Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Missouri Moves Closer to Joining SEC

Per Pete Thamel of The New York Times, Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC is now "inevitable and imminent," but there is no timeline for it to do so. Should that go down, the Big 12 will likely look to replenish via the Big East (or rumored soon-to-be Big East members), which could hurt their chances of retaining an automatic BCS bowl bid.


by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 1:23pm

Big East better move fast to get Boise State and the Armed Forces into their conference, because those schools are probably the ones that the Big 12 will target.

Big East and Big 12 should just combine once Missouri leaves, and we can call it the Big Tweast.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 4:29pm

Army is on record saying they're not interested in the Big East, which likely kills that deal for all the service academies. Army and Navy wouldn't provide much to the Big 12 given they don't provide any TV draw except for the one game a year when they play each other. Air Force would make sense geographically along with Colorado State and possibly Wyoming. But adding random teams just to say you have X number of schools isn't going to help any conference.

by Lance :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 1:31pm

The Big XII is in a lot of trouble. I really think that Texas, Tech, OU and OSU made a mistake in not going to the Pac-Whatever, and if the sticking point was Texas and its monetary demands, then they're fools for cutting of their nose to spite their face.

As it stands, the future Big XII has 9 schools. If they want to get to even 10-- let alone 12-- who's left to get that has even moderate clout?!? As a guy who grew up in Big 8/Big XII territory, adding Big East schools doesn't make much sense. I can't imagine that fans in Kansas, Oklahoma, or north Texas are going to be so excited about Rutgers or UConn in a new conference.

Moreover, it seems to me that any Big East additions have to be in a football only deal; I doubt that anyone really wants to pay to regularly ship their soccer, cross country, and wrestling teams to the greater New York metropolitan area several times a year.

In all, I am afraid that-- mostly thanks to Texas, as their money issues were what led Nebraska, Colorado, and A&M to bolt (at least, that's my understanding)-- the Big XII is going to be dead in not too long, and I do worry about what's going to happen to some of those schools.

by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 1:44pm

Well the Big East's additions of the Military Academies and Boise State was football only, IIRC, and Central Florida is for all sports. I feel like there was a couple of other teams that were supposed to be invited full time, though.

I realize that the Big 12 is facing some decisions right now, and that there aren't really many premier schools (if any) to choose from, but I actually feel like the death bell might be sounding for the Big East. Think about it: they already lost TCU to the Big 12 before technically even joining, and Syracuse, a founding member, has left along with Pitt, who had been in the conference for a while. As soon as that was announced, both Rutgers and UConn both started looking into joining the ACC (whatever happened to that, by the way?). Now the Big East is adding one school full time that a current member has fought tooth and nail since they joined to keep them out (S.Florida doesn't want to battle C.Florida recruiting wise) and they are adding schools for football from Idaho and Colorado. Seriously?

With the Big East announcing that they have changed the exit fee to $10 million, and the possibility that the Big 12 adds some other schools that the Big East is currently trying to bring in, I bet the new invites hang back a bit to see what happens before committing to $10 million.

As far as who gets an invite to the Big 12, how about Boise State, the Air Force, Louisville, and some combo of SMU, Rice, UTEP, Houston, Southern Miss, Tulsa, and Colorado State? I realize these aren't primo schools, but they wouldn't be too bad geographically, and with the additions they would probably have no trouble keeping their BCS bid.

by apk3000 :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 2:07pm

About the ACC thing, supposedly a few schools don't want to go to 16 unless one of the two is a major football name (i.e. Notre Dame). Adding both Rutgers and UConn does nothing for the ACC's football image.

by Drunkmonkey :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 4:03pm

Right after it broke out that Syracuse and Pitt were joining the ACC, I began hearing that UConn and Rutgers wanted in, and the next day began reading some SB Nation stuff on how the Big East might now make an extremely hard, and very accommodating, push to get Notre Dame into the conference. That same story, which had some inside sources (unnamed, of course) said that the Big 10 and the ACC were also trying to get Notre Dame into their conferences, and that the ACC, while the furthest geographically, actually had the inside track.

