The two biggest football programs in your conference demand more television revenue than the rest of the league, including you, if they’re to stick around.
They’re also a constant target of poaching rumors, the most desirable brands to the bigger fish circling the Power 5 pond. And they know it.
Despite a unified public front, despite promises of unity, deep down, half the schools don’t trust the other half.
Big 12, circa 2009, meet the Pac-12, circa 2022.
And the Buffs are right back where they started.
Get out, CU.
If the Big Ten won’t return your calls, and the Big 12 does, along with a lifeline, you’d be crazy not to take it.
Two weeks after USC and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, sticking daggers in the backs of old pals and kicking a century of history to the curb for television cash, the Pac-12 has vowed to roll up its sleeves and fight on.
At least, until somebody waves better money in front of the noses of the Universities of Oregon and Washington, respectively, two good football brands who feel rightly snubbed.
You don’t want to go back to Ames? Or Stillwater? We get it. Granola and brisket don’t always mix.
But the Pac-12 you signed up for is gone. It’s over, financially and competitively.
To put it another way, if push came to shove, in six years, would you rather be in a league with San Diego State, Boise State and Fresno State? Or in a conference with Iowa State, Kansas State, West Virginia and Cincinnati?
Because if the whispers of Big 12 continuing to look west while reportedly rejecting offers of a Pac-12 merger outright are true, it might well be the more appealing of two less-than-ideal paths going forward.
Even if Oregon and Washington aren’t next on the Big Ten’s want list, they’re still the biggest dogs left in the Pac-Whatever. It’s a dead league walking without them.
It stands to reason, and to market demands, that the Ducks (Phil Knight, Nike, new money) and Huskies (Seattle, tradition, old money) are going to demand more of a cut of what’s left of the league’s future revenue to stay.
It’s potentially Texas and Oklahoma all over again, one of the political pratfalls that rankled CU brass — and the brass at Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M, let’s be real — two decades ago.
No option short of a Big Ten escape pod is a step up for CU. A Pac-10 with Oregon, Washington and Utah as its leading brands can talk all day about unity and togetherness, but without the Los Angeles television eyeballs, that broadcast revenue is only going one direction: Downward.
A Big 12 without the Sooners and Longhorns isn’t what it once was, either. But with an ESPN contract and schools situated in the Central and Eastern time zones, the new-look league also has the potential to get you off a conference network no one can see and into television windows in which two-thirds of the country — two-thirds of which your coaches can recruit to — are actually awake.
Get out, CU.
Look east. Look south. Look to Texas, where your donors aren’t but the talent is. Look to Florida. Look to the future.
As the NCAA gets battered into submission through litigation and TV networks have grabbed the wheel, big-time college football isn’t just saying the quiet parts out loud anymore. It’s screaming them.
The wingtips in Indy moved one step closer Thursday to allowing student-athletes to transfer multiple times without penalty. Name, Image and Likeness opportunities have created an almost unfettered free market for the most desired collegiate talent.
It’s also turned the system, in many cases, into a bidding war for stars among university booster groups. The parity created by scholarship limitations and the explosion of television opportunities for programs large and small — or college football as we’ve known it for three decades— is on the verge of being eviscerated on three fronts. Networks are poaching the best brands. Universities are poaching the best coaches. Boosters are poaching the top players.
Those same market forces have always pulled the strings, even in recent decades. It’s just those forces have a greater reach, and fewer guardrails, than they have at any point since perhaps the early 1980s.
For years, the argument for a CU or a Stanford or a Cal was that the combination of an undergraduate degree and that school’s alumni network would assure a prospective recruit, and their parents, that their son or daughter would be well-paid at age 30 — even if they don’t “go pro” in their respective sport.
To heck with that. In a world of unregulated NIL collectives, recruits these days want to be well-paid at 19 or 20. Why sweat a degree when the owner of a car dealership or restaurant just cut me a check for six figures?
“We used to have a wonderful scholarship model,” Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, lamented to me earlier this year. “With the NIL, now, it’s kind of more about, ‘How much money can I risk to buy (a player) from another team?’”
Get out, CU. Is it worth the risk for this kind of déjà vu, all over again?