Like just about everyone else who makes (or tries to make) a living covering college sports, I've found the last week or two to be absolutely riveting.
Schools changing conferences. Other schools threatening to do the same. Leagues clinging to existence and attempting to find new life in unorthodox ways. People demonstrating irksome degrees of gullibility by believing reports from random media outlets and websites without applying some level of scrutiny to where information is coming from.
It seemed sort of silly to weigh in here, namely because (a) I truthfully have no new concrete information to offer at the moment, merely caustic observations on what all has happened; (b) The problem hasn't landed in my backyard, namely the ACC and the smaller conferences that operate in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor; and (c) There are enough people wringing their hands right now; there just simply isn't a need to add to the cacophony.
It reminded me of a time when I tried to argue to a boss that dumping extra work on me when a couple other people (however unskilled they might have been) were doing nothing was ridiculous. "You're railing against reality," he sagely told me, and off I went to do the extra work the other people weren't capable of doing.
So complaining about reality seemed useless. Questioning just how rationally everyone was behaving was another matter.
That's no knock on Colorado, which might well be better off in the Pac-11/12/16. It's not criticism of Nebraska, which solidified its future with a good geographic fit in the Big "Ten." And it certainly isn't an insult of Boise State, which improved its lot in life hopping from the WAC to the Mountain West.
So far, so good. All three moves made sense for each party. All three schools and all three leagues are likely better off in the long run, and no conference is completely destroyed as a result.
But nearly everything else considered a fait accompli at some point or another in the last week? It wasn't entirely rational. That's why today's Orangebloods.com report on Texas reconsidering the inevitability of a move to the Pac-Something was encouraging. It means that maybe, just maybe, knee-jerk reactions won't define the future landscape of college sports.
And it also offers an answer to one of 10 questions only a handful of folks seemed interested in exploring at any time during this reallocation of resources.
1. What's best for Texas?
If Texas' share of the Big 12 revenues was such a point of contention for some of the northern teams in the league, doesn't it stand to reason the Longhorns would be better off staying in a place where they are king?
Yes, the Pac-Whatever could have its own TV network. But as today's report hinted, why share with Oregon State and Stanford when you can start your own network.
At no point has Texas Tech or Oklahoma State driven the talk of a mass defection westward. It was all about what Texas was going to do. There might be a short-term financial boost for the Longhorns to make a leap. But there's something to be said about being the undisputed kingpin of the neighborhood.
2. What incentive does the SEC have to expand?
In some ways, the SEC is fortunate not to have a bunch of highly rated universities in its consortium. It means the conference doesn't have to be pretentious and make believe academics are a driving part of any of this.
The SEC's most valuable asset isn't that it represents an aggregation of great research institutions. Its greatest asset is its collection of schools where football is king (along with Kentucky and Vanderbilt). There is no reason for that league to grow unless its football product and shadow improves.
That's why Oklahoma and Texas A&M would probably be welcome. Those are big names (even if the Aggies haven't been great of late) and new markets.
As for Florida State and Miami (Florida), Georgia Tech (Georgia) and Clemson (South Carolina), there isn't a whole lot those schools will offer the SEC that it doesn't already have. That's a victory for the ACC, by the way, however odd it might seem.
3. Is anyone considering how unwieldy a 16-team league is?
In recent times (not the Southern Conference of generations past), two leagues come to mind that opted to go 16 teams deep.
There was the WAC of the late 1990s, which lasted three years before sensibly breaking itself into a pair of eight-team parts.
Then there's the Big East of the second half of the Aughts, a compromise between football and basketball that soldiers on and will have its third different conference basketball tournament format in six years next March. It remains a colossal confederation of eight football schools, seven non-football schools and Notre Dame, and the question still remains how long it can continue in its current form.
Which begs the question: Is 16 teams too big? Chances are, no one knows for sure.
4. The next TV contract won't be the last one, right?
Is making a move to be part of a potentially more lucrative television contract the best way to make a decision. Maybe it's a better deal now, but is it a guarantee it will remain that way in 15 or 20 years?
Take the landscape of 20 years ago. Oregon State, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin are in better shape on the field than Notre Dame, Syracuse and Washington. Who saw that coming?
Will there be unanticipated downsides to switching league? Of course there will be. How much will they outweigh the positives of a short-term cash grab?
In short, is a single payday worth delving into a lot of unknowns? Perhaps. But perhaps not.
