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Whether Out of the Box Genius Thinking or Desperate Act, Bigger has to be Better for Now

Today comes the news that the once-mentioned alliance that became a planned merger is now to be a full-on conference putting together the remnants of the raided Conference USA and the body of decapitated Mountain West Conference. A super conference, at least from a numbers perspective, is said to be targeting 20-24 teams and will have an eastern NC to Hawaii reach (for football) serving all five U.S. time zones.

As expected, there already has been a flurry of messageboard activists out to rip it apart – mostly folks from the have conferences, who do everything they can to keep the have nots down while living in fear that a have not will out-think the rigged system that has propelled college football powerhouses like Duke, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Ole Miss, Northeastern, Indiana, Rutgers, and myriad others to have a free ticket to gorge themselves at the BCS feast without having to actually produce a single thing on the field. You can throw all the marginally competitive teams – like UNC, Cincinnati, Illinois, Colorado, UCLA, et al – in there, too, having contributed little for such wonderful BCS returns. They all want to keep the status quo…and why not, it is pretty lucrative to keep the status quo.

And because the BCS has ensured status quo – by ensuring conferences like the Big East inclusion despite not even meeting criteria set out by the BCS – those who are locked out have little recourse but to do whatever they can to survive. So, now comes the first major move by the have nots. Cull together enough teams in enough markets to ensure a TV audience…go for sheer numbers, give ESPN a live game at 3 a.m., create a form of a playoff, do what you have to do to survive in a world set up to choke you off.

I am not sure how I feel about it really, as the details will truly inform judgment. But, what I can say is that it sure does sound a lot like what Coach Holland was putting out there several years ago. And when Terry is involved, it is has been modeled…thought through…contextualized. So…is this new league a genius, out of the box, play or is it simpley a desperate move to keep as many teams on the life raft as possible until land is sighted?

So, how could this work in our favor…?

What you are about to read is totally speculation and I would love to get your thoughts on it as well as thoughts in general…are you up, down, defeated, victorious, what feel you on this news?

So here is what I am thinking.

At 20 teams, I would think that would mean two 10 team Leagues (East and West) with each containing two divisions aligned regionally, with 5 teams per division. Each team would play their 4 division mates + 2 intra-division games + 2 intra-league games putting the Conference schedule at 8 games. Keep 4 meaningful regional OOC games to put the schedule at 12 games.

The semifinals and finals would put you at 14 games + a bowl. Not sure if waiver is needed for a 15th game, but if the BCS is going to a +1 model, then there should be no reason why any team can’t do the same.

From a TV perspective, the regional rivalries and divisional focus on half the country could create an audience worth some money. At the very least, the tv draw would not be any less then the two former leagues had prior to the formation of the new league and while it might not be as simple as adding the two together to equal a new number, it certainly stands to reason that the TV contract should be a pretty heavy one.

If the league has 20-24 teams, that is a sizeable enough block to make noise. Or better, to not be wholesale ignored. Think about it, the BCS doesn’t want the have nots to go away…they need the have nots badly…to stay as have nots. Provide a service to the AQ schools without a share of the proceeds. Behind closed doors, this new league can collude sort of to have an impact on all of college football.

It will contribute in the short to help expand ECU’s national brand…something that I believe C-USA did quietly for us over the years.

Finally, the big genius here might be that quietly, this is all a very short term exercise in ensuring solidarity among a large group of university presidents. If the AQ status goes away, then what is left are a bunch of oddly cobbled together leagues with maybe only the SEC and Big 10 bearing any resemblance to conferences as they were originally intended. And more, while those conferences will share revenues, it is a step towards pairing down the numbers again from the BCS perspective, which will certainly add to the number of have nots, eventually breaking the system.

This may truly be the real impetus behind this new conference…a loud, in-your-face, barge in on the BCS…it could fail, but really, what do any of these teams stand to lose that has not already been denied them in the first place?

Something tells me that there is purposeful method to what may seem like conference madness. I trust that Coach Holland and other stakeholders have an ultimate agenda here and I am eager to see it play out.

