Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2011
Over the weekend, we were once again regaled and entertained by a conference realignment passion play, this one involving the forlorn and lost souls of Texas A&M, veritable auslanders in their own backyard, and the biggest, baddest bully on the football block, the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The brass in College Station, you see, is legitimately chafed that the monolithic academic and athletic powerhouse located 100 miles west in Austin — the University of Texas — will soon be rolling out its very own Longhorn Sports Network, a cable and satellite channel that can be beamed coast to coast to tens of millions of interested eyeballs while TAMU is stuck with its online channel, 12thManTV. Their anger is understandable — not only do the Horns regularly whip the Aggies on the gridiron (10 of the last 15 games) and the boardroom (Texas athletic department’s operating budget was $60M more than A&M’s in 2009-10), but they’re now positioned to permanently write their own ticket for the foreseeable future. That gap is unlikely to narrow.
No Doubt It Feels Like This at A&M
As of Monday afternoon, a Texas A&M move to the SEC was still on hold. A&M’s regents need to first formally agree to approach the SEC, and then the Texas state legislature would have to be involved in some capacity as well. But whether it happens this week, next week, or even a couple more years down the road — this, and other moves like it, are inevitable. The astronomical number of dollars available to schools through BCS bowl payouts and television contracts ensures further positioning; in some ways, the search for a bigger and better deal is capitalism at its finest. But like any marketplace unfettered by regulation and common sense, individuals acting rationally for their own best interests can ultimately lead to irresponsible and undesirable outcomes. Two pieces published this morning hit on such a distinct future possibility.
Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com and Eamonn Brennan at ESPN.com both write that if realignment continues moving in such a way where each school and conference continues to chase dollars at the trough of football exposure, we’re ultimately faced with an endgame of the 65 or so biggest schools doing an end-around on the NCAA by breaking off and starting its own governing organization. We’ve discussed this rather apocalyptic possibility before here, and from a purely football (and financial) perspective it makes perfect sense, but Parrish and Brennan’s argument is a salient one. Such a conclusion would effectively end the mythical David/Goliath beauty of the NCAA Tournament as we know it. As Parrish states:
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