Sounds like the facilities are brand new and could be even better. How many Big 12 teams do the media talking heads say Cinn. was ranked higher than in 2011.2010, 2009? From a fan to a fan, good luck. I had a good salad/ sandwich in the east subs of Cinn. last week (Blue M.). A close friend of mine is a professor there. I attended a coaching convention there a long time ago, still have some fun stories from that trip, enjoyed the city a lot.
In an effort to stave off total annihilation in 2011, the eight remaining Big 12 schools decided to grant the league office their media rights for a six-year period. Such a move meant that if a school left the league, the Big 12 would still own that institution’s media rights… making it virtually impossible for any school to bolt.
Yesterday, it was reported that the rumored $2.6 billion television deals with ESPN and Fox first acknowledged in March are indeed good to go. While still unsigned, the Big 12′s presidents — there are now 10, by the way — have agreed verbally to those contracts. More importantly, the league has also agreed to extend the league’s grant of rights for an additional seven years.
The takeaway: The Big 12 looked safe for at least six years before yesterday. When these new pacts are signed and the grant of rights extended, it will look safe for 13 years. That’s big.
Last week, the league announced the hire of new commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Armed with a new, rich set of TV deals and 13 years worth of safety net, his next mission will be to grow the conference. Doing so should now be easier.
Despite wild rumors that Florida State and Clemson officials are holding super-secret talks with the Big 12 conference, we continue to believe it’s far, far more likely that Louisville will be the first school to move. While the Big 12 is starting to get steady on its feet again — after losing major brands like Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M the past couple of summers — the Big East is wobbling like the top at the end of “Inception.” (Yeah, it wobbled.)
Just as Bowlsby was brought in to fix the Big 12, Big East commissioner John Marinatto was given the heave-ho by — it’s believed — a bloc of presidents from his league’s non-football schools. Louisville is an all-sports Big East school. Reportedly, Cardinal officials weren’t thrilled with yesterday’s power play by the league’s old guard.
Additionally, political ties between Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell and Oklahoma president (and former senator) David Boren almost landed Louisville in the Big 12 last fall, at West Virginia’s expense. So some amount of groundwork has already been laid for Louisville to join the Big 12 at some point.
Adding U of L would bring the league back up to 11 members. Even though Big 12 power brokers have said publicly that they don’t feel there’s a need to hold a Big 12 Championship Game in football, you can be sure the money such a game would generate is indeed viewed as a need privately. So who would become school #12, allowing the league to hold a title game?
The obvious target is Notre Dame. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds has told everyone who’ll listen that he and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick might just be able to swing a deal to bring the Irish to the Midwestern league. Maybe, maybe not. Notre Dame won’t move unless it believes its options as an independent have run out. And even then, it’s more likely the administration in South Bend would rather partner academically and financially with the more academically-respected schools of the Big Ten or even the ACC.
For that reason, we think Cincinnati is a much more likely fallback option for the Big 12. As we showed here, the Big 12 is currently a five-state league that produces very few NFL-caliber players from within its own geographic footprint. Expanding into Ohio and the Kentuckiana region would help on that front. Such moves would also give the Big 12 broader television appeal, even better basketball, and some much more natural rivals for new member West Virginia.
But the bottom line is this — The Big 12 is stronger today and the Big East is weaker. That should make it easier for the Big 12 to raid the Big East for two more schools (Louisville or Cincinnati or Notre Dame) and get back to, you know, actually having 12 schools to matchup with its name and logo.
UPDATE — Judging from comments elsewhere on the site and emails received by yours truly, I thought it might be wise to clarify what it is exactly that makes the Big 12 more stable today than yesterday. So for those still not clear on what was written above, it’s not the big money contracts that the Big 12 has lined up with Fox and ESPN that secure its future. Schools have been coming and going from leagues despite previous enormous TV deals. Those are good pacts for the Big 12, no doubt, but what actually makes the league more stable is the extension of the grant of rights. That act binds those schools together in a much tighter way. If a school now leaves the Big 12, the league still owns that school’s media rights for 13 years. That is what has made the Big 12 more stable, not the mondo TV contracts. Now, you could also argue that some leagues — like the SEC — don’t have to go that route (or even have exit fees, for that matter). But that doesn’t change the fact that the extension of the grant of rights is a big step forward for a league that had been moving backward for the previous two offseasons.