Why It's A Good Fit...

Realignment is at the forefront of topics for Texas A&M's Board of Regents. The decision makers for the Aggies are looking at this monumental move as a "business decision". Websider's David Sandhop breaks down the entire outlook on both the Pac-10 and SEC options. With new info surfacing Friday afternoon, Hop's analysis is the most realistic outlook on the future of Texas A&M.

Just a few observations and opinions of my own as I've scoured the Internet landscape overnight....

For the life of me, I don't know why so many Texas fans have such a blind spot on the Pac-16 money issue. How any rational human being can look at the current Pac-10/SEC numbers ($200+ million vs. $50+ million) and thinking that adding CU, OSU, OU, Utah, etc. will even out that $150 million disparity is frankly nuts. The Texas market is what it is...whether A&M/Texas go to the Pac-16 or SEC, it's worth the same theoretically so that's a zero-sum game in this analysis. Also, the $150 million disparity doesn't account for the SEC expanding east...to say Virginia Tech, UNC, or Florida (FSU).

There's simply no way that realistically the Pac-16 can deliver financially more than an expanded SEC or even an expanded Big Ten. Think about it. The Pac-10 has the smallest TV revenues by far of the major BCS conferences proposing expansion. Hell, the Big 12's lousy TV deal is greater tha the Pac-10's deal right now. The whole point of the Big 12 "haves" leaving the Big 12 is to shed itself of the "have-nots" and stop letting them survive off their coat tails. So you dump ISU, KSU, etc. and in return you pick up Washington St., Oregon St., and Stanford (great school with national reputation but still only minimal support and small core following). USC just got popped in the mouth by the NCAA and hired Lane Kiffin. There is no guarantee at all that they will return to national prominence in the next 5-7 years.

That leads in to my next point, and that is the reaction of Texas fans and Texas media websites to the news that A&M wants to explore its options with the SEC. The attacks are very personal and emotional that A&M dare look at options outside of the Pac-16, and that A&M is just doing this to show big brother they aren't little brother anymore. And the consequences will be severe and swift....A&M will be blackballed. Huh? Really? Isn't that a bit childish? This is about business, right? A&M may be "little brother", but little brother brings a lot of revenues to that Thanksgiving game too. So Texas wants to forego what would in essence be a nice chunk of additional non-conference revenue? Remember, by going to separate conferences, A&M and Texas would be free to negotiate a sweet little TV package deal of their own for maybe a football game and throw in a basketball game too.

I simply say go to the facts of the case. Why would A&M want to explore options with the SEC?

Could it be that SEC money that we talked about above is basically guaranteed? The SEC is a low risk move financially with high upside. The model has already proven itself. People have and WILL watch SEC sports.

The Pac-16 concept makes a lot of assumptions as to viewership and everything projected by the TV networks is based on this conference working and gaining loyal viewers west of the Colorado River. But what happens in 6-7 years and it becomes clear to the TV executives that an already fickle California market that can't even support an NFL franchise in the #2 TV market in the country has not warmed to the idea of watching Texas-Texas Tech, OU-OSU, Texas-CU, and Texas Tech-OSU and the ratings are lousy? You don't think Fox Sports or ABC/ESPN aren't gong to knock on the door and say "boys, we have a problem". Then what do you do if you are in the Pac-16...start marketing to Asia? I say that because the Pac-10 commissioner is on record saying that the Pac-16 could be the gateway to Asian markets. Oh really, so we're supposed to hang our hats on selling a few t-shirts in Korea or Vietnam? Is that a bet you want to make?

OK, let's look at geography and travel. Texas A&M is much closer geographically to the heart of the SEC as opposed to the west coast. In fact, somebody told me they looked at the projected travel distances and said that A&M's furthest road trip in the SEC would be South Carolina, and that trip is shorter than a trip to Boulder, Colorado....and Boulder would be one of the shorter trips in the Pac-16.

Ok, let's look at cultural ft and regional rivalries. In the Pac-16, outside of the Big 6 proposed contingent, there is little history and no rivalries. There's simply no connection or cultural fit among teams like USC, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, etc. and Texas A&M. The only connection would be an alliance strictly forged through finances and TV deals. In the SEC, A&M has a long, well-documented playing history with both Arkansas and LSU. I can remember my days at A&M in the late 1980's (when Texas was down) when the biggest game of the year was in fact the season opener in Baton Rouge. That was a great road trip, and it's pretty easy for Aggies and Tigers to mix it up before, during, and after the game. If A&M were to go to the SEC and renew that game, that rivalry would quickly heat up again. We all know about the history with Arkansas in the SWC, and of course there's a historical bond between A&M and Alabama regarding Bear Bryant. Even look at some of the other teams in the SEC and A&M has crossed paths with them over the past 30 years or so....Mississippi State (snow bowl), Georgia (2009 Indy Bowl), Tennessee (Cotton Bowl), Auburn (Cotton Bowl), and Florida (Sun Bowl).

Aside from a playing history is also a cultural fit and connection with A&M and so many of the SEC schools tied to the Gulf of Mexico and the oil industry. There are a lot of business and personal relationships that would bring these schools together and increase interest in traveling to road games and watching other SEC games on TV. Ask yourself this question? Would you be more inclined to watch an LSU-Arkansas at 7:00 PM on ESPN than you would an Arizona - USC game at 9:30 PM on Fox? The point here is that more TV sets in Texas and in the southeast will turn on to watch an SEC game than there will be to watch a west coast match-up of two California schools...and even more importantly, even fewer Californians will turn on a Pac-16 game between OU and Texas Tech. There's just not the inherent interest there because there's no cultural fit or history to put the game in context for the average viewer out there.

So in the end, this isn't about screwing things up for big brother Bevo. It's about what is best financially and culturally for Texas A&M. I find it rather arrogant that Texas is bent out of shape over this notion. What, is the purpose of Texas A&M's existence to forgo what's best for the institution to insure the grand plan for success for its neighboring institution 100 miles to the west? I guess I don't get it. Well, actually I do. It's a rivalry and I understand that Texas fans have this superiority complex. You can't deny that with the exception of a 15 year stretch (1984-1999) that Texas has been the most succesful collegiate franchise with the most resources, biggest purse strings, and greatest brand recognition. I get that.

What I don't get is this blind spot Texas fans have regarding the financials of these deals on the table. Let's put rivalries and emotions aside for a moment. This Pac-16 proposal is a bad deal compared to the other super conferences that will be formed. Clearly, the numbers show it and it's simple common sense. But if Texas wants to ignore the facts and push forward, and in the process take their toys and go home....so be it. Because here's the ultimate point. A&M realizes that even the threat of losing what most consider to be the focal football game on the calendar every year is nothing compared to the long-term threat of this ill-conceived Pac-16 to our athletic department. And those are the facts....

So send me to DefCon 1, lift-off, or whatever cute term gets this ball rolling because Texas A&M is ready to move in its best interest...and that's to the SEC.


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