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Stewart Mandel on the Fate of Football Teams That Move to a New Conference: Hint, It’s Not Good

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With Oklahoma, Texas, USC and UCLA making moves, do you see them going the route of Miami, Nebraska and Colorado? — Rob W., Columbia, S.C.

 

It’s hard to find any school that has thrived competitively by leaving one power conference for another. Missouri and Texas A&M had early success in the SEC, but that’s largely faded. Ditto Virginia Tech in the ACC. West Virginia has gone downhill since joining the Big 12. And I’d classify Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pitt as washes. Really, not since the likes of Penn State, Florida State and Miami gave up independence in the early 90s have we seen a school come into one of those leagues and win at a high level.

 

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of these schools moved to a less-natural place geographically — whereas TCU and Utah arguably joined more geographically sensible conferences. Nebraska and Colorado losing their Texas recruiting connections, West Virginia trying to get into Texas, Maryland and Rutgers bumping heads with Penn State and Ohio State has not helped their causes.

 

Knowing that, of the four schools changing homes this go-around, Texas to the SEC is the only one that feels like a semi-natural fit. And I wouldn’t have said that if Texas A&M weren’t there. But between those two, Arkansas and LSU, there are some commonalities. Oklahoma: Not as much. I wrote then and believe even more so now that Oklahoma will rue leaving a conference where it was one of two alphas (and the far more successful one at that) to become one of a half-dozen similarly renowned programs. It would not surprise me at all if we’re one day talking about Oklahoma the way we do Nebraska today.

 

As for the L.A. schools: UCLA is screwed. A school with an apathetic football fan base that’s 25 years removed from its glory days is going to join a conference 2,000 miles away where half the schools play in sold-out 70,000-100,00 seat stadiums every week and the donors are willing to play the NIL game? As Jerry Seinfeld famously said: Good luck with all that.

 

USC has a better shot because of its history and recruiting cachet. It has an administration willing to spend at the highest level and, as of now, one of the top coaches in the sport. But it’s a heck of an experiment. If the Trojans were staying in the Pac-12, I have no doubt Lincoln Riley would eventually turn the program into the class of the league. But I’d be stunned if USC ever surpasses both Ohio State and Michigan for an extended period.

 

The funny thing about realignment is that it’s basically one big game of FOMO. Everyone’s desperate to chase the biggest possible TV check in order to “remain competitive.” But if you’re making twice as much money as you used to but winning half as many games as you used to, you’re just using that extra money to buy out more coaches.

 

Edited by lownslowav8r
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Well said and I agree 100%, being a big fish in a little pond, even if it's for less money, is better than being a small fish in a big pond.

 

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There is so much to unpack from this new expansion business model thats rapidly approaching. On the surface it appears that very little thought or concern was given to the feelings/needs of the student athlete, the fans and tradition. Money, lots of money drove this train.

 

For a century plus the conferences were regionally balanced and exposed to the fans. In the 50's, 60's, 70''s thru the mid 80's i never was able to watch a non PAC game. The only exception was a big rivalry game like Michigan vs Ohio State, Texas vs Texas A & M, ND vs USC and USC vs UCLA.They were nationally televised. For example, if our local ABC affiliate didnt finally make special arrangements the only way for me to watch the Apple Cup was to attend the game.

 

The New Years bowl games were the only time I got to see the inter conference match up games. ND got invites to the Sugar or Orange Bowl. So we got to see ND vs Bama for example. The Southwest Conference (BIG 12) champion hosted the Cotton Bowl. Big 10 vs PAC 8 in the Rose Bowl. The games were exciting and the national ratings were thru the roof.

 

Then in the mid to late 80's an upstart school named Miami changed everything. Their Orange Bowl games vs ND or Nebraska were being played for mythical Natty's. Bama, Georgia, tOSU, Michigan, Texas and USC due to their conference tie ins couldnt get in on the action. Thus the birth of the BCS invitational. Ratings were thru the roof and the payouts were unheard of. Then the CFP invitational brought more games and bigger payouts. The expanded CFP will bring even more money and bigger psyouts.

 

Games built on Regional champions meeting other regional champions that brought regional fan bases to a national stage. It had its fair share of bias (SRC) but hss bern pure gold.

 

So why do Texas, OU, usc and ucla want to leave their regions to break tradition? None of these 4 schools have been Natty competitive since Texas vs usc in that epic Natty game. We are aporoaching 2 decades. They want the annual bump in payouts!

