John E. Hoover: OU AD believes conference realignment may not be over
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 3:57 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog
Related Story: Rutgers set to leave Big East for the Big Ten
Original Print Headline: Realignment may not be over just yet
NORMAN - Big 12 fans, don't look away from what's going on in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Or the Big East. Or any other league.
The news this week of Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten and leaving gaps in the ACC and Big East, respectively, could have long-term and far-reaching impacts elsewhere.
Conference realignment, it seems, is here to stay.
"I don't think it's done," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told the Tulsa World on Monday. "I don't have any reason to believe or know why I think that. Don't have any proof, don't have any evidence or any of that. It just seems there are other moves that could be made. Let's put it this way: at least they'll be evaluated."
The Big Ten now joins the Southeastern Conference as America's 14-team leagues. Does that mean the Big 12 will rejoin the frenzy and expand after two years with a 10-member model? Are Louisville or Cincinnati or Florida State or Clemson - or all - back on the table for the Big 12?
No. Although it should be said that those schools were never actually on the Big 12's table. Or that the Big 12 may or may not officially even have a table.
"The number itself isn't the driver of conference expansion," Castiglione said. "It's whether or not expansion brings increased value. And value doesn't always have to be defined in dollars and cents. There are many other value propositions that aren't solely related to the bottom line."
Of course, Castiglione isn't about to say the Big 12 definitely is sticking with 10, either.
"Certainly you've got to know what's taking place," he said. "We're in some uncharted territory."
It is clear, though, that the larger conference model "may be something we have to prepare for," Castiglione said, as college football remakes itself with a four-team playoff that could create an entire class of nouveau riche.
"The traditionalists, of which I count myself as one, question how some schools can give up relationships that span 80, 90, 100-plus years," Castiglione said. "But then we also have to realize, again, there are opportunities that some institutions feel are in their best interests to choose."
Athletic departments and general university funds at both Maryland and Rutgers have been financially strapped. Rutgers cut six men's sports in 2006. In July, Maryland cut seven sports.
Joining the Big Ten at the start of the 2014 academic year moves them out of college athletics' lower middle-class and into a higher tax bracket. Big East revenue distribution to football members last year was $6 million while the ACC just signed a deal worth almost $15 million annually per school. The Big Ten last year paid out almost $24 million to its 12 members.
Good for them. If swapping leagues can overcome fiscal incompetence or administrative apathy, great. Everybody wins.
But what impact will a larger Big Ten have for everyone else? Same it's had so far for a larger SEC: No one knows yet. It too early to tell, although added television markets of Baltimore and Washington and New York and New Jersey will add TV sets, which will increase revenue for Big Ten members.
Now throw in how the larger SEC and Big Ten will jockey for placement in the new football postseason and the unknowns are truly unknowable. For now.
"It behooves us to pay attention," Castiglione said. "Those are the kinds of things that might incentivize a conference to grow. It's not, 'Hey, we need to have more in number,' necessarily. You have to think about what the additional number means to the conference and who are all part of the increase in number. It's what we are trying to do for the overall vision for our league."
It's no accident Castiglione is one of the most influential people in college athletics. He's astonishingly smart, a visionary who dares take only the most measured risks. He calculates every decision, every word.
To that end, Castiglione says he doesn't have a crystal ball. But he also doesn't recommend crying over the crumbling Big East or the weakened ACC. Likewise for the poor, pitiful Sunbelt/MAC/WAC/Conference USA coalition that, in the brave new world of a college football playoff, has to muster one champion.
Great things may be in the near future of the downtrodden - but only if they're smart.
"I could see consolidation occurring in some of the leagues," Castiglione said. "Where it's not gonna make a lot of sense for two leagues to be existing any more. They might pool their resources and say, 'Let's create one good league instead of two (average ones).'
"Think about it. There were moves made earlier this year in some leagues to add schools who weren't even playing football five years ago. Football! I'm not even talking Division I. ... That's where some are gonna have to think through whether it's in their best interests to add more schools, and if those schools can add value.
"It puts some people in position to do some things they never thought they'd have to do."