The Hammer Falling Or The First Domino?

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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36 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    Long ago when I would talk to content and marketing people at a big cable company, they explained that it was how many eyeballs could be reliably delivered (and subscriptions bought), and that prestige in the sporting world was only one part of it. Assorted other factors went into the estimates, including things like time zone differences. Eg, one argument put forward back when the rumors were flying that the Pac-12 (or however many there were at the time) would take Texas was that the two-hour difference would actually reduce West Coast viewership when a UCLA or Stanford played at a “funny” time in Austin.

    Further expansion of the Pac-12 is somewhat problematic, as they have a presence in almost all of the major population centers in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.Report

    • On the flipside, games in Texas would mean that they’d have something to offer national viewers earlier in the day! The time zone thing is certainly a thing, though. Only two conferences presently span more than two time zones, the Mountain West Conference (because of Hawaii, and before realignment TCU) and Conference USA (because of UTEP).Report

      • Oh, and technically the Sun Belt, which spans four on account of football-only members New Mexico State and Idaho.

        The WAC also spanned four, with Louisiana Tech to the east and Hawaii to the west(-west-west).Report

      • Having been a Great Plains kid, I was amused when I found this map. Other than Texas Tech out there in splendid isolation, there’s that wonderful GP gap between “eastern” football and “western” football.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Nebraska- Colorado, which sits astride that divide, used to be a big rivalry (and still is?)Report

          • Autolukos in reply to Kolohe says:

            Only in the mind of Coloradans.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Autolukos says:

              (Full disclosure: I went to undergraduate school at Nebraska, and have lived in Colorado for the last 28 years.)

              What @autolukos said. Particularly under Bill McCartney, who felt he needed a “circled in red” game on the calendar to work towards every year. Nebraska reserved its hatred for Oklahoma, a rivalry that got broken up when the Big 12 formed.

              Listening to sports talk radio when I first moved to Colorado was fascinating. Whether it was a good football year or not didn’t depend on how Colorado did. It was a good football year if and only if Nebraska did poorly.

              For as long as I’ve lived here, it was clear that where CU really wanted to be was the Pac-8/10/12/whatever.Report

              • Whether it was a good football year or not didn’t depend on how Colorado did. It was a good football year if and only if Nebraska did poorly.

                You have just described the relationship between the Giants and Dodgers during much of the 70s and 80s. Most years the Giants were more or less hopeless, but we could occasionally knock the Dodgers out of first place at the end of the year, and that made it all worthwhile.Report

    • Autolukos in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Boise State and the Nevada schools seem like the best options out there from this perspective, but they aren’t all that exciting compared to getting into SLC and Denver in the last push. I’d like to see BYU as a target in any future expansion, but I don’t think that is very likely for a variety of reasons.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Autolukos says:

        The most promotion-ready schools in the Mountain and Pacific time zones are, in approximate order: BYU, Air Force, San Diego State, Colorado State, Boise State, UNLV, (1), New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada, UTEP, Utah State, (2), Hawaii, San Jose State. Wyoming, New Mexico State, and Idaho.

        As things stand, of course, with the exception of UNLV, New Mexico, and Nevada, these are all market conflicts. No real reason to add them unless the Pac-12 gets pilfered somehow. (I can only think of one way.)

        (1) At this point, the Pac-12 would start looking at Texas programs even if there weren’t market conflicts.
        (2) At this point, they’d be looking at some FCS programs like Montana and Montana State first.Report

        • Autolukos in reply to Will Truman says:

          I hadn’t thought about SDSU; they’d be a very good target if avoiding adding another timezone is a priority. I think the odds of a service academy joining a P5 are exactly 0, so Air Force is off the list in my mind. BYU and CSU are an appealing pair for restoring the “two of everything” theme the conference had at 10 (and, on a practical level, giving everyone an in-conference rival), but I think I value this much more than most.

          I think the cutoff for looking to Texas is mostly a matter of whether or not expanding the regional footprint is on the table: the rumors last time around had the conference interested in grabbing a big chunk of the Big 12’s Texas-based membership, and I think any of those would be preferable to all of the Western options, with the possible exception of BYU. If consolidating the region and avoiding adding another timezone are goals, though, they move further down the list.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Autolukos says:

            Among the complicating factors when the Pac-10 looked at Texas schools was that the legislature in Texas threatened to make it a package deal (ie, UT couldn’t go to the Pac-12 without some of the other Texas schools), and that UT flat-out said they had to be exempt from the conference revenue-sharing rules.

