On numerous occasions over the past month we’ve told you that most college presidents and conference commissioners wants the realignment wheel to stop spinning for a while. It was our view — backed up by talking to a few folks in SEC athletic departments and administrations — that the current push for a playoff without AQ status was driven in part by a desire to take away one of the key forces — AQ status — that has been driving much of the recent expansion (along with television revenue, conference infighting, and good, ol’ hubris).
That view — coupled with the fact that not one source at any school or league would confirm the Florida State/Clemson/Miami/Big 12 rumors to a single journalist at a any traditional news source — led us to believe there was nothing to the FSU realignment talk. In fact, we still believe the trustees at FSU bought too much into rumors of TV contract flubs, reacted to those rumors, and gave the rumors more credence than deserved. FSU board chairman Andy Haggard lit a fuse that was previously unlit, in other words.
So it’s not surprising for us to see that brand spanking new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has come out and said exactly what we were saying a month ago — a cooling off period on expansion would be nice:
“My opinion is college athletics would be well served by some period of smooth water and not all of the angst and disorganization that goes with moves from one league to another…
Conference realignment will continue to be an issue and one we all have to be vigilant about. I think the topic will be on every agenda going forward. But it’s on every other conference’s agenda going forward, too…
It’s all about driving value for the member institutions. There is a case to be made for optimal value being driven by the status quo, and there is a case to be made for some form of expansion. And I’m not prejudging or adopting either side of that right now.”
Ways to read those comments:
1. The Big 12 doesn’t want to expand before doing some serious research and learning exactly how the last round of moves will impact the league.
2. Bowlsby and several others in the Big 12 want to expand, but with Texas in favor of remaining a 10-team league the new commish can’t buck them. Yet.
3. League powers are split on expansion an Bowlsby — as a newbie — is trying to figure out who to back and how.
4. Bowlsby means what he says about wishing for smoother waters, but things change on a daily basis and it’s possible the Big 12 could add schools never… or by sundown.
5. Bowlsby is flat lying while his league hammers out a deal with FSU right this very moment.
We’ll go with Option 4 on that list.
Presidents and league commissioners across the country are looking for stability for themselves. Whatever insures stability for their own league or school, they’ll support. Unfortunately, one league’s move to stabilize itself will in turn destabilize a brother conference. Thus, the wheel never stops spinning.
But the people running the schools and leagues are smart men and women. Most realize that it’s better to gauge the changes they’ve just made and then decide whether more changes are necessary than it is to just rush willy-nilly into more changes. If you don’t know how a 10- or 14-team Big 12, SEC or ACC will work out, why rush to 12 or 16 schools?
Unfortunately, presidents are owned by trustees. Trustees are often nothing more than wealthy fans driven more by emotion than the cooler, nerdier presidents. Trustees can make presidents do things they don’t initially want to do. That’s what happened at Missouri. That’s what happened to an extent at Texas A&M. And that appears to be what’s happening at Florida State.
We believe Bowlsby and others would prefer to catch their collective breath before diving back into the depths of the churning realignment seas. The trustees and fans who ultimately drive these decisions with their checkbooks… not so much.