The second installment of the 10 things we learned from conference realignment:
6. My Big Ten divisions: Everybody's doing it, so let me weigh in on how the new 12-team Big Ten should be split up ...
|Realigned 12-team Big Ten|
|West Division||East Division|
Jim Delany rates the division factors in this order -- competitive balance, the preservation of rivalries and (way down the list) geography. At first glance, the East looks like the weaker of the two divisions but most of the major rivalries are preserved.
The key to any lineup, though, is that Ohio State and Michigan play in different divisions. That allows for the possibility of two Buckeyes-Wolverines games in any given season.
Repeat, it's a good thing that the teams could play twice in a season. That game -- The Game -- remains the Big Ten's most important television property. The image came to me during this year's Final Four: An Ohio State-Michigan rematch from the regular season in the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with the winner going to the Rose Bowl.
Think that might generate some interest?
|Rich Rodriguez and Jim Tressel could see each other twice a year on the field. (Getty Images)|
The Big Ten's two signature programs don't have to play in the same division. In fact, keeping them apart achieves part of that competitive balance. Simply make Michigan and Ohio State designated out-of-division rivals. The SEC has a similar scheduling format to preserve longstanding rivalries.
That's the easy part. The hard part is figuring out when Michigan is going to make it a rivalry again.
7. Notre Dame is staying put -- for now: When the Pac-10 and Big Ten stopped at 12, that stopped ND short of having to make the toughest decision in its athletic history.
There is no reason, through this round of realignment, for the Irish to join a conference. The Big East has remained intact. There is excitement that Brian Kelly can get the program back to competing for championships. Best of all for Notre Dame, it doesn't have to share with anyone.
8. Thank you, Urban Meyer: When Utah hired Bowling Green's driven, ambitious, little-known head coach in 2003, who knew it would lead to this?
Seven years later, Utah is in the Pac-10, the BCS and looking forward to competing for Rose Bowls. Almost all of it thanks to Meyer. In his second season, he got the Utes to a Fiesta Bowl as Utah became the first non-BCS program to get to a BCS bowl. Now the school loves that it is part of the system it hated so much.
Utah will suddenly have access to better recruits (California, here it comes). The Utes will be playing schools in conference games (Southern California, UCLA, etc.) that otherwise would never schedule them.
Athletic director Chris Hill was wise enough to hire Meyer's defensive coordinator when the coach split for Florida. Kyle Whittingham took what Meyer left behind and went one better. The victory over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl was arguably the biggest in school history.
The Pac-10 move means Whittingham won't be leaving for a bigger, better program because Utah suddenly just became a bigger, better program.
It's not too much to suggest that a new national power is blooming at the foot of the Wasatch.
|Whittingham led Utah to its biggest win in school history. (Getty Images)|
9. Networks are all the rage: Texas is starting one. Oklahoma is thinking about it. So is Missouri.
The Big Ten's success with its network spurred the league to explore expansion. The Big Ten Network turned a profit shortly after going on the air. Suddenly, everyone with a pair of tomato cans, some string and venture capital is trying to become the next BTN.
Warning! Warning! The Big Ten Network is an anomaly. In fact, it might be the only one of its kind to work. Jim Delany was able to tap into a massive Big Ten fan base and get a deep-pocket partner (News Corp, parent of Fox). It is a regional network that is going national. Few remember there were tremendous problems in clearing enough cable systems to show the BTN.
Does the Pac-10 have the stomach, money and viewers to be able to go through that kind of slog? The Mountain West has its own network but has yet to make a dime. The Big 12 isn't about to start a network after losing two members. Texas could profit from its personal Bevo Channel (or whatever it is going to be called), but that's a network for the largest, richest athletic department in the country. It makes sense.
Everyone else? No. There are key questions to be asked of any fledgling startup.
A.) Is it 24 hours a day, seven days a week? If not, the perception is that the network isn't big time. Heck, it's not even a network. With 168 hours of air time floating out there each week, that's a lot of programming and a lot of advertising needed to fill it.
B.) How many football games and how many men's basketball games can it show? That's basically all advertisers and investors want to know. If the answer is not many, then a network is not viable.
I suspect when all this fever dies down, the term "network" will be redefined at a lot of schools. Streaming a few volleyball games and showing coaches shows does qualify as the next BTN.
10. It's possible to break up a conference by press release: A compelling case can be made for Missouri nearly becoming the assassin that killed the Big 12.
Remember Dec. 15, when Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton put out this press release declaring his school's interest in joining the Big Ten. Those words came on the same day the Big Ten said it would explore expansion.
A few days later Missouri Gov. (and Mizzou alum) Jay Nixon dropped another bomb:
"I'm not going to say anything bad about the Big 12, but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at."
It's one thing to think those things, it's another for two powerful state officials to talk about them -- boldly and arrogantly -- in public. Deaton and Nixon couldn't have stated more clearly how dissatisfied Missouri was with the Big 12. From there all the rancor and bitterness grew, leading the league to the brink of dissolution. Big 12 presidents and ADs started looking seriously at safe havens and started reacting angrily to Missouri.
The final disgrace for Mizzou was that it was wrong about the Big Ten. Nebraska's name brand trumped Missouri's markets (Kansas City and St. Louis).
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was right in stating publicly Tuesday what a lot of us are thinking.
"I just don't think this conference will last long because there's just too much disparity between all the teams here," he said.