Conference call

Big 12 shuns Tulane, but gives Green Wave time to grow
associated press
Athletics Director Troy Dannen represented Tulane, one of 11 schools to meet with the Big 12 in September, on possible conference expansion.

Tulane doesn’t want to talk about it, and I don’t blame them.

After 18 months of deliberating whether to expand beyond 10 teams – including interviewing Tulane athletics director Troy Dannen and 10 other schools for inclusion last month – the Big 12 announced Monday that it would not be adding any new teams right now.

“We will not have a statement at this time,” said Scottie Rodgers, Tulane’s associate athletics director of strategic communications.

Truth is the Green Wave were a long shot to be one of the two, possibly four, expected finalists to make the jump to the “power five” football conference. Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, and Central Florida had better attributes, including larger fan bases, television markets and facilities, and better ability to compete with Big 12 talent. Tulane stood out for its stellar academics and location in New Orleans. Still, Tulane has the right to feel stood up.

A jump to the Big 12 for Tulane would have meant an increase in revenue to $20 million a year from the current $2 million it receives as a member of the American Athletic Conference. So it’s not surprising that Tulane showed immediate interest in moving up to a higher esteemed conference.

It also isn’t surprising that the Big 12 completed this yarn with egg on its face. The conference started with 12 teams, hence the name, but lost two when Texas A&M bolted to the SEC and Nebraska left for the Big 10 (The Aggies and Cornhuskers are currently both AP Top 25 Teams). Both blamed Texas’ move to establish its own television network rather than take part in a Big 12 Conference Network and the commercial revenue sharing it would have produced as reasons for leaving. Rather than being second-class citizens in their own conference, they departed. Today, the Big 12 is the only Power 5 Conference to not have its own network, leaving nine of the conference’s teams without television income outside of live game broadcasts.

The economic imbalance has left the Big 12’s future questionable. Texas dominates the conference financially. That has left the conference’s other schools, including Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, looking at moving to greener pastures. The Big 12’s television and grant of rights agreements expire in 2025, at which time its member schools could seek to join another conference. This will be the end of college football’s conference landscape as we currently know it.

Because of the College Football Playoff, I believe conferences and teams will do all they can to position themselves for major television contracts, playoff play and the payday that comes with it.

I think the ACC (currently 14 teams), Big 10 (14), Pac 12 (12), and SEC (14) will each expand to 16 teams, having their choice of the 10 teams currently in the Big 12, the 12 in the American Athletic Conference – Tulane’s current home – as well as a handful of independents.

At that point, the Big 12 will be forced to expand or fold. Much will depend on whether Texas and Oklahoma want to go from being the top two schools in their conference to, maybe, the third or fourth best – athletically – within a division of a new conference.

For now, Tulane will continue to compete in the American. The AAC’s television contracts run through spring 2020. Dannen has said his mission is to make Tulane a winner, period. He’s set about changing the Green Wave’s athletic culture, and now has some time to remake the program and put it on par with the school’s impeccable academic reputation. If he can put Tulane’s athletics program on the upswing, a future move may be inevitable.



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