Conference realignment ravaging college football landscape

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Rogelio V. Solis | Associated Press

Texas is playing BYU this Saturday and will do so again in 2013. But if conferences in college football realign a certain way, the Longhorns and Cougars might be playing more often than the home-and-home arrangement says they will.

As Texas A&M plans for the SEC, another domino falls. Once again, the Big 12 is on the brink of being dissolved, but if it can be saved, BYU might be the school to do it. Adding the Cougars would make a lot of sense if Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12 schools stayed put. However, there is speculation that Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech could join the Pac-12 and turn it into the Pac-16 to make college football’s
first superconference.

“I listened to it last year change by the hour,” said head coach Mack Brown. “I was actually at Barton Creek for an AFCA golf tournament and I was eating lunch with [former Texas Tech head football coach] Spike Dykes last year, and it came on ESPN that we had joined the Pac-10. And then about two hours later I got a call that says we’re staying in the Big 12. I know where we’ll be this weekend and that’s the important thing.”

BYU would likely be one of the first places the Big 12 would look to as a replacement for Texas A&M. The Cougars are independent so the Big 12 wouldn’t have to pry them away from anywhere. Adding BYU to the Big 12 could even open up another region of the country for Texas
to recruit in.

If BYU were to join the Big 12, it would certainly present it another area to draw television viewers from, and it has a slight edge over nearby University of Utah in terms of state-wide ratings. However, TV could present more problems than solutions. BYU, like Texas, has their own network — BYUtv, which has been broadcasting Cougars sporting events since 2000 and made a broadcasting agreement with ESPN that will allow them to air five times as many live games as they did before.

Texas’ TV network, the currently elusive Longhorn Network, could be an issue if Texas chose to join the Pac-16. The Longhorn Network could stay the way it is if the conference was OK with it, or it could become a regional sports network that fell under the umbrella of the Pac-12’s deal with FOX Sports and ESPN. Under that deal, there are six regional sports networks covering two Pac-12 teams each. The Longhorn Network could be such a network by becoming something like the Lone Star Network that covered Texas and Texas Tech sports.

“It would be weird [not having a Big 12],” said senior guard David Snow. “It’s been here since I was growing up. It changed before that. It was the Southwest [Conference] and now it’s changed to the Big 12. This stuff keeps on realigning.”

A change in scenery for Texas could eventually lead to the creation of three or four 16-team superconferences that would leave less competitive teams such as Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State out to dry. It could also mean the end of a Lone Star State-dominated conference, which would force Texas and other schools in the state to travel farther to play conference opponents.

“I like to play regional games in a conference where high school coaches and parents can go see them play,” Brown said. “That was the Big 8, the Southwest Conference. That was the focus of the Big 12 and now it looks like some of that’s going to change. And some of these families don’t have enough money to hop on planes and go see their kids. I really think right now we’re so concerned about money in college football. I really wish we spent more time worried about the kids.”

This weekend’s game could be a preview of many more Texas-BYU games to come. Or it could merely be the first half of a home-and-home series that could be an afterthought while the Longhorns adjust to the Pac-16 or to being independent themselves. Such is the nature of the constantly changing world of conference realignment.
“I don’t know much about BYU,” Snow said. “They’re not in our conference.”

They’re not in his conference. Yet.