how is that any different than the Crimson Tide having better facilities or a more direct path to the NFL? Not to mention the fact that they’ll surely be on national TV more at ‘Bama and win more games.
This isn’t the old Soviet Union. Not everything has to be equal. Communism didn’t work. Should the Tide be restricted on what they pay their assistant coaches because the Bulldogs can’t write checks that big?
An argument can be made that it wouldn’t help Alabama much anyway since so many of its players exit early for the draft.
Georgia has a recruiting advantage over Florida because Athens is a nicer place to live than Gainesville. But Nashville is also vastly superior to Tuscaloosa. That doesn’t necessarily mean all the premier prospects flock to Vanderbilt.
Like I wrote in the column, if the arms race between programs is less about the size of JumboTrons in stadiums and more about how much money kids could put in their pocket should they see it through all the way to graduation, then that’s a good thing. There are enough barber shops around town. You don’t need one in the players lounge.
Truth be told, these programs are already spending this money anyway in an effort to intentionally break even. However, it currently manifests in the form of rings for winning bowl games and extra offensive and defensive “analysts” on staff.
Graduation bonuses would simply be another piece of the recruiting puzzle, and they would be much more noble than $10,500 lockers.