Chip Brown of Yahoo Sports site Orangebloods.com reports Thursday afternoon:
(Many happy returns?)
… it appears the Pac-10, which has its meetings in San Francisco starting this weekend, is prepared to make a bold move and invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado to join its league, according to multiple sources close to the situation.
Left out would be Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Missouri.
Brown reports the Pac-10 would then split the conference into two divisions:
The six teams from the Big 12 would be in an eight-team division with Arizona and Arizona State. The other eight-team division would consist of USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
With the newly-expanded conference, Brown reports the 16-team league would assemble a television network that could potentially mean $20 million per school in annual revenue. That number would more than double the annual net income accrued by current Big 12 and Pac-10 schools.
Also noted is Fox Sports TV’s prime position to partner with the possible 16-team league.
An invitation from the Pac-10 will be hard for the six Big 12 schools being targeted not to consider. Why? Because Fox Cable Networks (a division of News Corporation), which serves as the chief operating partner of the successful Big Ten Network, appears ready to make the Big 16 Network happen.
Fox is the chief television partner of the Pac-10 currently, and its subsidiary Fox Sports Net currently holds the rights to the Big 12 cable package, which comes up for bid in the spring of 2011. The Pac-10 also has television deals with Fox up for re-bid at the same time.
This is so cool! (At least for those of us in L.A.)
Though there’s one not-so-small catch to the whole darned thing: The University of Texas.
Orangebloods.com is a site dedicated to Texas athletics and it isn’t a coincidence, in my opinion, that Brown buries the lede of his Pac-10 expansion story as it pertains to the Longhorns:
Believe it or not, it’s still Texas’ goal to hold the Big 12 together, and simply create a non-conference football scheduling alliance with the Pac-10 that would help generate a big-money, cable TV deal for both leagues.
Such a move would continue to allow Texas to pursue its own network and create a unique, potentially lucrative revenue stream UT wouldn’t have to share. If Texas ended up as one of the six schools going off to join forces with the Pac-10, it would likely have to forgo its own network.
Brown reports that Texas is allegedly no longer enamored by the prospect of joining the Big 10, so that leaves two options:
1) If the Longhorns stay in the Big 12, they want their own TV network with no league revenue sharing from the proceeds of that endeavor.
2) If the Longhorns go to the Pac-10, at the very least they would double their annual conference revenue payout thanks to the alleged TV deal with Fox Sports.
There’s also been talk of Texas going independent, but that’s probably no more than a bargaining chip created for leverage in the negotiation of future conference arrangements.
Another very intriguing political piece to the puzzle is Texas A&M. Brown notes of Texas A&M’s Athletic Director Bill Byrne seeming unwillingness to consider joining the Pac-10:
Byrne has used the example of when the Aggies had their men’s and women’s basketball teams in Spokane and Seattle for the NCAA Tournament in March and couldn’t get back to College Station until 6:30 a.m. with students having to attend 8 a.m. classes.
It’s no coincidence Byrne’s example included cities in the Pac-10’s dominant time zone.
Then there’s this about Byrne from the HOUSTON CHRONICLE today:
Take Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne’s reaction Wednesday when asked if the Southeastern Conference is an option for the Aggies, should the Big 12 break up.
“It might be,” Byrne said, pausing. “You know what? It might be.”
Byrne knows full well that Texas has no intention of joining the SEC, so is it any coincidence that he made those comments mere hours before a Texas-centric site reported that the Longhorns may be part of Pac-10 expansion?
What Byrne is really saying with that comment about the SEC is that his school isn’t just going to fall into whatever decision Texas makes about conference affiliation. If A&M is to go to the Pac-10, Texas and the conference will have to make it worth their while.
Also consider the in-state political difficulties involved in Texas trying break up the inter-conference relationship with A&M if the Aggies won’t follow the Longhorns to another conference. Don’t be surprised if the state legislature attempts some sort of legal recourse to prevent a breakup.
This Pac-10 expansion situation is all about Texas proactively poking around trying to get the best possible financial deal. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the Pac-10 expansion part of this story, I do believe that now it’s clear who the true proactive power player is in all of this: The Texas Longhorns.