So the Aggies have decided to take their talents east to the SEC. Assuming all of the rumors flying around are true, the only thing Oklahoma fans should be worried about is where the Sooners will land after all the dust has settled.
Let’s start with two basic assumptions before going crazy with speculation:
1.) Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are connected at the hip, as are Texas and Oklahoma (until Texas decides otherwise). Like it or not, the powers that be in the government and OU president David Boren himself realize that the state is better off with two schools aligned in BCS conferences instead of one. Call it the greater good. Also, the Red River Shootout and access to Texas recruits are invaluable. The Sooners will not be the ones to break from either school.
2.) I truly believe that the inequality in collegiate athletic budgets/spending will push the creation of two separate FBS divisions. The massive TV deals of the last six months confirm that the money will only get more and more ridiculous. The most logical end to this would be four 16-team superconferences with mega-TV deals and mega-athletic department budgets.
Those things being said, the Sooners will have no shortage of suitors. There are multiple scenarios that could play out, because let’s face it, after Texas A&M leaves for pride. every other move will be straight business decisions that have already been sketched out according to plan.
There has been speculation that the Big 10 would be interested in OU, and I definitely believe Jim Delaney will have to at least make the phone call to OU athletic director Joe Castiglione to gauge interest. Unless Delaney is hell bent on getting to 16 before anyone else (not likely), the academic prestige required for a membership north would definitely exclude Oklahoma State. By the transitive property, that means OU as well.
The SEC is one of the two serious destinations for OU, because taking Aggie would put the SEC at 13 teams. Common sense would suggest that the league either take another team in the west and move someone over to the east for equal divisions; or the conference add someone from the east (Florida State? Virginia Tech? Clemson?) to keep things balanced after A&M.
(Slight background: Expansion at this moment is a good idea, because the TV contract that was negotiated just a few short years ago has now been dwarfed by the competition. The market is ripe for a huge payday, as was the case with the Pac-12. Adding two to four teams gives the SEC a reason to head back to the negotiating table to extract a higher premium from ESPN/Disney. Strike while the iron’s hot.)
The question that Mike Slive needs to ask himself is whether or not the 16-team superconference is the end goal for this move or still just a possibility for down the road. If he decides that today is the day, he’s going to strike first as the premier conference to secure the best schools.
Needing 16 means he needs to add a combination of at least one more in the west and two in the east after A&M. Assuming our first assumption is true, the only way we go is with the Pokes.
Because there are too many other good options on the table, I just can’t see the SEC accepting Oklahoma’s package deal. They can add A&M, Florida State, Virginia Tech and a combination of Missouri/Clemson/North Carolina and have a better package than A&M, OU, OSU and one of the ACC teams.
Straight business, again, as adding OSU brings in no new TV sets, doesn’t boost the conference’s national profile or and doesn’t haveany real benefit to justify giving up one of the other options from the east or Missouri.
That leaves OU with the possibility of making a jump to the Pac-12.
Larry Scott has been on record confirming that the Pac 12 isn’t done with expansion and has been the biggest bulldog in pushing to the future of college athletics. I believe that he wants to be the first to 16. Leaving the inaugural championship games on campus for the first few seasons also signified there was more to come.
This means the time is perfect for him to find four teams somewhere to get to the magical 16. He will at least approach Texas and attempt to convince the burnt orange brass to turn the Longhorn Network into a regional outlet. This actually has a pretty good chance of happening when Texas sees it is as its only option other than independence. The ‘Horns have repeatedly stated that is not their goal.
This means Texas is in with presumably Tech. (Sorry, Baylor, but you don’t have the political clout you did in 1995 to swing an invite.) Oklahoma and OSU head west leaving Kansas, K-State, ISU, Mizzou and Baylor to fight to be included in 16-team superconferences of the SEC and Big 10 as the remains of the ACC and Big East fight to ravage each other first to get to the magic number.
If Texas doesn’t want to give up the LHN, OU and OSU will probably still have their invite with what should be BYU/Boise State or Kansas and Kansas State pairing here in the east. Things get murky here, though, as Texas is the crown jewel. Without the Longhorns, Scott may balk at making a move right away without seeing what the SEC does first.
I truly believe if A&M chooses to leave on Monday that means we are headed down the path to the superconference. Adding from within to get back to 12 members isn’t an option for the remaining Big 12 members. Oklahoma needs to secure its future ASAP.
Of course, all of this could be a show and Aggie might it’s not so bad as third place in the current setup, as opposed to fourth or fifth with some bigger classmates.
But… I just can’t shake the feeling that with the power that TV revenue controls and the growing disparity between the upper and lower classes of college athletics budgets that the time is now to establish a new world order among the elites. In almost every scenario, Oklahoma comes out OK.
In other words, getcha suntan lotion ready.