If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, then you know what Billy Beane says in the meeting. At Big 12 Media Days, it was clear that Commissioner Bob Bowlsby does not have the same mentality Billy Beane did in the movie.
The Big 12 Conference is “the runt of the litter”. It is “the last dog to the bowl”. Granted, there is not 50 feet of crap above the teams in the Big 12 Conference. Where the 50 feet of crap above the Big 12 Conference comes is in media contracts. There are rich conferences like the SEC which has multiple networks with ESPN and is about to bring on a school that once had its own television network. There are poor conferences like the ACC, which mostly relies on Clemson Football and basketball to make a name for itself. Yes, they have the ACC Network through ESPN. Unlike the SEC Network, most of the country can’t see the ACC Network. The conference is stuck in this system for far longer than a decade. Then there is 50 feet of crap. After 50 feet of crap comes the only Power 5 Conference without its own television network. What did the Big 12 settle for? A streaming deal on ESPN+. It is easier to see LSU gymnastics than some Big 12 football conference games because of ESPN+’s Big 12 Now.
10 years ago, the SEC took the Big 12’s kidneys. The Pac-12 took its liver. The Big Ten took its heart. Bowlsby was brought in to help the Big 12 survive. It started off well. He secured West Virginia and TCU. Some might say TCU was a settlement. Let’s put it this way. If ESPN didn’t have a say in the College Football Playoff, and believe me it does, then TCU and/or Baylor would have been in the first College Football Playoff. Either one of those two teams could have won the College Football Playoff that season. Both teams were better than Ohio State.
For a while, it seemed Bowlsby was doing well. Now, he’s nude on stage. He’s forgotten his lines. Everyone is laughing at him. How does he keep this conference alive and save the show?
Call Colorado, If Not Colorado State
First, invite Colorado back. Tell them that Colorado State is on-deck if they decline. Is it a power play? Absolutely. Remember, the Big 12 is still a Power Five Conference. If Colorado State starts securing the money Colorado gets, it’s game on. The Buffaloes can’t afford to allow the Rams to be on equal footing as them. If this happens, Colorado will never be a contender in the Pac-12.
If Colorado accepts the invitation, go after both Arizona schools. Remember, Arizona and Arizona State are former members of the Border Conference with Texas Tech. If Colorado leaves, the Pac-12 will seem wobbly. That would be a cut to the Pac-12’s eye with some swelling involved. If the Big 12 Conference seems stronger than the Pac-12, those Arizona schools, who rarely get love, will do what they need to survive. They’ll hop on over. The Pac-12 will be on the ropes at this point.
Then, look to BYU
What if Colorado declines though? What if the Big 12 Conference has to invite Colorado State? Well, the Big 12 will have to invite BYU next. I understand the moans and groans you’re giving me. Remember, conference realignment is about strength. By inviting Colorado State, the Buffaloes just lost the Power Five stronghold in their state. The same thing goes for BYU. Unlike Utah State, BYU has a strong following and is historically competitive. BYU has a nationwide, maybe even global, following. Additionally, Utah’s legs are taken out from under them. By inviting Colorado State and BYU, you hurt the Pac-12’s two newest teams which makes the conference weaker for having added them. Not only this, but the Big 12 welcomes back the Denver market plus BYU’s nationwide following. Provo is less than an hour away from Salt Lake City, so it seems that television market would also be added. The Nielsen ratings have Austin as No.40 and Oklahoma City as No.43. Sure, the Big 12 might lose the Houston market with the loss of Texas. However, the Dallas/Fort Worth market is still the Big 12’s. The additions of the No.17 market in Denver and the No.30 market in Salt Lake City help soften that blow. And once again, BYU has a nationwide following. No, it’s not as strong as Notre Dame’s, but it’s a good size.
Let’s stay on the Colorado State track for a second here. You’ve added two schools from top 30 television markets which have weakened Utah and Colorado. This is the point where you go after Arizona and Arizona State, which in turn, provide the No.11 television market. Look, the writing is on the wall. The Pac-12 Network has been a flop. You don’t understand what a new commissioner brings. The two new teams just got their legs knocked out from under them with the Big 12’s moves. Add on the fact that California was ready to kill the 2020 Pac-12 football season over its COVID lockdowns. The Pac-12 is no longer the proactive conference. Sure, the Big 12 Conference is more reactive, but it’s at least active. It has endured life support once and can endure it again. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 was in the driver’s seat at one point. The pioneer of the superconference failed, and he’s no longer Pac-12 Commissioner. Again, the Pac-12 Network Larry Scott pioneered never really saw much success either. What does the Pac-12 have to offer the two Arizona schools? Stability? But, for how long? The new commissioner is trying to play the “We’re the Pac-12” card to the remaining Big 12 Conference schools. He said he’s open to talks, but does not need to expand at this moment. That’s garbage. The conference that doesn’t expand is the next “runt of the litter”. The SEC is rumored to be in talks with Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan. It’s trying to invade the nation. How do you stop this? If the Pac-12 doesn’t expand, it loses. ESPN already doesn’t pay attention to it and the coaches have noticed. They have whined about the late starts for national television. ESPN doesn’t care and the Pac-12 continually gets left out of the College Football Playoff. The last Pac-12 team to play in the four-team playoff was Washington in the 2016-17 season.
Would Nebraska Come Home?
Once the Big 12 Conference has added at least three schools, including the Arizona schools, it’s time to circle back. It’s time to reconcile. One of the Big Eight’s founding members, Nebraska, should be invited under the right circumstances. Missouri is not going to come back. Texas A&M is getting exactly what it deserves. Nebraska, however, needs to come home. No more trips to Piscataway, New Jersey. The Cornhuskers want the Texas recruiting pipeline. They want the quick trips to bordering states. The only in-conference state Nebraska currently borders is Iowa. They won’t lose that border with its return. Instead, they’ll regain the Kansas and Colorado borders. Additionally, the Cornhuskers have fired two athletic directors since their move to the Big Ten. That’s not a good recipe for success. One of those athletic directors saw great success at Washington State after hiring Mike Leach. The move took the football program from the cellar to nearly a Pac-12 North Championship. It put life back into a lifeless program. This was not the case for Bill Moos at Nebraska. A return to the Big 12 Conference would be just what the doctor ordered for Nebraska. The reason they left was because they were sick of Texas. Guess who isn’t around anymore. That’s right: Texas. It’s time for the Cornhuskers to return home.
Now, let’s say Nebraska is the fifth team to be added. That would place the Big 12 at 13 teams. Not ideal, right? However, it places the Big 12 Conference in a position to do more. Does the Big 12 want to tap back into the Houston market by adding the Cougars? Does the conference want to go for the Pac-12’s jugular by adding Utah or the Washington schools? Maybe the Big 12 looks back at the East to give West Virginia a more suitable rival. Could that rival be Cincinnati? Heck, does the Big 12 start invading the ACC and invite Pittsburgh? We could discuss this all day. Until the first move is made, none of it really matters.
Right now, Bob Bowlsby is “talking the same old good body nonsense like he’s selling jeans and looking for Fabio”. If he doesn’t start invading other territories, he won’t have any territory left himself. Bob Bowlsby “is the runt of the litter. What happens to the runt of the litter? He dies.” No, Bowlsby won’t die. His legacy will though. He will forever be known as the Commissioner who let the Big 12 Conference die. That’s not what he wants his legacy to be. His survival instincts must kick in now. Adaptation isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.
The SEC is ready to kill all four other Power Five conferences. Any conference not ready to adapt is dead. The first conference failing to adapt is the Pac-12 Conference. It’s time for Bowlsby to start the invasion.