            I still maintain that the precise timing of Texas A&M’s jump to the SEC was so that they would finish their first season of games before the Texas legislature met again.Report

            • In the first round of negotiations, I remember Baylor was a real sticking point. The Pac-12 seemed ready to take Tech, A&M, and Oklahoma State, but scoffed at Baylor. (Also an issue, A&M didn’t want to do it.)

              By the second round, LHN was a serious point of contention. So was Baylor, even though now there was room for them (Utah hadn’t been invited yet).

              The timing of the Colorado invite was, my theory goes, the Pac’s way of saying Baylor was absolutely off the table.

              By the third round, it was mostly just Oklahoma that wanted to do it and the Pac-12 wasn’t going forward without Texas. There was some thought that they might be able to roll Texas, but the Pac was tired of the drama and there was no consensus.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to Autolukos says:

            @autolukos I would have thought the same thing about the service academies a few years ago. But then Navy tried to get in on the Big East and the Big 12 approached Air Force. Air Force deferred, but I suspect they will want to go wherever Colorado State goes. I sort of expect the AAC to approach Colorado State at some point for this reason.

            I should also clarify, when I speak of Texas, I’m not talking about UT. If UT is genuinely interested, they’re at the top of the list and it’s mostly a matter of negotiation. (Very, very difficult negotiations.) I’m talking about the other schools: Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, and maybe even SMU or UTSA if circumstances warranted. Circumstances warranting UNLV and schools below UNLV, though, would be… pretty significant. Essentially, the only way I see that happening is if the Big Ten seeks a rule change and goes to three divisions. (Which does not appear to be on the horizon because the B1G just this week blocked the ACC from doing a three-division thing.)Report

            • Autolukos in reply to Will Truman says:

              I was mostly thinking of the minor Big 12 schools; Baylor is the only one that gives me pause; they’re the best at the moment but have never really been any good before. Houston would also be preferable to SDSU in my mind. Programs in the SMU-UTSA-UTEP tier are easy to come by closer to home, so I think they’re out of the question.

              UT is probably a poison pill anyway, so ideally anyone raiding the Big 12 avoids taking them.Report

        • That’s a reasonable list, including the break points. From the perspective of un- or under-served TV markets, the list is probably San Diego, Las Vegas, El Paso, the Colorado Front Range, the Wasatch Front in Utah, and Boise. If I were a betting man, and the expansion were to 16 schools, I’d probably put my money on SDSU, UNLV, CSU and BYU.Report

        • Infamous Heel-Filcher in reply to Will Truman says:

          Speaking of promotion: I’ve been saying for years that college sports would do far better under a promotion-relegation system than under the current quasi-officially-tiered conference system.

          At what point does the inability of, say, a Conference USA to make money collapse into the Power 5 transforming into the champions tier of vertically integrated regional promotion-relegation ladders?Report

          • I think that would be great, but the major conferences won’t like it because none of them want to be relegated.

            I could see some G5 conferences going to Upper and Lower divisions and doing promotion and relegation, maybe.Report

            • Infamous Heel-Filcher in reply to Will Truman says:

              I think the member schools don’t want to be relegated, but I don’t think the conference cares.

              Vanderbilt loves that its football team plays in the SEC just like its basketball team. However, wouldn’t the SEC prefer Vanderbilt basketball to play in the SEC Champions level and Vanderbilt football to play at the SEC Strivers level?Report

  2. Chris says:

    Since the SEC wasn’t mentioned in this post, I assume it wasn’t even about college football. 😉Report

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    I’m not really a college football guy. I can understand three reasons to watch it: (1) a school you or some close relative of yours attended is playing; (2) you live in an area where the college football team is the primary local rooting interest; and (3) you want to watch football, and it is Saturday. On those occasions I watch college ball, it is for reason (3). (I went to a school without a football program–a net positive, in my opinion both then and now.) So if I am watching, I will want to watch the highest level of play I can find. Back when I had a cable package, I could find a top tier game at any reasonable hour. Sure, if it was ten in the morning I would have to settle for Scrub Brush Community College. vs. Miss Dinkleberry’s Normal School, but wait a few hours and there was Alabama. Yet, with just a basic cable package, I also was presented with an astonishing selection of schools I had never heard of, for (it turned out upon watching the game) excellent reason.

