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The Old College Try – Making Sense of Realignment for CU

Sent in by a CU at the Gamer … 

The Old College Try – making sense of realignment for CU

Economics ‘Greed is Good’ – Wall Street

Yes, realignment is all about money, as TV revenue and brand value drive the conversation of the have and the have-nots. Follow the money, straight to the TV executive’s office. But these numbers floated about a 100+ mil a year for the B1G are insane and may not ultimately come to pass.

Consider that there is a dollar amount number – there is always a number – that more expansion just doesn’t make sense. If inflation has taught us anything, it is that too much money chasing too few goods is a problem. There is only so much money (ands wins to ensure that money value) to go around. TV Execs cant continue to spend as they have been, with no regards to the bottom line of return on investment (ROI).

They are looking at charts, and J-Curves, and stock values, and sales and trying to find the point of not only diminishing returns, but of ‘no return’. The more they add, the more they dilute. And how valuable are mid-tier teams like NU, UCLA, Minnesota, etc going to be when they become the perennial 6-7 teams to the top of the conference? Will that justify the 100 mill a year those schools are expecting?

Marketing – “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.” – Mad Men

TV Markets are about eyeballs and cross selling. Its all about the viewers of the product: if major tv areas are watching the B1G, they aren’t watching the competitor. And if they are watching, they are buying what is being sold during telecasts.

Colorado and AZ schools have a play here, if not for the product on the field or court, but for the TV markets. The football product is secondary really. If FOX is driving this, consider the fact that a revised B1G with CU and AZ schools would own the majority of the NFL markets in the country from Thursday to Sunday each week, cross – selling the products non-stop to most of the NFL TV markets.

Biology – “….let the strongest live, and the weakest die’ – Charles Darwin

The top is trying to evolve into stronger beings, and the bottom is looking to adapt while considering their own mortality. Besides the obvious shutdown/cant compete/cancel the program discussions that some small schools will inevitably face, this is where relegation comes to play.

Maybe cut lose a Rutgers or Maryland to the ACC and pick up stronger assets (ND and Stanford for instance). Probably already considered. Does the Big 12 drop WVU for a new school out west, with better market and better academics? Does the best of the PAC and ACC or Big 12 join forces and cut lose the rest? Anything is possible, nothing is sacred. Biology does not care about sentiment or feelings; its is survive or die.

This will not stop at 2 conferences: a third will emerge, and that will be where the SEC and B1G look to promote from – or demote to – in the next 20 years.

Chemistry – “ oh yeah……you BLEND’. – My Cousin Vinny

B1G values academics. We here about AAU, Tier 1, ditto, ditto, etc, etc………Colorado can fit here in other conferences than the PAC, and lets be honest: The Cali Pac snobs always looked down from their elitist wine parties at the other half of the conference. We never really fit, as much as some of our faculty and admins thought we did.

Sure, we must improve academically, and a case for the B1G would be better if we were top 50 and not top 100 in rankings. But we bring something to the party to at least consider. In the PAC, we weren’t top third of the conference academically. In the B1G, we wouldn’t be either. But, we could have a chance to improve in the pecking order.

BTW, NU is the only non-AAU school in the B1G. By adding CU, you get the accreditations you allegedly desire, a medical school, business school, engineering, etc, etc……. improves the academics of the conference, but likely slots CU as a patsy to the top schools for an easy win. Hey, everyone needs a Rutgers/Vanderbilt if you want separation in the ranks.

But the Big 12 academically ? Hmmm…..lets talk later.

World History – ‘Let us not be deceived, we are in the midst of a Cold War” – Bernard Baruch
“……We win, they lose’. Ronald Reagan

US v USSR, or B1G vs. SEC? Same concepts apply. This is just the beginning, but eventually one will outspend the other and this too shall collapse on itself.

CU is Czechoslovakia in this scenario….or maybe Hungary, who knows. We are land-locked and in the way of the larger goal. (Sorry Washington State, you are Albania – nobody cares). And Oregon might as well be Norway – vast resources, but too far from the seat of the empire and too few people locally to matter in the end.

The point being is that our only endgame for CU in this version of the Cold War is to be used and abused until the eventual end. A B1G patsy for a decade or more doesn’t sound fun. Why bother. Better to position with the counterweights (Big 12/ACCs) in the power struggle, proxy war both sides, and eventually side with the winner.

