Here we go again. Or do we?
By this time last year, the whole conference realignment mess was well behind us and KU fans — as well as those fanatics from the rest of the Big 12 — were comfortably able to look forward to the upcoming college football season and, in some places, maybe even start dreaming about how successful their hoops squad would be.
This year, although the timing doesn’t quite match up, it’s starting to feel a little like deja vu with a little twist of scary.
That’s right, conference realignment — and more specifically the demise of the Big 12 — has roared to the forefront once again and, this time, there’s reason to believe things could become even more serious than they were last time around.
Not surprisingly, the center of the storm continues to revolve around Texas, one of the most powerful programs in the country which got its way by keeping the conference together last year, retaining all the power and being given the green light to go ahead with the Longhorn Network, which is expected to launch on Aug. 26. I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the commercials.
With Texas all fat and happy, things appeared to be headed for smoother waters and sunnier times. To quote college football analyst, Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Instead of the Longhorns raising the fuss and controlling the agenda, it’s the rest of the league that’s got things going this time around. Most specifically, Texas A&M. The Aggies and Longhorns have never seen eye-to-eye and the feud appears to be raging more out of control than ever.
The Aggies protested the Longhorns’ desire and plans to televise Texas high school football games on the Longhorn Network, something that inspired Big 12 commissioner, Dan Beebe, to step in and speak up.
“Until the members have a chance to consider all the issues and come to conclusion ... no more than one live football game will be televised on any institutional network and no high school content will be televised on a branded member's network.”
Uh oh. Somebody’s not gonna like Beebe getting involved to this extent.
Somebody is, though.
“We are pleased that the commissioner has started to address these concerns, but many questions remain,” Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “These are significant issues for all collegiate athletics as they relate to broadcast rights, revenue distribution and the recruitment of student-athletes.”
The, we’ll call it a disagreement, between UT and A&M can go one of two ways from here. The two sides can work together, show some respect and understanding for themselves and the rest of the conference and resolve this thing in a manner that pleases both sides and ensures the survival and future success of the Big 12.
Or, as some of the rumors out there already have suggested, they can fight like disgruntled siblings and bring the conference to its knees once again.
Only time will tell which path they’ll take. UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds continues to stress that Texas is not trying to gain an unfair advantage here and that the Longhorns are happy and the conference is in good shape.
Again, time will tell. But just as we saw last year, there are plenty of people keeping a close eye on this situation and if some of these people find even the smallest opening, a full-on raid of the Big 12 could be in store yet again. If one were to happen, I’m guessing that, this time, there wouldn’t be much anyone could do to save the conference.
Having said that, there are still plenty of people out there — beyond Beebe and Dodds — who believe the Big 12 is fine and the conference will continue to move forward into a bright, bright future.
The guess here is that this thing won’t linger for long, at least not in the way we saw in 2010. There’s too much at stake for that to happen again. It’ll either be resolved quickly or fall apart just as fast.
Stay tuned... We'll have much more on this story next week from Dallas, when Jesse Newell, Eric Sorrentino and I invade the Lone Star State for the Big 12's annual football media days, Monday and Tuesday.
For those of you interested in reading the latest, here are a few of the best stories out there that, together, sum up what’s going on right now.
• This piece, from The Big Lead takes a look at the conference most desirable programs, in order, should the Big 12 fall apart. Though the Jayhawks are a little ways down the list, you’ll note that KU seems to be in much better shape this time around than it was a year ago.
• Here’s a story, from The San Antonio News-Express that does a nice job of summing up the level of uncertainty the conference is currently facing.
• Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples examines the rest of the country’s vulture mentality in this story from sportsillustrated.com.
• And, The Sporting News, one of the first outlets to get the word out about A&M’s frustration, dives a little deeper into the idea of the Aggies and Sooners bolting the Big 12 for the SEC.