Again, like the UConn and Rutgers story, I haven't heard jack about it since then, but could the ACC actually pull it off and steal ND for all sports?

by Lance :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 2:10pm

"As far as who gets an invite to the Big 12, how about Boise State, the Air Force, Louisville, and some combo of SMU, Rice, UTEP, Houston, Southern Miss, Tulsa, and Colorado State?"

I, personally, think it would be really smart to add some of those-- I think that something like Rice, SMU, and Tulsa would be good additions geographically. I'm probably in the minority about Tulsa since it doesn't do much in terms of recruiting or popularity, but I'm from Oklahoma and it would make me happy to have all three of the big D-I schools in the same conference. SMU may not be so great, either, just because the north Texas market is already captured with Texas and TCU. But it's a good fit otherwise. Rice helps bring in some more Houston eyes and adds a bit to the academic reputation of the conference (which has taken a hit with the loss of Colorado and A&M.

All of that said, I don't hear that much in the discussions from the media I read. I'd love to be wrong, though.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 4:38pm

I think the exit fee increase is pure desperation on the Big East's part. If another conference--particularly one with major TV money like the Big 12--wanted a current Big East school, there'd be nothing stopping them from paying part or all of the exit fee to help the school break free. I'm sure they could even structure it as a loan paid out of future TV revenue to avoid the school having to pay anything out of pocket. And no way does that $10 million exit fee aid Big East in recruiting new schools to the conference. Quite the opposite.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2011 - 2:27pm

I think Texas Tech, OU, and OSU wold have galdly gone Pac-12. Texas is who killed it (they don't like to share). And Texas was really needed for the Pac-12 to take them all on.

Still, Texas and OU should be fine. Those two alone make a decent conference and OSU and TT well be tied to their in-state schools. So everyone has a life raft. Its the rest of the schools that could be left out. But let's be fair. The Big East looks worse and there's at least something left to take (Lousiville, WV?)

by huston720 :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 4:09pm

I don't think Boise St would make much sense for the Big 12 since it is much more valuable to the Big East. The Big 12 would be more likely to add Rice, SMU, even Tulsa since those schools would fit geographically and not be major threats to any of the major schools in terms of BCS berths and recruiting. Plus Boise St doesn't really bring anything else to the table in terms of money.

For the Big East though, Boise St is critical because they are in danger of losing their automatic BCS bid and all the money that goes with it. That is why Boise makes more sense for the Big East at least monetarily (which is all that matters) if not geographically. Plus it allows the mountain west a backdoor to an automatic BCS berth by essentially staying intact but getting a shot at the Big East champ for the BCS berth.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 4:48pm

You lost me on the last sentence. How do you figure the Mountain West would play the Big East champ given the Mountain West and Conference USA will be part of a superconference? By the time the new conference has their championship game there'd be no room on anybody's schedule for a second title game between their champ and whoever won the Big East.

by huston720 :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:03pm

What I meant is that the current rumor is that basically the mountain west, and some of conference USA would merge with the Big East into a super Big East. I would then assume that the divisions would essentially become the old Big East division and the Mountain West division, which would mean the conference championship game for the auto BCS berth would almost be the mountain west champ versus the Big East champ. Either way my main point was that Boise St and to a lesser extent the rest of the Mountain West is more valuable to the Big East since they help the Big East avoid losing their automatic BCS berth.

Also someone below mention BYU as a potential replacement for Missouri, and I think that actually makes the most sense. It adds TV markets in Salt Lake, and to some extent nationwide. If it happened then the question would be whether it made sense financially to add two more smaller schools just to have a championship game. I doubt a conference championship brings in enough money to justify two more schools to split all the money with, at least not without those two additional schools bringing in some additional money.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:38pm

There are a million rumors, but few make any sense. The Mountain West-Conference USA merger has been announced. They'd have to completely blow that up to make this proposed second merger with the Big East work. How would that happen? They disinvite half (or more) of the schools? Or do the chosen few have to pull out of the new superconference to join the Big East?

