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Pac 12 TV Deal and the ACC/SEC

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By Jacob Shoor
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With Colorado and Utah now part of a 12 Pac, it is the only Major conference from the Rockies to the Pacific, which geographically is more than one-third of the USA.

The Pac 12’s TV deals are unprecedented to the point of unbelievable. 3 billion dollars over 12 years, with ESPN and Fox cooperating to give the Left Coast league that kingly fortune – it seems impossible.

Save for a handful of invincibly-ignorant basketball-obsessed (like double negatives, the redundancy is for stress) administrators, boosters, and fans at basketball-first schools, everybody knows that football is almost exclusively responsible for fat TV deals. That raises this question: as the Pac is not remotely close to the SEC in terms of depth of quality football teams and does not have nearly as many nor as passionate large fan bases, what justifies such fortunes paid to the Pac?

Nothing, but for maybe two-thirds of that fortune, there is an answer: Geography. Take a look at any map.

The Pac has always benefitted immensely by having no local competition, by being the only Big Time conference in its area. The Big Ten has always stared across the Ohio River at the SEC, which also bordered both the ACC and SWC. The SWC also bordered the Big 8, which also bordered the Big Ten. Since the formation of the Big East, the ACC has been forced to share states and regional borders with it as well as the SEC. The Big East shares states and borders with the Big Ten and SEC as well as the ACC.

But the Pac was all alone out in left field, having an easy time because it had no competition in its backyard.

I first predicted three years ago that the Pac would feel forced to expand to prevent the MWC from becoming a BCS AQ league. That fits with Pac history. When the WAC, led by Arizona State, Arizona, and BYU, also seemed on the verge of becoming a true Big Time conference, the Pac headed inland, taking the Wildcats and Sun Devils precisely to prevent the coming to fruition of a Major conference smack dab on the Pac’s border.

SEC fans especially should keep that history in mind for the next time some Pac fan starts prattling about the expansionistic SEC harming other conferences. The Pac raided two conferences in different decades to prevent them from becoming Major conferences rivaling the Pac and tried to deal a death blow to the Big XII, while wrapping itself in the fake mantle of easy-going, old fashioned, non-mercenary, ‘Olympic sports’ focused gentlemanly competition.

There’s nothing like the revoltingly self-deluded and deluding hypocrisy of Hollywood and gay old Frisco.

With Colorado and Utah now part of a 12 Pac, it is the only Major conference from the Rockies to the Pacific, which geographically is more than one-third of the continental United States. The only major conference within that expanse would be worth a fortune even if it lacked the great football histories of SoCal and Washington.

So what does the PAC bonanza mean to the SEC and ACC?

It obviously will remain a burr under the SEC’s saddle, which should mean even more SEC wooing of Texas A&M. Thanks to insatiable Longhorn greed, thanks to burnt orange hubris, the Big XII remains a tottering hollow man. The SEC will not rest until it takes advantage of what Texas, the Big Ten, and the Pac exposed and gored.

The SEC wedded to the Lone Star State via Texas Aggies would be a marriage of friday night lights, the biggest and most intense high school football, to the biggest and most intense college football. Now that should be worth what the Pac will be paid and is not worth, even considering its geography.

And you can bet that if (when perhaps is the better preposition) A&M agrees to join the SEC, it will not be the only school west of the Mississippi to do so. The SEC will expand to 16 in order to get both A&M and Oklahoma, but it might be best for the SEC to stop at 14 members if it lands A&M and another TX school (Baylor or TCU), with Texas staying with the remaining Big XII, ruling it as a personal fiefdom, not close to powerful enough to challenge the SEC but strong enough to remain a thorn against any Pac or Big Ten desires to get into the southwest.

Two TX schools would provide great SEC exposure to Lone Star talent and draw nearly half the college sports fans in the state to the SEC first and foremost. And scheduling for 14 without ruining large numbers of established and important rivalries is easier than scheduling for 16.

The ACC is cursed the same way the Big East is: too much identification with basketball. That and the size of its schools (the ACC has the smallest average student body size of any BCS AQ conference), the four private schools with the all but inevitably small football fan bases of private schools, sharing three states with the SEC, and bordering the Big East mean that the ACC now needs to play major catch up before the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac get so far out of sight that it has no hope of remaining viable.

Carthago delenda est, Cato the Elder said to close every speech: Carthage must be destroyed. Similarly, I say that the ACC must make itself more a football league through expansion. In hillbilly Latin we say: basketballfirsto delenda est.

The ACC basketball interests have already hit on part of the Pac’s good fortune and its aggressive actions to retain that good fortune: they want the ACC to add Syracuse and UConn. Their rationale, starting from their faulty assumption that basketball matters a good deal, is that if the ACC can add the two most important basketball powers to the New York City TV market (save, of course, for Notre Dame and St. John’s when the former Redmen are good), the ACC will dominate that market in the only sport they care to notice save as warmup for boys in shorts.

One step up in basketball and two steps back in football fan base size and national TV drawing power is no way to move forward. As I noted in my last piece, even the Big East leadership now knows better and acts only to improve its football quality and attractiveness to fans, by adding schools not located in the northeast.

If the pro-NYC ACC crowd would call for Rutgers, which has the second largest on campus stadium in the Big East and a growing football-first fan base and unlike Syracuse and UConn is actually located inside the NYC TV market, I could have some respect for them. But they are all about short pants and hardwood.

If the SEC adds Texas A&M, the ACC is almost certain to expand to 14. The question remains whether it will place its eggs virtually all in the hoops basket and add Syracuse and UConn (which has a football fan base so small that even Wake Forest is not embarrassed in comparison), expand for football by adding WVU and Pitt, or attempt another hybrid expansion by adding all four and thus diluting what it adds in football.

One thing is certain: the ACC can never have anything approximating control of the northeast, the region with easily the smallest number of college football fans. To have that requires having Notre Dame and Penn State. So if the ACC is wise, it will grin at the Pac’s fortunate geography and have the sense to avoid attempting to emulate it along the Atlantic coast from Wilmington, NC up to Boston.

Instead, it will look inland, to the American heartland where king football is truly king.

Jacob Shoor – Jacob Shoor a Tennessee native and UNC graduate who is now semi-retired and living back in Tennessee after having lived since his UNC days in SWC country and Big 8 country, as well as both SC and NC. Other than ACC sports and SEC football, Jacob Shoor is a fan of the Tour de France, the French Open, and hurling (Ireland’s biggest team sport).

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