And one of those proxy wars will be scheduling: Big 12/ACC/others can refuse to schedule the P2. There are only so many wins to be had, so force them to mediocrity by going 7-6 against themselves, and eventually the P2 will tire of huge NIL deals and big TV money being spent on mediocre program records. Let them be their own worst enemies and bankrupt themselves.

Geography – “We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia. It’s like going into Wisconsin.” – Stripes

Quite clear that geography doesn’t much matter in the age of realignment. Somewhere in the twitter-verse it has been pointed out the USC is closer to Honduras than Rutgers. Good luck with 9am PST kickoffs and the negative impact to non-revenue generating sports in the that arrangement.

But there is a play here: No way that the B1G leaves USC/UCLA on an island out west. Pairing Stanford with Notre makes sense in the next round, but for sentimental reasons. ORE/WA? Sounds nice for the B1G, but that is a geographical logistics mess as well. It is a matter of time, and we don’t know when, but the B1G needs more than a Cali island.

So, to the point above, if you have to flyover the majority of the west to get to a game, you’d might as well stop somewhere and play another game…say in hubs such as Denver ? Salt Lake ? Phoenix ?…with 6 million+ viewers in the CU/UU/AZ/ASU footprint alone. The Big will eventually look to the midwestern/near west to fulfill a need. But when?

If I’m the CU president, maybe offer to take a reduced payout of 75 mil for the first 3 years, to join the B1G, add M/W Hockey, and baseball/softball, and commit to winning again. Otherwise, leave the Cali schools on an island and proceed to pre-law elective below.

Pre-Law Survey Course – “Law is the ultimate backstage pass. There are now more students in law schools than lawyers walking the streets.” – Devil’s Advocate

Time to be petty here. You damaged our brand and threatened the viability of our program by leaving, USC/UCLA. Time for a lawsuit. For what? I don’t really know. But if you can sue for coffee being too hot, or sue your boyfriends insurance company for catching an STD in their car (yes, this really happened) , we can find SOMETHING.

Class action: Buffnation v. USC……. And in the meantime, lets close Colorado airspace to B1G flyovers, make travel more difficult without a hub airport, levy a huge use tax for unavoidable travel through our state. Do something. Why? Because we can. (same reason they gave for leaving the conference……) Petty, illogical, yes……..but let the lawyers figure it out later. Just burn the Cali schools for spite.

Philosophy – ‘To know thy self is the beginning of wisdom’ – Socrates

Here is where all the conjecture, what-ifs and so on really meet the road. CU needs to look in the mirror, realize that ‘we are who we are’, and be the best version of whatever that is.

We have learned the hard way how a dominate program can outstrip a conference (Texas in the Big12). We learned the hard way that we don’t fit in with the wine country coastal elite schools ( USC/UCLA/CAL/Stanford). And we learned the hard way that without a Phil Knight or a Boone Pickens (ORE, OSU), its hard to make our own destiny.

So taking the best of what we have to offer, here is who we can be:

1. My first thought is to package CU with UU to the B1G – and probably others to sweeten the pot – to shore up the western flank with NU, Iowa, etc. This includes dropping Rutgers and Maryland to the ACC to maintain revenue sharing or keeping them with the inevitable idea that the Big would force CU, UU, and some lesser schools into reduced revenue sharing over a period to compensate the bigger programs. Add a few sports like hockey and baseball and give it a go. But why be a patsy for the top half of the conference, trying to fit in athletically where we couldn’t/wouldn’t academically in the Pac?
Result: Begging for table scraps ensures losing and mediocrity.

2. Pursue an outright merger of the Big 12/Pac or Big 12/ACC to one up the P2 as THE FIRST coast to coast, all timezone conference. A lot of benefits, big money contracts…. but go big or go home.
Result: A lot to consider here, but it is bold. Time to be a leader. Is CU up for it?

3. Take CU, UU, AZ, ASU to the Big 12. For the conference, wall off the midwest to the B1G and SEC, promote regionality with BYU, TX schools and others, be a counterweight to unchecked expansion, become a top 2 Basketball conference. Be the third best football conference and align with the winner of the P2 Cold War in 10 years, when your member school resumes will be better than they are now.

For CU? Double your TV revenue. Become THE destination road trip in the conference. Add some sports, like Baseball/Softball, ensure Title IX improvements across all sports, and commit to becoming a top 3 academic member of the Big 12……. something you would never be in the Pac or B1G……..and top 40 academically in the US. Ensure that the AD is independent of the school for money in the future to solve legacy problems. And above all else – commit to winning.

Result: Be the boogeyman of the Big-12, the team no one wants to play because we are cooler, smarter, hit harder, play faster – and WIN.