Boise could save the Big East if they chose to go there. But that's a big if. The Big East's new welcome speech of "Glad to have you joining the conference; did we mention the $10 million penalty if you ever decide to leave?" isn't very inviting.

by huston720 :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 10:08am

The last rumor I saw had the Mountain West / Conference USA and Big East all merging into a super conference with upwards of 22 members. The issue with this would be how do you split the revenue. If it is evenly split then that is not a ton of money per school, in which case Boise might want to stay put and hope the Mountain West gets an automatic BCS slot, and only has to split that revenue among a smaller number of schools. Also without the 10 million exit fee, and without the added travel costs.

In order to make this work the Big East would have to sweeten the pot somehow for Boise it seems. If I were Boise St I would be pushing to become a football only member in a 10 team Big East, then the automatic BCS opportunity is guaranteed, and the revenue split is larger on a per school basis.

by Lance :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:41pm

"I doubt a conference championship brings in enough money to justify two more schools to split all the money with, at least not without those two additional schools bringing in some additional money."

But it's more thank that, right? I could be wrong-- I didn't really study it too much-- but wasn't there also a BCS ranking advantage (or at least the potential for one) by having that extra game? In a 10 team conference, you're more or less done in early December. Meanwhile, your competition in 12+ team conferences are getting one more game against a very highly ranked opponent. Assuming the win (an admitted risk), you get additional media attention, and also computer points. Thus, if your conference champ can escape the championship game with a good win, there's a chance that it will move ahead in the final BCS polls over a team that's sat idle for 10+ days.

by huston720 :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 10:02am

There definitely is some additional upside to a championship game as you mention, but with equal revenue split that means two more mouths to feed. As far as the rankings for conferences with championship games against those conferences without, it works both ways. It is another chance to showcase a team, but also another chance for that team to get upset. ALso it could cost a conference an additional BCS at large berth potentially. Imagine that a team like Kansas has an swesome season and is 11-1 going into a championship game against Texas who is 10-2, and Texas wins. In this case Texas gets the auto bid, and Kansas with its small fan base probably gets shut out of an at large. Where if there was no championship game Kansas gets the auto birth and Texas would probably get an at large. Basically a championship game is a potentially double edged sword when it comes to a national championship. either way though it doesn't matter since there is no additional conference bonus money to having a national champ.

I still think it only makes sense to go to 12 teams if the additional teams bring some money with them from TV viewerships, and/or making the conference more prestigious. When that happens then the championship game money is just a bonus.

by Lance :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 5:02pm

Re Rice, SMU, and Tulsa: as I noted above, I LOVE this idea, but I don't know if the higher-ups would like it as much. Tulsa doesn't add a whole lot in terms of viewers or avenues for recruiting. (Even if Tulsa is a large enough city, most of its residents tune into Big XII stuff anyhow for OU and OSU.) Geographically, though, it makes sense, and in other sports (like basketball) it would be somewhat more competitive.

SMU also doesn't add much-- thanks to Texas and now TCU (not to mention the large presence of OU and OSU grads there), the Big XII already gets a good amount of the Metroplex's attention. But it also makes geographic sense, and there's a good bit of history with SMU and some of the old SWC schools.

Rice would be a nice addition-- it gets the Big XII some access to Houston, and Rice actually has some academic clout that can make up for the losses of the conference's smarter schools like Colorado and A&M. And while Rice may not have football pedigree, it can also be competitive in other sports.

Someone else asked why the rush to get back to 12 schools, and I think that one answer is that it allows for a conference championship, which means more revenue (and more recruiting options). I wonder also if there's just some new prestige conference size. There's a reason that the Big Ten and Pac-10 expanded beyond just the football money, I think. But perhaps I'm mistaken.

by Dennis :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 9:29pm

Yes, the push for 12 teams is to be able to have a conference championship game.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 5:23pm

Faster, please.

Louisville and WVU are probably Big 12-bound if Mizzou to the SEC happens, and Cinci certainly should be (BYU doesn't make a lot of sense if you're adding WVU, especially considering every Big 12 school but Texas Tech is closer to Morgantown than to Provo).

