The Rolling Green Wave

Big XII membership a no-briainer, if Tulane gets the invite
Tulane linebacker Nico Marley breaks through the UCF offensive line on his way to a tackle for a loss.

The chatter Uptown is that Tulane could be on the move.

Word is the Big XII Conference is looking to increase its membership from its current 10 teams to 12, or even as many as 14. And Tulane could be in its future.

The Big XII was formed in 1996 when four schools from the former Southwest Conference – Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor – joined with the Big Eight Conference’s Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa State. Since then Nebraska left for the Big Ten, Colorado joined the Pac-12, and Missouri and Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference. TCU and West Virginia joined the Big XII to round out its current membership.

Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Tulane have all been mentioned for potential Big XII membership. Tulane is the weakest athletically, but the strongest academically. That could sway member schools’ presidents and chancellors who would appreciate a GPA boost for the conference.

If the league expands by two or four, Tulane will more than likely be on the outside looking in.

But there is still hope for inclusion. As Bob Dylan sings, “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

College football is the economic engine of college athletics. Since the establishment of the college football playoff in the 2014 season, there have been tectonic shifts in the alignment of schools and conferences. Where geography once reigned, now perceived power – be it economical, physical or academic – drives alignment. It’s put college football’s elite conferences in a nebulous, sometimes ridiculous, state. For instance, right now, the Big Ten has 12 members and the aforementioned Big XII has 10. But the future is clear.

With the birth of the college football playoff came the emergence of the “Power 5” conferences – the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The demand to crown a true college football champion will drive each of the Power 5 conferences to expand to 16 teams. Those 80 teams will have the best opportunity to be invited to the playoff to become college football champion.

The shift to five, 16-team conferences will cause further shifting of schools among conferences.

When the SEC makes the jump to 16 schools, it will have likely be the most attractive conference for potential membership. A major reason Texas A&M and Missouri were both selected was because of the TV markets they opened to the conference, including Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, St. Louis and Kansas City. Expect shrewd economic decisions to be part of any discussion for potential membership. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been mentioned as potential fits in the SEC. Both schools fit current SEC members culturally and geographically, and both would potentially like to escape the shadow that Texas casts on the Big XII.

If the Oklahoma schools leave the Big XII for the SEC, Tulane would likely be a shoe in for membership. Even if they stay and expand to 16 teams, the Green Wave would likely be among the new six members.

Ask anyone what the biggest mistake Tulane has ever made, and they’ll likely say it was the decision to leave the SEC. Tulane was a charter member of the conference, but left in 1966 to focus the school on academics rather than athletics. Now, the king of college football, the conference reported $527.4 million in revenue during the first year of the College Football Playoff and the SEC Television Network in 2014-15, a 62-percent increase from the previous year. The SEC distributed $457.8 million to its 14 members, an average of $32.7 million per school.

The Big 12, by contrast, earned $267.8 million, in the same period. While it was a 19 percent increase year-over-year, the $23.3 million payout was $9.4 million less than each SEC school received.

Still, it’s much, much more than the remaining “Group of Five” conferences – the AAC, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt – are able to generate.

While the Greenies may struggle athletically in the Big XII, they are not setting the world on fire in the AAC. Tulane football is picked to finish last in the AAC this season. Still, affiliation with the Big XII would mean an influx of cash, exposure, and, eventually, talent. Plus, the Big XII would like to pick up a school in the SEC’s backyard.

Tulane has invested $120 million in its athletic facilities in recent years, and the investment may soon have a major return. If and when an invitation to join the Big XII comes, Tulane should jump at the opportunity. It won’t make up for leaving the SEC, but it will right a major wrong and return Tulane to college athletics’ elite playing field.



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