In the world of sports, we keep score. So it’s time to calculate winners, losers and survivors from the conference realignment craziness that ate up the past month of our lives.
By moving to the Big Ten, NU gains massive benefits academically, nails down long-term athletic security and never has to deal with Texas braggadocio and politics again.
By anyone’s definition, that’s a Triple Crown.
The key is the Huskers weren’t running away from anything. They are running toward a truly transformational opportunity.
Put aside the athletic discussion for now. This move to the Big Ten clears the runways for the University of Nebraska system — the state’s largest enterprise — to fly into previously restricted air space.
Hundreds of millions of dollars more research money is expected. Higher caliber faculty will be more easily recruited. That in turn attracts better students, who later want to stay in the state because of enhanced job opportunities and will start businesses of their own that will boost the economy.
Oh, and the football won’t be all bad, either.
And did we mention Texas won’t be around? As Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said about the Big Ten: “There won’t be any bullies in the meeting rooms.’’
Winner in its own mind, loser in public perception: Texas
I guess we’re assuming Texas had some good public perception left.
The Longhorns helped chase two members out of the Big 12, bullied five others into giving them their lunch money and then passed themselves off as saving a beloved damsel in distress.
Never mind, I guess, that while “rescuing’’ the Big 12 you flirted with the Pac-10 and the Big Ten.
Now, the “Don’t Mess With Texas’’ folks wield more power than ever.
But is this nothing more than the reincarnation of the old Southwest Conference? That lopsided league sent Texas athletics into a tailspin in the 1980s and early 1990s that it didn’t pull out of until the Big 12 was formed.
This had better work, because UT’s recent maneuvering might make it difficult to find another conference willing to do business.
Loser: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
This may have been the worst performance by a politician named Nixon since Richard.
Three days after the Big Ten announced it would study expansion, he took it upon himself to invite Missouri to the party.
“I’m not going to say anything bad about the Big 12,’’ said Nixon, who then did just that. “But when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern, when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, you begin looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at.’’
The problem, Your Highness, is that in the Big Ten, it’s “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’’
After Nixon’s grandstanding, the call never came. Missouri became one of the five leftovers who luckily were saved when the Big 12 bubble-gummed itself together.
Nixon tried to reclaim the headlines last week by proclaiming that the Big 12 will be a better basketball league without Nebraska. What a bold statement, considering that the Huskers haven’t won a conference title in 60 years.
By the way, anyone have that score from the first round of the Big 12 tournament in March?
Ah, here it is: Last-place Nebraska 75, NCAA-tourney bound Missouri 60. The win boosted NU coach Doc Sadler’s record over MU’s Mike Anderson to 6-4.
Winner (at least temporarily): Dan Beebe
The Big 12 commissioner saved his league and his job despite losing two family members.
It’s been chic to hammer Beebe with criticism, but a decent amount of that has been misdirected.
Beebe didn’t make the Big 12’s current TV deals, he inherited them. He didn’t set it up so that those two deals expire four years apart, the league founders did. That hamstrings the Big 12 in collecting a powerhouse deal.
And he operates in a “weak commissioner’’ system where the prime power rests with the board of directors.
Beebe isn’t blameless in watching other leagues pass the Big 12 by. Now, he’ll have his hands full trying to keep this uneasy alliance from implosion.
The current over/under is four years.
Winner: Jim Delany
The Big Ten commissioner bolstered his credentials as college athletics’ preeminent power broker.
When the Big Ten revealed its expansion plans on Dec. 15, at first it looked like a publicity mission to placate that league’s football coaches who complained about being overshadowed the final two weeks of the season.
But as the idea grew and the research came in, the Big Ten’s business overshadowed some of the bowl season and much of the college basketball season.
Losers: Employees of athletic departments and conferences unwillingly dragged through the drama of realignment.
I talked to athletic directors who put hirings on hold because they couldn’t tell candidates what league they would be in. I talked to candidates who backed away because they worried about budget limitations if the BCS-level position they pursued all of a sudden would become a non-BCS job.
Perhaps even harder hit were the hundreds of mid-level workers whose lives were slammed into park by all the speculation. The number of innocent folks held hostage by all this was a distasteful consequence.
Not quite a winner but better than a loser: Colorado
CU has always been a peculiar fit in the old Big Eight and now the Big 12.
It’s a mountain school in a flatland league. It’s in a different time zone from all other schools. And it has slightly different socio-political views than league brethren. Foes don’t call it “The People’s Republic of Boulder’’ for nothing.
So going to the Pac-10 is good. Colorado always has recruited heavily in California, and has many top alumni there.
But this won’t be easy. Colorado’s financial problems haven’t gone away. Travel will remain a chore in the new league. And Dan Hawkins is still the football coach.
Survivors: The five Big 12 “leftovers”: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor
I’m not going to pick on these schools for banding together and offering Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma “protection’’ money to keep the Big 12 together.
The mission was to preserve a spot in a BCS league. The method may stink, but it probably was the only option.
The scary thing, after reviewing these events, is that this column probably will need to be written again by about 2013.
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