Three more Big East football schools on the way out just might convince the Big East to stop holding the Orange hostage in the Zombie Big East for three years (effectively, since 27 months puts things in mid-year).

by huston720 :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:07pm

It seems like a big leap to saying that Louisville and WVU are probably going to the Big 12 to help replace Missouri. Neither really makes much sense for the Big 12 since they don't bring a whole lot to the table, same with Cinci. BYU makes much more sense, especially considering they won't require an exit fee.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:47pm

You could blindly throw darts at a board and come up with better conferences than many of these rumors. Throwing a bunch of random teams from all corners of the country together and calling it a conference doesn't connect with the fans and it doesn't excite TV networks. Sure, Texas and some of the big boys bring a TV audience no matter where they land, but nobody is going to get excited about Louisville's football team. (At least in basketball they've got some major tradition.)

by Lance :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 9:46am

I agree with this 100%. As someone who grew up in Oklahoma and vividly experienced the Big 8 and it's transformation into the Big XII, I can tell you that few in the state would be excited to have a "new" Big XII that included a team like Rutgers or even West Virginia. There's nothing about those universities that resonate with the typical Big XII (former Big 8/SWC) fan. To be sure, before the merger, a big A&M fan might not have thought much about Iowa State or Colorado, but there was some connection between the two-- if only because of OU-Texas-- that made such a (partial) merger make sense.

Likewise, seeing A&M and Missouri head to the SEC makes sense, too, as does Nebraska's flight to the Big Ten (one wonders if Iowa State is wishing it could have gotten in on that move).

So, yes, these rumors about seemingly random conference grabs don't make much sense, and I, personally, hope that something more sensible happens...

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:00pm

I saw poll of Air Force fans regarding the possibility of joining the Big East that was running over 90% against the move. They're not stupid--they can drive to Colorado State and Wyoming games now. No way are they flying to Big East games. And that entire conference would mean nothing to them in terms of rivalries. Even if the other service academies joined, there'd be no gain because they play them already.

And while money is the only thing driving things right now, I suspect there will be repercussions down the road. Rivalries mean so much to the game and those tend to be geographic. Fans also like a shot at going to a nice bowl when they have a good team. Mizzou in the SEC, Colorado in the Pac-12, even A&M in the SEC will have major struggles compared to what they've been used to. The longterm effect on your fan base after a few years when the realization sinks in that losing half or more of their conference games is going to be a constant shouldn't be ignored.

by apk3000 :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:43pm

Well, for the AFA, having Army and Navy in the same conference would mean a gain of two non-conference slots they can fill.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:14pm

Louisville and WVU may take more time to get and have an exit fee, but they're both better fan draws and more complete and higher-revenue athletic programs that have had more success in both football and basketball (heck, Louisville is one of the handful of elite basketball powers out there) than BYU. And they don't have issues with playing on Sundays, or want oddball rebroadcast on their own network TV rights. Cinci brings less to the table than BYU, but you don't want a conference to span all the way from Provo to Morgantown (zombie Big East plans notwithstanding) and there are far fewer future options west of the Big 12 than east of it. Beyond that, Cinci brings more than any remaining SWC schools do as well.

Besides, adding schools that can't join for a while will help placate anyone who like splitting a 12-team TV contract ten ways.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 10:26am

Can someone please explain to me why there's a rule that says a conference has to have 12 teams in order to have a championship game? There was talk about the Pac 10 and Big Ten "getting to 12" last year in order to have divisions and a championship game, but I never heard why 12 is the magic number. Why can't a 10 team league have divisions and/or a championship game? I gather that it's a rule, but WHY is that the rule?

My point is, why does the Big 12 even need to concern itself with adding teams at all? As long as they've got Texas and Oklahoma, they're not losing their BCS auto-bid. The Big East has been a weaker conference than the current Big 12 for years, and it always retained it's AQ status.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:31pm

Having an odd number of teams creates some scheduling difficulties, and allows playing an odd number of conference games if you want to (an odd number of teams cannot all play an odd number of games, it's mathematically impossible).

