It's one thing when the college football media throws out rumors and scenarios when it comes to conference realignment. Heck, fans do it hourly on twitter and love to create a tale and see how many people will add to it and before you know it everyone in the ACC and Pac 12 is headed to the Missouri Valley.
But these days it's rare to go a day without having a school president or an athletic director throw stuff out there and send everyone into a frenzy.
For months, the wait for a new media deal for the Pac 12 has been growing and there appears to be no end in sight. But despite a commissioner who has gone silent, there's been no shortage of school presidents from Pac 12 campuses talking about how close a deal is, how unified the current members are or how expansion is on the table. They've mocked the rumors of any schools entertaining thoughts of leaving for the Big 12 yet many who cover the sport keep reporting that behind the scene some of these same presidents and/or their athletic directors have had direct or indirect contact with Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormarck. Why? Because they want options just in case that promised great media deal ain't so great.
There have been numerous ADs in the ACC talking about an unacceptable financial model in their league and if things don't change they may have to seek other options, despite not really having legal options out of an iron-clad media deal through 2036. That group even had a media generated name- "The Magnificent Seven." They gave a perception that invites to the SEC and Big Ten were just a phone call away or they might even just leave and form their own new conference.
The content machine never slows down and the latest comes from Nebraska's leader in President Ted Carter. In an interview with the Omaha World Herald's Tom Shatel, Carter said big changes are coming and more realignment is on the way. He says this because he tells Shatel he sits on national boards and "this conversation is happening now."
Carter talked about the Big Ten going national and now in four time zones and wondered if the conference needed "four more schools from the Pac 12" and that the ACC had some work to do and its members had to figure out their financial options if leaving was a thought. He added that it takes one or two schools from a Power 5 league to move and the dominos would start falling.
Could the Big Ten go to 24 teams? Could there be two super conferences and then maybe college football hires a commissioner and 48-60 teams become the new division of major football? Nebraska's president doesn't know but he sure had no problem speculating and that one interview in a Nebraska newspaper became a hot topic on twitter from college football media then predicting who was moving to fans jumping in to share their vision of what schools would move where.
Look, I have no idea where all this is heading. Maybe the SEC and Big Ten will decide to grow to 20 or 24 teams. But maybe they won't. And I sure don't see it happening in the next few years. Why not?
Because what we do know is the media landscape is changing rapidly. Companies have merged and many are losing billions of dollars. College football is a very popular sport and owning the media rights is attractive but it's also one asset among the portfolio. Disney has committed billions to the SEC and Big 12 in their new deals. CBS, NBC and FOX have done the same for the Big Ten. The ACC has lots of Disney's money coming in the next 13 years- or as long as the conference stays in business. The Pac 12? I don't know what their future media deal will be because right now these networks are assessing where to spend their money and how much content will go to a streaming platform. The NBA is up for a massive new deal and these same networks committed billions to the new NFL deal. Aside from sports all of these media conglomerates are trimming costs, staffing and re-evaluating departments across the board.
All these things point to the cash machine that is media money slowing down. The new SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and NFL deals are just starting. The NBA will get its money and other sports properties are out there as well. I am not convinced any of these networks are interested in going back to the table and upping their payouts to even the SEC and the Big Ten- at least not now. Don't forget the new 12-team college football playoff is also going to cost billions to these networks and that's why it likely will go to multiple media partners.
I get it. Playing the conference realignment game is fun and costs nothing to throw out rumors and pressing record any time a college president or athletic director spews something. But remember, most of the time they talk because someone will listen and they always present their school as one so valuable everyone would want them.
Many times, I wonder how we got here. What are we really doing? We are willing to kill any rivalry, not care how far our fans have to travel or how late their team will play. We just ask them to accept it and give more money so the school can buy more players. Because it's always about the money.
But the next time a university president or athletic director wants to talk about conference realignment just know they have an agenda and they are afraid of being left out and they also love talking...to anyone willing to listen...
Nuggets: I read Mike Bianchi's column on Florida AD Scott Stricklin's thoughts on the job Billy Napier has done and will do and how Gator fans might need to be more patient than they thought. I get it. And Stricklin is right about Napier needing time. But he's also saying these things because his legacy is riding on this hire as well. Stricklin hired Dan Mullen in 2018. The two worked together at Mississippi State and he then had to fire him in 2021. Napier was his next hire and despite raising lots of money and overseeing the building of lots of facilities and success in other sports, this hire will determine Stricklin's image among Gator Nation. Napier deserves a chance to build the program he wants and that is what Stricklin was getting to in Bianchi's column. But if Florida follows up a 6-7 season with something similar- fair or not- the Florida faithful will wonder if the right guys are in both jobs. Is that crazy? Of course it is, but this is the college football world we live in today. And the moment you started asking your fans to give you lots of money to buy players their expectations went up several notches. Add the back-to-back national championships won by Georgia and a four-year plan is not going to cut it. Stricklin will hear from the critics if Florida has a subpar season and his level of confidence in Napier today may be much different if and when that happens...The Tampa Bay Rays are 6-7 in their last 13 games. They have played the Orioles, Yankees, Mets and Brewers. They face Toronto next in a four game series and then the Dodgers. I said their start to the season was incredible but also said the schedule would begin to balance out and it has...I think Stan Van Gundy is a better game analyst than his brother and I don't think it's close...Author John Feinstein said on the radio show last week that he thinks the PGA and LIV will find a golf world where both survive and in fact might merge in some forms. Watching Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau all weekend at the PGA Championship made me think he might be right. Fans don't care as much as they once did or at least as much as the media thought. They want the best players playing in the biggest events and playing on the LIV Tour has not hurt Koepka's game where he can't compete...
Final Note: The Gummi Bear candy was invented in Germany in 1922. Called Gummibaren, Hans Riegel invented the candy and the Haribo company in Bonn, Germany. Haribo is from his name and town of the company.