The only thing I am definitely keen on is that however it breaks down, I want to see Southern Miss and Marshall on our schedule each year. And, would love to have that game every few years with Air Force. And, I am certain that this conference has as much right to AQ status as the new Big East.

So…what do you guys think? Genius or Desperation?


12 comments on “Whether Out of the Box Genius Thinking or Desperate Act, Bigger has to be Better for Now

  1. Chris Buck

    Neither…. I know this is an over-simplified view but as I see it, it’s not as much genious as it would be karma for it to succeed at the BCS’s expense since the very existence of the BCS is illogical. And it’s not any more desperate than affiliation withany non-AQ conference, merged or not merged. I dont think it helps us or hurts us, unless the increase in annual travel expenses outpaces the gains in revenue, in which case staying in the traditional C-USA league would be better. . For what it’s worth…

    • I can buy that. Thanks, as always, Chris for sharing your thoughts. I am also keeping my eye out for details in regards to travel requirements.

  2. It’s really the two tallest midgets in the room getting married at the end of the day (no offense to midgets implied), so it’s difficult to see if the perception of this league will yield any worthwhile results (i.e., a magical, lucrative TV contract for one). I would have rather seen CUSA start doing some “raiding” and create a more east coast presence, instead of constantly being “raided” and forced into this situation. But alas, that ship is setting sail and we Pirate fans need to get on board with this new conference and pull up the latter. The captain of this ship better not be CUSA’s Banowsky however when we reach the high seas, or I’m calling for a mutiny on the bounty.

    • You’re point there about Banowsky is one consideration have not been brave enough to even give a lot of thought to. I really will be disappointed if he is in charge of this thing…have no confidence in his abilities or even his desire to succeed. In fact, to your other point, I still believe that had Banowsky been aggressive during the time when the ACC took Virginia Tech, Miami and BC, and went on a raid as well, we might have been enjoying an AQ status for some time now. He sat on folded hands as our league was raided.

      Hey…thanks for dropping in pirater…enjoy getting your perspective on things.

  3. Great entry! I really enjoy this blog and this latest entry is a good example of why. I have a few thoughts. First, it is a proactive move even if driven largely by the actions of others. I’m not sure if 1+1=3 but, at the very least, C-USA and the MWC are taking action (for a change). Second, I think the innovative ‘mini-playoff’ approach being taken here is a good thing. It’s a solid attempt to truly construct a different model rather than just throwing a monster conference together. Third, I worry for ECU’s already stretched travel budget. This moves in the opposite direction of TH’s expressed objective of tightening up the rivalries and geographic associations. That said, there were simply no other alternatives that remedied that, particularly with the BE’s current direction Finally, I really like your grand scheme analysis and surely hope that TH and the other ADs are really that prescient. In the end, we shall see how this pans out. I’m happy w/it but it’s a tempered enthusiasm as I consider it a last available move (albeit w/some flair).

    • Great to hear from you Ed. I think the point about the travel budget is one we all have to be concerned about as it really hits the bottom line and for our athletics budget, every dime counts. I am hoping that the organization of the league will help off-set that some, keeping the “regular season” to those schools in the closest proximity to one another and only adding the extra expenses for championships (which hopefully the league budget would help off-set).

      More intriguing to me is what the impact of the latest Big East developments will be on that league. Only 7 football schools for 2012. Would they throw us a bone now? Would we take it? Will Boise, Houston, UCF, and SMU have a change of heart? Will those four stay and be the 24 teams?

      So much to learn, so little time to learn it.

  4. First of all, let me say that I will fully back whatever TH, Chancellor Ballard and the ECU administration decide to do, but it isn’t without my concerns.

    Mainly of which being this 24-30 team conference that Ballard was talking about being in the future plans as of yesterday. If we go out and form a mega-conference like this, I have a bad feeling it is only going to seperate the “have-nots” further from the “haves.”

    Just because we have a mini playoff in our conference, association – whatever it’s going to be called – doesn’t mean people will care. FCS, DII, and DIII teams all have playoffs that hardly anyone cares about or pays attention to.

