His idea of a Pac-16 has set the college sports world atwitter and sent Big 12 commissioner Don Beebe (a Walla Walla native, by the way) scrambling to keep his alliance together.
There's speculation galore and intrigue aplenty, but all that really matters is this: The TV power of a Pac-16 is estimated to generate some $20 million-a-year for each school in the league. By way of comparison, that's about four times what the Pac-10 schools now reap from TV. Now you know why WSU athletic director Bill Moos told CF.C he's "all ears" with the idea.
Money talks. And $20 million annually would go a long way in Pullman.
So what's not to like about it all?
Dollars and cents play a part, of course. But that's just a symptom of my concern. The troubling piece of this puzzle is that the Texas and Oklahoma fans care more about winning than the rest of us do. They invest more, financially and emotionally. And they demand more.
Bottom line, they invest to the hilt and expect corresponding results.
For just a small glimpse of how committed people in the South are to their sports, go visit Arkansas and the baseball facilities there. They say one word: COMMITMENT.
Now take that passion and fuel it with big money and you have Oklahoma and Texas football, and to a lesser degree Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
I'm not suggesting that the Pac-10 schools won't be winning games against these guys because they will. What I'm saying is that these folks from the South are unbending in their support and myopic in their vision. Over the long term, that makes a difference -- a dominating difference. It's a difference that says you're going to be hard-pressed to get around all of us, plus USC, to win the crown.
Here in the West, we go hiking and boating and camping and skiing and fishing and hunting. We go to concerts and plays and book readings. We love football. But we don't start filling up the stadium parking lot on Thursdays. We don't sell out the spring scrimmage.
In the South, they live, eat and breath football. They are committed. It's kinda like the old fable about the bacon and egg breakfast -- the chicken is interested, the pig is committed.
I know, I know, the Cougs beat Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. That was a great WSU team. There will be other Cougar teams good enough to beat Texas, too.
But that will be the exception, not the norm. Texas, Oklahoma and USC will rule the Pac-16. Forget about winning a conference title again. You can beat one of those schools once in awhile, but two or three in the same season? Add in Texas A&M, which is somewhat of a sleeping giant, and Oklahoma State, which is getting high on T. Boone Pickens' oil money, and the scenario turns even grayer.
Consider this missive from the Wall Street Journal this past December:
"While revenue at many big-time college football programs has fallen or stayed flat last season, revenue at the University of Texas — which comes from things like ticket sales and suite rentals — jumped by 20% last year to $87.6 million, the most ever generated by a college football program and almost $20 million more than second-place Ohio State University pulled in."
WSU's annual football revenue is believed to be in the ballpark of $15 million per year.
The Cougs and Huskies, Bears, Bruins and all the rest will be competitive enough in the new league. They just won't win any football championships because their fans don't have the same passion as the schools that are being invited in.
That southern passion translates into talent on the field. Take a gander at NFL rosters today and you'll find there are more players from Texas and Oklahoma than there are from Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State combined.
Suffice to say, I don't think mixing the cultures of the West and the South is a good idea for the West.
We're the chicken, they're the pig.
That's my gut reaction. Bill Moos has 20 million dead-president reasons to like expansion. If he thinks it works for WSU, then I'm all in. He's the real deal. I just have concerns at this stage about the long-term implications.
THE POLITICAL INTRIGUE down South is that the powers-that-be in Texas won't let the 'Horns, Aggies or Red Raiders go unless they bring Baylor along too the way they did when the Big 8 was turned into the Big 12. Those in the Baylor camp suggest knocking Colorado out of the mix so the Bears can get in.
From a practical standpoint, losing the Buffs for the Bears doesn't make a whole lotta sense because Colorado brings the Denver TV market with it while Waco-based Baylor brings negligible TV. Moreover, the Pac-10 has long been built on two cornerstones – that every member be a major research university and that none be religiously affiliated. Baylor is good on the research front but is a private Baptist school.
THE WHEN, HOW OR IF of the realignment dominos falling apparently rests not with Texas but on the actions of a couple schools farther north, according to the pundit crowd. If either Nebraska and/or Notre Dame move to the Big Ten, (and ESPN put up a breaking news report Wednesday afternoon that Nebraska is doing just that), thus creating an economic tour de force, then all the other pieces will start falling into place.
Will the Pac-10 go after half the Big 12? Could they just grab the golden goose – Texas – and their in-state rival Aggies and effectively hit the same monetary jackpot without all the headaches of managing a 16-team league?
And just how would that 16-team league work when it came to scheduling? With a 12-game regular season football schedule, would each school play seven games against its divisional brethren, two against teams from the opposite division and then three standard non-conference games? Or would they opt for the pod-system, in which each division is split into two. So everyone in the Northwest Pod – WSU, UW, Oregon and Oregon State – would play each other and then round out the conference play list with two teams each from the other three pods?
I'm not sure I'd rather be playing the Sooners than the Sun Devils.
And what about basketball? No home-and-home series' anymore? How about the lesser sports? Does the volleyball team really want to schlep to Norman, Okla., for a weekday match and then get home with little sleep to get their coursework done?
It just might have to be that way because the dollars say so.