 

Now usc and ucla get to play in the G5 west division. Yet they will have to climb over tOSU, Michigan and Penn State in the BIG title game. In fairness though usc has a better chance of going 12-0 every season in their G5 division, losing in BIG title game and still getting to the expanded CFP. ucla will win more games, too. Their are no Utes, puppies, beavers or ducks in that division. Just anemic offenses and usc to navigate.

 

Depending on which division Texas and OU land in the SEC thst road is much tougher to navigate. Georgia and Bama rule and should be in the CFP every year. But LSU, Tennesse and Florida are as good as if not better than the sooners or horns. Neither school will be a shoe in for the CFP anytime soon. They too want that big bump in annual payouts. If you can't go 11-1 in the BIG 12 how fo you expect to schieve that in yhe SEC?

 

I wish all 4 schools the best as they embark on this new path. One thing is for sure that the landscape is changing. The dollars will be flowing for all 4 schools. Will the journey lead them to the expanded CFP and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

 

Only time, top level recruiting, high NIL payouts and player development will give us the answer.......

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So... people forget that what looks lucrative in the short term might not be so in the long term.  Case in point PAC-10 media rights:

 

WWW.ESPN.COM

The Pac-10 has agreed to a 12-year television contract with ESPN and Fox that will more than triple its media rights fees and be the most valuable for any conference in college sports.

 

Everyone forgets that when Scott inked that deal the PAC's media rights were worth more than the SEC's... the problem was it was a long term deal and the other conferences were able to get even bigger contracts later leaving the PAC in the dust.

 

UCLA and USC have left the PAC before and that didn't work out then either.  UCLA will be the biggest loser here and USC isn't going to be able to regain So-Cal recruiting dominance so they will not be able to compete with Ohio State which means losing their conference year after year after year... the LA market doesn't love a team that loses.  

 

 

 

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On 1/22/2023 at 8:11 AM, Duck Fan 76 said:

 

Everyone forgets that when Scott inked that deal the PAC's media rights were worth more than the SEC's... the problem was it was a long term deal and the other conferences were able to get even bigger contracts later leaving the PAC in the dust.

 

 

With all due respect, literally no one who follows the Pac-12 forgets how the Larry Scott TV deal worked out.  Yeah it's hindsight now, but there's no way the top-tier P-12 schools would agree to a long-term contract like that again.  IMHO the new contract will come due about the same time (or earllier) than the B1G to perhaps allow for a return of the LA schools or of course the exit of Oregon and Washington if it goes the other way.

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I'm not buying that USC can not be a top dog in the B1G. Michigan has made some great strides the past few years, but since 2000 they have not exactly been living up to a "Blue Blood" program. Oregon has out-performed Michigan and USC in that time frame, and I eagerly await our invitation and gracious acceptance to the B1G. Like Andy Dufresne said, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." 

Edited by 2002duck
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On 1/22/2023 at 3:30 PM, 2002duck said:

I'm not buying that USC can not be a top dog in the B1G. Michigan has made some great strides the past few years, but since 2000 they have not exactly been living up to a "Blue Blood" program. Oregon has out-performed Michigan and USC in that time frame, and I eagerly await our invitation and gracious acceptance to the B1G. Like Andy Dufresne said, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." 

It's funny how USC complains about Oregon stealing their SoCal recruits.  What do they think tOSU and Michigan are going to do?

 

However, generally I agree. USC will quickly become dominate the BIG conference.  Outside of tOSU, it is very overrated.  Oregon is 9-0 against current and incoming BIG conference members since 2017.

 

However, UCLA is completely toast.  This is a TERRIBLE move for them.   

 

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On 1/23/2023 at 1:13 PM, GeotechDuck said:

However, UCLA is completely toast.  This is a TERRIBLE move for them. 

UCLA is not a football school. There's likely no changing that. They might do well in basketball, though. They have been underperforming for too long. If the NBA goes back to allowing high school players to go to the NBA right away, UCLA's athletic program will be in trouble.

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In Utah's case, moving from the MWC to the PAC-12 has eventually worked out well for the program, being conference champs 2 years in a row after early struggles. IMHO, this is primarily due to Kyle Whittingham being the excellent HC that he is, who methodically rebuilt the Utes to be competitive within the PAC. IMHO, as long as a program has the "right" HC, a move to a different conference can be successful.

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