    This never made economic sense to me. College ball functions in some ways like Minor League Baseball. The salient economic fact of the minors is that people will happily attend the games, because the experience is fun, but virtually no one listens to them on the radio, much less watches them on TV. College football and basketball have, for historical reasons and through outstanding marketing, managed to avoid the “minor league” ghetto and establish themselves as television sports. I sort of get this, on the Clemson/Ohio State level. But BF Nowhere schools? How can this work?

    My guess is that it turns out it doesn’t. The television industry arrived at a conventional wisdom that sports programming is uniquely valuable, as it is not susceptible to DVR’ing and fast forwarding through the commercials. Having arrived at this conventional wisdom, even fourth-tier product was caught up in the scramble for content, inflating its price above its actual value.

    So put me down for “bubble bursting.” But I could be wrong.Report

    • One thing the G5 does do is offer content in the middle of the week. The MAC in particular is willing to play just about any weeknight. The higher up you go, the less willing they are to do that. (Even within the G5,both the MWC and AAC try to stick to weekends.)

      For Conference USA this was a bit less of a thing because their major carrier, CBS Sports Network, doesn’t have major conference content. But this past season they were buying AAC games from ESPN rather than show Conference USA, which was a bad sign.Report

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Wow, this is how I learn that my old school (Tulane) left Conference USA. I’m not a big football fan either, but I can recall about 10-15 yrs ago, Tulane floated the idea of ending football or at least Div. I. The question was whether it was worth the expense, and there were reports issued, conferences held, and from what I absorbed, it really made no sense for Tulane to continue. Few teams were making money and few were truly in a position to be competitive on an increasingly national stage. Tulane was in conferences with schools both far away and of a different sports/athletic culture.

    The benefits of remaining were largely intangential. Increase connection with alumni, and national name-recognition. The decision was made to remain as a positive force within the system, which the cynical side of me says that the connection with alumni increased. None none of the trends seem favorable at all. And the one game I attended, an Alabama blow-out during one of their championship seasons seemed to have little student attendance.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to PD Shaw says:

      PD! Good to see you! Come by more often! (I need to visit Schuler’s place more…)

      There are few conference realignment decisions that I completely do not understand. Tulane getting invited to the Big East was one of them. They weren’t even on my list of schools that were “next in line.” I still don’t know how they got the invite. All hell broke loose when they did. The basketball schools immediately started moving to split the conference. A couple football-only schools backed out of joining the conference.

      When you ask people “What destroyed the Big East?” the most succinct answer you are to get is “Inviting Tulane.”

      That said, they have since built an on-campus stadium and hired a very impressive coach this offseason. I think “You have to get serious about this now” must have been a condition of the invite. They still play in a mostly empty stadium, but since it only seats 25,000 and is not the Superdome, it doesn’t look as empty.Report

  5. Slade the Leveller says:

    I’ve always marveled that some of these conferences had TV deals in the first place. I don’t watch much college football (too long!) but I’ll watch if I’m bored and flipping around on a Saturday afternoon. It’s very dispiriting to see stadiums half-filled at best, and you can just see the producers doing everything they can to not show the empty stands. If people can’t be bothered to show up for a game, what kind of television audience must there be, and how hard is it to sell advertising time?Report

    • Yeah, it is kind of fun/interesting to watch them try to avoid showing empty stands. I’ve commented on this in the past myself. There is a bit of a trade-off for most members of the bottom three and some of the AAC/MWC schools, which is that you get on TV by playing at inconvenient times (weeknights, of Gulf Coast in September at noon) but that means it’s especially hard to get people to show up. Or if you’re not televised, you play at the ideal time (7pm) and more people do show up… but it’s not on TV.Report

      • the ideal time (7pm)

        Because if the weather? When I was at Berkeley, football games were usually Saturdays at 1:00 PM, and that seemed ideal to me: have an early lunch, hike up to the stadium, watch the Bears lose [1], and still have Saturday night free.

        1. We beat USC once, and I still remember how much fun that was.Report

  6. The Big 12 has lost four programs, gained two,

    Which would make them kind of a small 12.Report

  7. I misread the title of this at first, and I’m relieved to see that the hammer isn’t falling on Fats Domino.Report