5. Where will all the extra money go?
This is what makes me laugh more than anything. Suppose a school gets an extra $10 million a year from switching conferences. That money isn't going to the women's soccer program or the general scholarship fund.
Coaches will make more money. Assistant coaches will make more money. Athletic directors will make more money. More absurd facilities will be built. And it will happen at just about every school in a remaining power conference, lest they get left behind the next time the college sports world is turned topsy-turvy.
From the great beyond, Adam Smith will be proud.
The additional income will be pumped heavily back into football. Expectations there are already so crazy in some places that Mark Richt could be considered somewhat under fire at Georgia going 90-27 over the last nine years. Those competitive demands will grow even more.
6. Who else realizes nothing is permanent ... and that it extends into communications systems?
Also amusing is the assumption that, in the long term, a cable network is the wave of the future. Maybe it will continue to be, but how about the possibility technology advances quickly enough that it becomes easier for networks (and leagues) to package everything on the Internet rather than on television. At that point, it could be online subscribers as opposed to cable subscribers that would be producing money each month for a conference.
But the money part of that isn't the biggest issue of that scenario. It's that quality (of program) rather than quantity (of TV sets) would become more important if subscribers could be gleaned from just about anywhere rather than a limited geographic area. There wouldn't be as much of a need to pressure cable companies into placing a network in their package, since many subscribers would be self-selecting.
This is a nice way of saying a Rutgers --- or another school located in a large metropolitan area --- might not be so attractive if it ever becomes easier for conferences and networks to penetrate homes in ways other than a place on a standard cable tier.
7. A special question for Maryland fans: Do y'all really want to be an extreme geographic outlier?
The next few paragraphs are based on speculation Maryland could be a Big Ten target, even though the fit between the two doesn't make a ton of sense from a football perspective. Nonetheless ...
If there is a historical complaint from Maryland fans, it is the belief the ACC stands for "All Carolina Conference" and decisions are made to best accommodate those schools closest to the conference office in Greensboro.
Well, College Park is still about a five-hour drive from league headquarters, so it was never that far away. And while I'm not a geography expert, I'm pretty sure Chicago (home of the Big "Ten" offices) is a bit longer haul from the Capital Beltway than Tobacco Road ever was.
Not only would Maryland be a geographic outlier, it would also have the second-smallest football stadium (ahead of only Northwestern) in a league constructed almost solely for football. Not exactly the way to exercise any clout.
There's little other than dollars to really make the Big Ten attractive to Maryland, and vice versa. And how, exactly, do a lot of marriages based solely on money work out?
8. Has everyone forgotten what it was like when oil was $150 a barrel two years ago?
In the world of super conferences, after all the extra money is gobbled up by football-related things (see Question 5), there will still be a bunch of smaller sports to pay for.
Should there be rapid fluctuations in the oil market (and, along with it, airline pricing), what happens to the athletic department budgets in these giants leagues?
What happens when it becomes obscenely expensive to fly the Texas Tech volleyball team to Pullman, Wash. Just sayin'.
There could certainly be enough money to alleviate these problems. But conferences over three time zones (or spread from the western edge of one time zone to the eastern edge of another) have a chance to bring their own brand of headaches. A heavier dependence on hoping oil prices don't spike could be one of them.
9. Along those lines, at what point do increased non-revenue sport costs lead to a decrease in non-revenue teams?
A future built almost exclusively on football revenue will mean that in any rational athletic department, the one sport that won't face cutbacks in times of severe budget crunching will be football.
(Please note: Not all athletic departments are rational).
So, if football revenue skyrockets and if football costs skyrocket and if nonrevenue costs skyrocket largely because of travel, which areas of the athletic department will take a hit if finances don't work out?
Probably the ones not generating any revenue in the first place.
10. Do campus presidents and chancellors in expanding leagues realize they're making the case against a football playoff a lot flimsier?
What are the two arguments for the bowl system trotted out more than any other?
One is tradition. Two is "student-athletes missing class time."
Well, ripping apart conferences and abandoning long-standing rivalries is a sure-fire way to say tradition is meaningless.
Sending Nebraska to Penn State or Texas to Oregon for a midweek games in any sport would suggest class time isn't the major factor (which, of course, it really is not), either.
Not that it will lead to a playoff, even if the hypocrisy behind not having one will somehow grow even more under this set of conditions.