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Aug
07
2016

What can the Big 12 can learn from the ACC to secure their future?

Big12

We’re an ACCcentric blog here at AllSportsDiscussion as you know, but it’s hard to ignore what is happening over in the Big 12 as they try to secure their future. Their situation is not so different from the ACC a few years ago. Are they going to get poached? Are certain programs looking elsewhere? Will the conference exist in 5 or 10 years? Can they compete financially?

The ACC’s lowpoint was reached in 2012, when Maryland left and that followed years of below average to simply bad football. 4 years later the ACC has a Grant of Rights that extends to 2036. A conference network is on the way in 2019, and the ACC’s athletics are at arguably the highest point in their history – with multiple Final 4s, multiple Big 6 bowl wins, and national championships dotted all over the conference the last few years. What can the Big 12 learn from the ACC?

1) One Voice

While the last few years tested ACC fans’ patience for news on the ACC Network, commissioner John Swofford wanted one voice and that’s what he got the last couple of years. Nothing undercuts the stability of a conference more than a program’s leadership voicing dissatisfaction with said conference ala FSU BOT Andy Haggard ripping the ACC back in 2012.  That’s not good. Oklahoma AD David Boren has been critical of the Big 12 all year. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby needs to make this one voice a priority and it needs to stay that way.

2) Be Quick and Decisive on expansion candidates.

After Maryland voted to leave the ACC, it took the ACC less than 15 days to re-group an invite Louisville. By all accounts it’s been a great marriage. After the ACC Network annoucnement, the Big 12 flip-flopped their decision on expansion, and decided to expand. That was just over 2 weeks ago. While I would say the Big 12 still has time to make a decision on their candidates, don’t drag it out. The Big 12 says they want to resolve this by the time the football season starts. I recommend sticking to that.

3) Think long-term

Once the ACC’s first GOR was signed in early 2013, the ACC began in work in earnest for a conference network with ESPN. It was a long term plan, that at times frustrated fans, and kept the realignment rumors afloat. In the end it finally came together. The ACC didn’t expand with empty candidates. The conference members didn’t make rash decisions. The ACC worked with their TV partners.

The Big 12 needs stay away from the temptation of the quick money grab, and abusing the pro-rata clause of their TV contract.  Work to get the GOR extended beyond the 2025. I don’t think a conference network is in the cards for the Big 12, due to Texas being unwilling to give up the LHN. That could work to the Big 12’s favor, as Texas likely can’t keep their network with any other conference. Only Texas and Oklahoma are truly guaranteed a future power 5 home if the Big 12 dissolves, while the others range from likely no home (Iowa State, Texas Tech) to probably would end up somewhere (Oklahoma State, West Virginia).

In other words most of the Big 12 doesn’t have a lot of options.

4) Choose the right expansion candidates.

I do think the Big 12 should expand, but be wise about it. Louisville was a perfect for the ACC. Syracuse and Pitt were good additions and made sense, and the partial deal with Notre Dame has been solid too.

It’s simple for the Big 12, BYU is a no brainer choice. They are national brand, with competitive athletics and still make relative geographic sense. They are closer to just about all the Big 12 schools than West Virginia. After BYU, the Big 12 can choose from Houston, Cincinnati or UCONN. All with their own advantages and disadvantages, but STOP RIGHT THERE.

There isn’t a move the needle candidate available. Adding more than 2 is a needless money grab that could dilute the conference. Will Texas or Oklahoma be happy if Memphis or Tulane are serious candidates as 13th and 14th schools?

 5) Don’t assume money, history, or geography holds a conference together. 

You often hear Big 12 fans tout the their TV rights deal or some other financial beneifit of being in the Big 12. Just a warning – that doesn’t hold a conference together, especially if you aren’t the highest paid conference which the Big 12 isn’t

The ACC fell into the trap a few years ago believing that their history and geography  made them safe. Maryland proved it didn’t. The only thing that holds a conference together is a total buy-in from all members. They have to want to be there.

That has usually resulted in a long term Grant of Rights. We will see what the Big 12 does.

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