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6 Replies to “The Old College Try – Making Sense of Realignment for CU”

  1. Excellent writing.

    Fun to read.

    Valid points

    Options are the same in any piece you read.

    Go Buffs……………..aggressive patience please.

  2. The really decision makers is ESPN and Fox. Why are we talking about the bureaucrats with CU academia making any decisions.. These people were so vain and stupid they snubbed Nike when it came calling. The reality is B1G was going to pick up the Cali schools no matter what as Fox Sports skus to the West Coast and ESPN skus to the East Coast. The reality is the suits are picking and here’s how they see it.

    Stanford/Cal – San Fran, San Jose, Oakland #6 DMV has professional NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
    ASU/ UA – Phoenix #12 DMV (Tv ratings) has professional NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
    CU – Denver #18 DMV (Tv ratings) has professional NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL

    The key is professional leagues in each market to cross promote other programming on your air to a responsive audience (Sports Fans) Sorry Utah and Oregon your DMV suck and the Trailblazer is your only pro team. Phil can flex muscle as Nike is one of the biggest advertisers across all ESPN and Fox sports programming. Again, somebody at CU please go pitch Phil the idea of moving Nike campus to Boulder like he originally wanted, but I digress.

    I see Fox shoring up California and keeping ESPN out of California, F off SportsCenter.

    UW – Seattle/Tacoma #14 DMV and 3 of the 4 professional leagues bumps Cal out of the equation

  3. So I don’t think there is a chance in hell of number 1. I think the B1G will want all of cali before they come calling for CU.

    Number 2 dilutes the money too much. Too many teams, too many bad teams in small markets.

    Number 3 is likely the most reasonable. CU cannot stand pat with the PAC-12. lA is gone, Washington and Oregon are just waiting for an invite from the B1G which will come sooner rather than later. I think putting the cali schools in the B1G was a mistake, I think the product on the field is going to suffer as kids are playing games at weird times for their biological clocks. But money is king so it has happened and will happen again.

    You mentioned one item in your article and that is having the best markets and teams of the Pac-12 and Big 12 go out and form their own conference. Only take teams that are good or are in good tv markets. I haven’t looked at it but despite CU’s lack of success it is in a good tv market……. Leave off all of the crap. Football is the money so go with that….. forget about a basketball school unless it is one of the best…..

    I still like #3 best. I think we are rising under Dorrell and his coaching staff. I don’t want to go play in the B1G and get blasted by teams with massive NIL deals. Let’s go compete for 5-10 years in a league much like us.

    1. Agree that the best option is mentioned but not explicitly stated and that would be the 4th option of cherry picking both PAC12 and Big 12 and starting a new conference with the best makeup of quality/draw to maximum TV footprint. Option 3 only takes a 4 teams from the PAC and keeps all of the teams from the Big 12.
      Instead, go with something like:
      TCU and Houston from Texas, Stanford and potentially San Diego State from California (why surrender all of southern California to the Big 10?), Arizona St, Washington, Oregon, CU, Utah, BYU, Kansas St, Oklahoma State, UCF (for Florida), Cincinnati (Ohio) and then maybe add UNLV for the Vegas TV market and decide between the remaining teams to get to 16 teams to match the Big 10 and SEC.
      You would have a TV footprint almost as large as the Big 10 and larger than the SEC or any other existing conference, with teams that draw decent viewership and have access to most of the top recruiting hot beds and have have teams in every time zone.

  4. Thanks for the good article.

    Two major shortcomings of all the current conference expansions are: 1) the eventual need to eject non-competitive teams from the super conferences; and 2) football vs. other sports.

    Speaking of football only, there are a lot of trendy teams considered valuable right now that were not very good 10-20 years ago. A lot can change from coaches to admin. Do these conferences really want to lock in on a fixed set of teams? Why not structure it to be more fluid?

    And for basketball and other sports, all this super conference alignment around football is going to do damage. I feel sorry for all the athletes getting dragged around by the football tether.

  5. Good piece. I like door #2. Door #3 works ok too.

    Either way, I think this is just the beginning of the story. Ok, the beginning was even before 11years ago, so we’re mid-chapters. But, eventually, this goes the way of the NFL w/ national reach, geographic pairings w/ interesting cross-over match-ups, collective bargaining for/by “student athletes” and a ton of money flowing from the college football playoffs and March Madness back to the academic institutions which spawned this whole thing, but lost control of it long, long ago.

    Go Buffs

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