Hop's Realignment Thoughts 9/20

The realignment saga has gone national and has spread to five conference across the country. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop has been on top of this story from the start and gives you the very latest

Let's get to the facts and what I do know as it relates to Texas A&M, and then I'll speculate on what OU, Texas, and Missouri will do. First, Texas Tech is trying to get the word out that they are now being pursued by the SEC and that Texas A&M will gladly partner with the Red Raiders as the 14th member of the SEC. Uh, no. The SEC is not currently interested in Texas Tech, and Texas A&M would be vehemently opposed to this action. Texas Tech did inquire and reached out to the SEC office today (not the other way around). Think about it. With the situation with Baylor, do you think the SEC would actually contact Texas Tech? Come on. Texas Tech is doing what any school in their situation would do. You contact as many potential conferences as possible to see what your options are, and then you get that information out there in the public domain to make it appear that you are a valued property in demand, and hopefully that will put pressure on Texas to hurry up and close the Pac-16 deal.

As far as A&M's situation, it still appears that the Aggies and the SEC are ready to move. As of earlier today, all signs pointed to Wednesday as there have been some tentative plans of a press event. But I must again preface this by saying that we have a 100 moving parts actively jockeying for position and the gloves are off. It's an understatement to say this situation is fluid…not as much for A&M as others like OU, OSU, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, and West Virginia. Still, plans could change, especially with Ken Starr doing his thing.

Now, let's talk other schools because that will affect A&M and a likely No. 14 team in the SEC. First of all, it's clear that No. 14 will be either Missouri or West Virginia. Missouri has geography, TV markets, and AAU accreditation on its side. West Virginia has a more loyal, rabid fanbase, strong football and basketball teams, and a school that has been in constant contact with the SEC and has been pushing for an invitation for several weeks versus Missouri's fence sitting and cool response to indirect SEC overtures.

At the moment, if both Missouri and West Virginia were at the SEC door eagerly pushing for an invite, it's clear that Missouri is the SEC's preference. Missouri has a big proponent in Arkansas who has been politicking, and West Virginia doesn't have an internal proponent at the moment. But as I've been reporting for weeks if not months, Missouri's academic administration is still holding out hope for a Big 10 offer. Now, with the Big 10 being conservative and not making a lot of noise in the realignment game right at the moment, Missouri is also open to holding out that the Big 12 will eventually survive with Texas and/or OU and OSU staying put. Then there's the SEC knocking at their door.

Ironically, Missouri is really the key player here. They have more potential options than Texas, OU, Tech, and OSU. Missouri could land in the Big 10, the SEC, or remain in the Big 12. The others are realistically either going to the Pac-12 or stay in the Big 12. If those four go to the Pac-12 along with A&M to the SEC, then Baylor, Iowa St., KU, and KSU need Missouri to stick it out to keep the Big 12 going, expand (smaller schools), and collect the millions in exit fees. If Missouri bolts, then the Big 12 dissolves and is dead.

If Missouri decides to jump on the SEC offer, they become No. 14 in 2012 and now West Virginia is on the outside looking in for the short term. I still think WVU is a strong candidate to be No. 15 or No. 16 with more expansion likely in 2013 or 2014. WVU has the time because it appears the Big East is holding its members to the 27 month notice policy which the ACC plans to honor. So don't get too worried Mountaineer fans, you'll likely have an AQ conference home by the time this all shakes out in a couple of years. Plus, there's talk that if OU and OSU leaves for the Pac-12 and Texas stays in the Big 12, WVU is a prime candidate for expansion along with schools like Cincinnati, Louisville, and BYU to name a few.

That gets me to OU, OSU, Texas, and Tech. While many feel Monday's OU BOR meeting and President Boren's explicit statements about talking to the Pac-12 are a sign that OU's move to the west coast is a done deal, I have a different take. Me thinks Mr. Boren protested too much on Monday, so to speak. Why make such explicit public statements if it's a done deal. There's no need to posture if it's done. I still think deep down OU realizes that the Pac-12 isn't a great geographic or cultural fit, and may or may not have a firm offer on the table from the Pac-12 without Texas and Tech. Making such public statements and convincing everybody that they are serious about going to the Pac-12 gains the Sooners leverage against Texas that is desperate to save the LHN and knows the only way that happens is if the Big 12 survives. And staying in the Big 12 is only attractive if OU remains. Thus, OU has Texas over a barrel and can negotiate away some of Texas' advantages with the LHN.

This is just me analyzing the situation, but despite all of the rumors out there from both Texas and OU about opportunities with the Pac-12, the ACC, and the Big 10, I think most of those "reports" from the likes of Chip Brown are planted stories from the Texas administration to generate a false sense of the school having more leverage than they have in reality. In fact, Texas really doesn't have many legitimate options at this point. Either they agree to dismantle and restructure the LHN into the Pac-12 tier three rights structure as a prerequisite for entry, "pay off" OU to stay in the Big 12, or still make a go of it with the Big 12 without OU/OSU by adding the likes of Cincy, TCU, UH, Louisville, and West Virginia.

So you ask yourself, why would Texas actually consider staying in a watered down Big 12 without OU, OSU, Texas A&M, and possibly Missouri? Because they have no better offers with that lead weight known as the Longhorn Network shackled to its proverbial ankle. I've told you for months (and I was the ONLY one saying it at the time while Texas fans laughed), the Longhorns aren't attractive to the major AQ conferences with their reputation as a difficult business partner and the LHN in tow. The Longhorns are like Terrell Owens. He's a great playmaker and he'll give you 1000 yards receiving and double digit touchdowns, but in the long term he'll eventually poison the locker room and wear out his welcome. The healthy conferences like the Big 10, ACC, SEC, and now the Pac-12 have no desire to take on Texas' baggage. The negatives now outweigh the positives.

For several weeks now, Texas has shopped itself to these major conferences and recently they've tried to get creative in ways to keep the majority of revenues from the LHN while incorporating the programming of tier three rights into the existing conference structure. Well, with the ACC's move to add Pitt and Syracuse over the weekend, the entire collegiate landscape is changing and schools are looking for a home. In the meantime, Texas is still working the phones and trying to cut deals and no conference is taking the bait.

It is becoming clear that Texas will either:

1) retain full LHN rights in a dangerously weak Big 12 Conference without OU, OSU, and Texas A&M.

2) retain most of the LHN rights but giving OU significant financial/strategic incentives to stay in a stronger Big 12 w/ OU and OSU.

3) basically give up sole rights to the LHN and turn it into a regional network with equal revenue distribution to join a very good Pac-16 Conference.

So for Texas, it's either try to survive in a watered down Big 12 with the LHN, or join a very good Pac-16 without the LHN. Either way, Texas loses. They are so blinded by the thought of $300 million with the LHN that they are willing to piece together a conference that will be the fifth best conference…at best (a distant 5th).

It will be interesting to see if OU and OSU are bluffing, or whether they are serious about going to the Pac-12.

In the meantime, Texas A&M is patiently waiting to join the best football conference in America with more national TV slots a week than any other conference in the country. Where do you think elite Texas recruits will want to play their football - in a conference with elite football programs like LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas or one with Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Cincinnati, TCU, and Louisville?

That's why Texas A&M administrators feel good about this move.

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