Senior Writer

National notebook: Tuberville tells Big (12) truth and pays


Let's see, who has more credibility at the moment -- Tommy Tuberville or the Big 12?

Before we answer, consider that Texas Tech's new coach has ...

  Won at least nine games six times.

Mack Brown and Texas will keep the Big 12 together as long as they want it. (US Presswire)  
Mack Brown and Texas will keep the Big 12 together as long as they want it. (US Presswire)  
  Coached his teams to 10 bowl games.

  Guided his teams to at least a tie for a division or conference title in five seasons.

  Become the second SEC coach to go 13-0 while winning a conference title.

Now, consider that the Big 12 has ...

Texas in the fold, for now. Well, that and promises of a financial windfall from Fox cable. That promise is all that stands between the Big 12 and oblivion. There are no contracts, no signed documents. So when Tuberville innocently said last week that "I don't think this conference will last long," he merely articulated what the rest of us are thinking:

The Big 12 is on shaky ground. It's on shaky ground because it will stay together as long as Texas wants it to stay together. That statement was practically written in stone when the league was saved at the 11th hour last month. Texas was talked in off the ledge when competitors ESPN and Fox cable convinced Longhorn officials that there was enough money to make a 10-team Big 12 worth their while.

Describing it any other way is ludicrous. There are reports that a portion of the Tentative Ten's have-nots (perhaps Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor) will surrender to the haves (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma) portions of Nebraska's and Colorado's buyout money. That amounts to protection money paid by run-of-the-mill shop owners to neighborhood bullies.

Anyone remember Godfather Part II villain Don Fanucci? Now, imagine this dialogue.

"That's an awful nice addition you've built on the journalism school, Missouri. It would be a shame if it somehow burned to the ground."

The Big 12 almost broke up because of the disparity in revenue distribution. What did Tuberville do? Remind everyone there is "too much [financial] disparity between all the teams."

In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue. But for his comments, Tubs was reprimanded by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. Not fair. This wasn't like Mike Leach disparaging game officials or Bobby Knight (another Texas Tech legend) embarrassing himself -- and the league -- with another outburst.

This was one man's opinion. Check that, Tuberville was stating the opinion of millions.

Oh, and what about the right to free speech? It's hard not to disparage something that 3½ weeks ago was on the brink of collapse. Put it this way: Tuberville (1995 as a head coach) and the Big 12 (1996 as a conference) both started at essentially the same time.

Tuberville will still be able to get a job in five years. Will the Big 12 even exist?

USC's collateral damage

USC probably won't drag anyone down with it when it is left out of the coaches poll this season.

The American Football Coaches Association announced Thursday that it will not allow the Trojans to be in the poll per its rules regarding programs facing major sanctions. No surprise there. Alabama was left out of the coaches poll in 2002 and 2003 while serving a two-year bowl ban.

The question is how USC's absence in the coaches poll will affect other schools' chances in the BCS. Not much, it turns out. Executive director Bill Hancock says, "they'll [USC] just be a non-entity," in the polls. However, USC's strength of schedule will still exist meaning opponents can profit.

For example, "Oregon will get credit for USC's strength of schedule," if it beats USC, according to Hancock. It isn't a major issue considering that USC, at most, will play approximately five ranked teams -- and that's stretching it (Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Oregon State and Notre Dame). Only the Ducks are projected to be in national championship competition. And that's a long shot.

"They [USC] just won't be in the two polls," Jerry Palm told "It won't matter unless they're 11-1 or 12-0."

The coaches poll is half the human component. The Harris Poll was not part of the BCS in the early 2000s, but it probably will copy the coaches poll edict this time and not include USC.

Alabama finished 10-3 in 2002, reaching the top 10 in AP late in the season. It beat three ranked teams that season -- Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee. Mississippi also finished 10-3 that year and did not appear in the BCS top 15 all season. LSU finished 8-5, the year before its national championship. It did debut in the BCS top 10 before sliding back. Tennessee also finished 8-5 and did not appear in the BCS.

In 2003, Alabama went 4-9 beating no ranked teams.

Boiling down realignment

The ACC's new $1.86 billion deal with ESPN further summarized the conference realignment issue.

It comes down to Texas, Notre Dame, Duke-Carolina and the ACC basketball tournament. Those are the trigger points for any movement. None of the four entities changed homes so the alignment, this time, was minor.

Texas was convinced to stay in the Big 12. Because Texas stayed put, the Pac-10 couldn't expand to 16. Because the Pac-10 didn't expand that far, there was no push for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten, which stopped at 12 teams by inviting Nebraska.

ESPN paid almost $2 billion over the next 12 years essentially for the rights to a pair of Duke-Carolina games and the ACC tournament each season. Per-team rights fees doubled because the ACC bundled football and basketball rights together for the first time. Football? An afterthought in the big picture. The conference's two marquee teams -- Miami and Florida State -- have slumped since expansion.

So when thinking of alignment in the future, don't think of conferences so much as the "properties" they own. The Big 12 is Texas. The ACC is Duke, Carolina and its hoops tournament. The Big Ten is Ohio State-Michigan. You already know my feelings on that.

Essentially, nothing has changed. The Big 12 has become a stronger basketball power without Colorado and Nebraska. The Pac-10 will command more bucks with Utah and Colorado. The Big Ten, most likely, will have a football championship game.

The ACC? Suddenly looking strong after mucking through five seasons since expansion.

"We've got a group of schools that are together for multiple reasons," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "They're together because they've chosen to be together."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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