As for why the 12 team minimum for divisions and a championship game? If you want the history of it, it's because the lower-division conference that the rule was created for had 12 teams. More practically, though, with 12 teams and the 8-game conference schedules that are still typical even if 2 major conferences have gone to 9 games (and a third has announced plans to), the odds of a tie between teams that have not played becomes very high (it was pretty high in the 11-team Big Ten, but I don't think anyone expected the Big 10 to stay at 11 for almost twenty years, given the complications in having an odd number of schools). On the other hand, the NCAA doesn't really want athletes to risk injury in unnecessary post-season games, so they've stuck with the 12-school minimum for a championship game.

And as to why the Big 12 needs to expand if Missouri leaves -- it's the issues with an odd number of teams mentioned above, that its renegotiated TV contracts void if the league gets below 10 members, and that not having a championship game both makes less money normally (except for the next few years, where the B12's primary rights holder is basically paying the league not to blow up) and makes the league less visibile in the last week of the regular season

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 2:09pm

I hadn't heard about the TV deals voiding if they go below 10. But that's the only one of those reasons I find particularly compelling. It would be a big one though, and probably worth the trouble to stop it from happening.

I'm not sure what you mean by scheduling difficulties with an odd number of teams. A 9-team league (which is where the Big 12 is headed at the moment) would be a piece of cake to schedule. It would just be a round-robin schedule for everybody's 8 conference games, with each team getting a bye at some point in the season, and then handle the non-conference as before.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 10/19/2011 - 5:01pm

With an odd number of teams someone has to have a bye or non-conference game every week. That gets messy, especially in non-revenue sports. 9 is by far the most workable odd number of schools, though, because it works out just right for a round-robin schedule in the traditional 8 conference games for football, and a double round robin in the traditional 16 for basketball. Odd numbers beyond 12 are worse yet, because you can't have everyone play a round-robin schedule in their division (what the MAC does is the 6-team division plays round robin and the 7-team divsion only plays 6 divisional games).

Odd numbers, even more than non-power-of-2 numbers, also create oddball brackets for conference tournaments (though even with a straight power of 2, the Big East can screw things up...).

by Brainsmasher (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2011 - 1:48pm

Even if Oklahoma and Texas left, the five remaining schools (not counting Missouri) would retain the BCS designation and would just have added TCU and/or Houston, Memphis, Louisville and Cincinnati.

Texas and Oklahoma were never going to leave because of the travel costs--not for its major sports but for its non revenue sports. They may have wanted to at first; but the delay allowed for them to come to their senses.

Oklahoma and Texas are about winning national championships. Leaving the Big 12 and joining another conference does not increase their chances of winning a national championship. Neither school is hurting for money.

Why add 2 extra teams to go to 12 when you can get the same money for 10 teams? That's right, it makes no sense unless you want to play a championship game which has proven in the past not to be good for the Big 12 champion. Many times the better team gets knocked off.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Thu, 10/20/2011 - 3:45pm

You can't get more money for 10 teams and no championship game indefinitely; that's a short-term situation that only exists because ESPN and Fox were willing to pay off the Big 12 to keep the Pac 16 from happening.

And higher ranked team is 10-5 in Big 12 championship games. Of the games won by the lower ranked team, at least one was not a Vegas upset (2007 Oklahoma over Missouri), and two others featured victories by lower-ranked teams that were not all that much lower ranked (1998 Texas A&M over Kansas State, 2001 Colorado over Texas). Which means all of two major upsets in 15 games (1996 Texas over Nebraska, 2003 Kansas State over Oklahoma).

by Jericho (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2011 - 2:31pm

Missouri held a press conference today.

Translation: So long suckers!

Everyone that could get out of the Big 12 just did except those "Too Big to Fail" (Texas, Oklahoma) and their Siamese twins (Texas Tech, OSU). Everyone else are the red-headed stepchildren (sorry Kansas).