We have taken great pride here at The UConn Blog in covering realignment with some principle and an eye for facts. I am very thankful to the people who have shared their appreciation for this approach where we try to keep up with what is actually going on and what seems to be in the works.
This is not one of those posts.
Today I'm grabbing a wooden spoon and stirring the pot with a proposal for the Big 12. I know the consultants have briefed them on the merits of certain actions and schools but I think the following steps will solve all their problems:
Step 1: Add South Florida, Temple, UConn, and Cincinnati
I've crunched the numbers, and this is what works best. All four schools bring something to the table athletically while also increasing exposure and offering recruiting inroads for the revenue sports. They are all public universities which occupy major metro areas. One of them (not so fast, USF, Temple, Cinci) carries a strong academic reputation as well, should they be interested in pretending to care about that.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has expressed interest in moving east, not west, mostly because recently added member West Virginia is so isolated from the rest of the conference. Adding these four schools builds that bridge while checking a lot of the other boxes.
Step 2: Conference Television Network
With the addition of these four schools, the Big 12 would add four large TV markets, including #4 Philadelphia, while also grabbing eyeballs in New York City, where every conference east of the Mississippi has been trying to get a piece.
UConn's Hartford-New Haven market is 30th-largest in the nation while Cincinnati is 36th and South Florida's Tampa-St. Pete is 11th. Combined the four added markets deliver over 6 million TV households, according to Nielsen.
The issue of the Longhorn Network shouldn't be ignored, but ultimately there's too much at stake here for the boys in Austin to hold on to their pride if they want to keep their conference intact. I think the money involved would be pretty good.
You can yap all you want about cord-cutting but live sports is the anchor keeping cable subscriptions intact for many households. That isn't likely to change any time soon.
Step 3: Conference Championship Game
This is what two 7-team divisions would look like:
|East Division||West Division|
|West Virginia||Texas Tech|
Not bad, eh? For as much as the traditional football powers of the Big 12 hate the idea of adding schools, this move quarantines the new ones along with one of the other weaker ones and *somewhat* preserves the "one true champion" concept in the sense that the winner of the West Division wouldn't be facing a very difficult test in a conference championship game.
Step 4: Profit
Not only have you set yourself up nicely to get paid by network partners, but in secondary matters you have added three good-to-great basketball schools and created a pretty stacked men's basketball conference! The money in football obviously dwarfs that of basketball but there are certainly additional dollars to be made there and the publicity of tournament success is priceless. The one school that isn't so great at basketball, USF, has the highest football ceiling and also allows you to recruit Florida.
The important thing to remember with all of this is that neither you nor I have any idea what the Big 12, or any other conference will do. How do I know that? Because the Big 12 has no idea what it's going to do. In the Game of Thr ... er... conference realignment nobody really knows what's going to happen until it is announced.
Alright now go ahead. Tear this apart and tell me why I'm wrong.