Miscellany

Conference Realignment: FOX’s Role in the Future of Conference Realignment

It’s a network.

The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel has a relatively reasoned take from last week regarding conference realignment, ideally that whatever will likely happen, will happen over months . . . unless this weekend’s report of the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 working out some sort of agreement.

Working against OU and Texas is Fox’s situation. The network is a big loser in this conference realignment. Fox has no contract with the SEC; when OU and Texas jump leagues, Fox loses the Sooners and Longhorns.

So it’s in Fox’s best interests to keep OU and Texas in the Big 12 as long as possible — and probably hand them every 11 a.m. kickoff it possibly can.

Also, Fox would be a major player in any potential Pac-12 expansion with Big 12 expatriates.

The Pac-12 would expand only if it makes financial sense; could four Big 12 members bring enough television value to the Pac to offset cutting the revenue pie with four additional pieces?

Maybe, maybe not. That’s part of the initial exploration.

But any such agreement would include Fox, which has half the Pac-12 broadcast rights, along with ESPN.

So even if Fox is interested in an expanded Pac-12, the network would be in no hurry to form such a union. It’s in Fox’s interests to keep OU and Texas under its umbrella as long as possible.

“I don’t think the Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC yet feel any urgent need to expand in the near term,” the OSU source said.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodds writes that the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 alliance and notes that the alliance is about creating a monopoly on the available college football playoffs:

Those three leagues plus the SEC now will convene in late September with leverage to decide what an expanded playoff looks like and how to divide the bloated revenues it will demand.

Scarfing up Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 strengthens the SEC’s position and dooms the Big 12 to second-tier status — if the league continues at all. With a scheduling alliance, the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 would together buy themselves equal leverage at the CFP table.

Whatever playoff expansion looks like, a larger field is going to be worth multiples more than it is now ($475 million annually). Whether the networks pay significantly more for those nonconference games in a scheduling alliance is up for debate and really isn’t the point.

Dodds is also of the opinion that the rest of the Big 12 will simply fade away:

Of course, even the hint of an alliance is a bad sign for the Big 12. It signals that the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 do not believe the Big 12’s eight remaining programs — in any form — bring substantial value to their conferences. Taken a step further, it suggests a reality that could see the Big 12 or American fade away with one likely absorbing the other.

Worse for the Big 12, it portends a nuclear winter for those schools’ athletic budgets. Programs with hundreds of millions tied up in facilities will downsize. Minor sports will be dropped. The impact will affect not only athletics but the universities themselves. Being an autonomous (Power Five) institution is a branding that carries with it the cache that allows schools to hire staff, faculty and be awarded research grants. Even enrollment would likely be impacted.

The last word comes from San Antonio Express News’ Mike Finger who writes that the smmer of 2021 has been about self-preservation:

Sure, it might look like we’re headed to a setup in which that aforementioned alliance and a beefed-up SEC become the only two entities that matter. And it might look like all of the schools in the other conferences, including the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State, are in danger of being cut out of relevance for good.

But there’s no way the schools with the power would let that happen, right? There’s no way they’d just walk away from all of those old rivalries, and from so much of what many found appealing about college sports for so long.

Right?

It’s about relationships, not about self-interest. Everybody knows that. This is why Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby can rest assured that when he says the remaining eight members of the conference can survive if they stick together, he has nothing to worry about.

If, say, the Big Ten came calling for Kansas tomorrow, or if the Pac-12 sent out an invitation to Texas Tech, neither the Jayhawks nor the Red Raiders would dare abandon their peers and put what’s left of the league at risk. If the ACC reaches out to West Virginia next week, the Mountaineers surely would say, “The Big 12 looked out for us a decade ago, and now we’re going to look out for the Big 12.” That is how this works.

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