    It’s almost like we’re making a brand new division with this many teams, and just creating an almost 2nd tier of the FBS, while seperating ourselves from the BCS and whatever is left of the Sun Belt, WAC and MAC.

    Hope I’m wrong and this thing forces the BCS to notice us, or the AQ deal just goes away entirely in a few years…but if it doesn’t, there will be cause for concern.

    • Hi Stephen…thanks for sharing!

      You know, that is angle I have not considered, but I see where you are going. I am hopeful and as Ed commented earlier, it is at least proactive. I feel like if the BCS gives the Big East another waiver, then they are basically saying that they have deemed the haves and have nots and will do whatever they can to keep certain teams out. The BE as it is now does not deserve (used lightly here) to have an AQ status by almost every criteria stated by the BCS. On the other hand, a 24 team conference certainly should have enough TV sets and would certainly rate higher than the BE and should be considered for inclusion.

      I do see the fear here and it is real. If we proactively separate ourselves from the BCS, it could backfire. If the AQ status goes away, then all but a handful of teams will essentially be relegated to second tier unless the bowls are remain locked in to conference tie-ins. I see why Terry wants this…a block of schools can wield a lot of power, particularly on TV, which drives it all anyway.

      But, now I am going to dwell some more on your worries and may have to check back in soon on this topic. Cannot wait to see all of the details and to see what happens with the BE.

    • I think that is a great point. The size of the new conference (which could grow to 30 (!!) according to the ECU website) could almost gather up all the notable non-AQs and fence them off. Tough times to navigate through.

      • I finally got around to reading some of the articles following Ballard’s press conference the other day and found a couple of the things he said to be somewhat telling and aligned to the idea that there may be more at play here than meets the eyes.

        He basically said that ECU would still entertain options that are “still out there” which I took to mean that we are still talking to the Big East and to perhaps others aimed at 2014 and beyond; and he said also, not direct quote here, that we are making the most of the current situation.

        That latter point leads me to believe that however they structure this new league, it will allow ECU to focus on regional rivalries, meaning we will play Southern Miss and Marshall every year and new teams coming in will be in the region, if you will.

        Finally, I hope that the new league officials are not simply writing off Houston, SMU, UCF (I know I hate them too), Memphis, and Boise…given the BE’s current situation, we might be able to entice a few if not all to back out of their commitments to C-USA 2.0 (aka the Big East). Maybe even make a play for Navy…allowing them to play in a pod and schedule up to 5 OOC games…kind of like an independent with a conference tie-in. Gonna be exciting at least.

  5. Ralph Wright

    I don’t hear anyone talking about what I see as a very real possibility. This conference may be a better football conference than the BE and end up with a much higher BCS rating based on the rankings at the end of the season. Which football teams in the BE will be better than ECU or USM this year?
    If that happens there could be a very real shift in national perception between the two conferences. The BE brain trust isn’t even considering this because all they care about is basketball. The fact that adding memphis may drop them an actual notch below the Alliance in football doesn’t bother them in the least…right now.

    • HI Ralph…thanks for checking in on this topic.

      You are right and there has not been enough discussion on that angle. I am watching with great curiosity what happens with the Big East not only now as they maneuver through the fact that they will barely be a football conference in 2012, but also given the quality of football is falling like a rock.

      I am truly wondering if Boise or others are starting to rethink things here. TCU set a precedence in regards to backing out and there is no reason why Boise couldn’t do the same an stay put…love to have them. Hell, I would take a few of the Big East schools into the new league. I think your right in regards to the perception of this new conference, too. Could shift quickly.

      Of course, all of this means little in the big picture, IMO, because the BCS power brokers have all of the money and power and will ensure that they hold on to it as long as possible. So if they have to relegate all the BE teams out of the big money, so be it, more for the elite and themselves. I fully expect the big changes in 2013-14 will ultimately move towards an even narrower classification of the haves in college football, not open things up more.

      Hey Ralph…keep em coming mate.

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