Sports business experts chime in on Iowa State's future

Chris Williams

Publisher

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams

These are tumultuous times in the world of college athletics.

For the last two weeks, hundreds of questions have been asked regarding realignment and the future of the Big 12. Until now, we've gotten very few answers.

Recently, I reached out to Kristi Dosh of BusinessofCollegeSports.com for help. Dosh, a lawyer based out of Atlanta, is one of my favorite follows on Twitter regarding realignment and all other business related college sports stories.

Follow Kristi on Twitter HERE

I also called upon a managing editor of the popular college football website ChuckOliver.net and author of "College Football's Most Dangerous Blog," Chadd Scott.

Follow Chadd on Twitter HERE

I sent the pair these questions a little over a week ago. While reading their opinions regarding the future of Iowa State and the Big 12, realize that some things have changed since sending the two these questions.

Still, their insight regarding the topic is second-to-none.

CF: Iowa State has been a player in a major conference for over a century. At this point, the future is unknown and every scenario that a person can think of is hypothetical. But if indeed the future of college athletics is going to four 16-team conferences, do you feel like the Cyclones will be a part of one? If yes, which one and why?

CS:I'm not sold on four 16-team super conferences. Anyone willing to compete at the highest level (in terms of finances - which probably means being willing to fund up to cost of attendance for student athletes even if it means operating the athletic department at a huge deficit) is going to be given that opportunity either as an independent or possibly in a new conference that doesn't exist yet. If Iowa State is committed to playing BCS football, it will. It'll probably be in a new conference that's some sort of mixture of ex-Big 12 and ex-Big East schools. The idea that 64 is a magic number and as soon as it's met no one else is included - where does that come from? It's a media creation.

KD:I asked Arizona AD Greg Byrne about why the discussion focuses on 16-team conferences. Speaking in general, and not about any current or future plans of the Pac-12, he said he thinks it’s mostly about ease of scheduling. He also noted 16 is probably what it takes to get the full geographic footprint a conference might want if they’re committed to expanding.

I think Chadd’s right that 16 comes from the media. Four 16-team super conferences sets the stage for a four-team playoff system. Is it grounded in reality? I don’t think so. A playoff isn’t going to magically spring up simply because conference alignment changes.

None of this has really answered your question though. If the move was to four 16-team super conferences, no, I don’t think Iowa State makes it in. The driving force in conference realignment these days is media market, and I don’t think Des Moines makes the cut. Although there are plenty of schools in other conferences who shouldn’t be members by that standard, once you’re in, you’re in. They got in a long time ago when media market wasn’t the driving factor and will get to stay.

CF: A lot of Iowa State fans want the school to be proactive in these times. With the amount of leverage that a school like Iowa State has, is that even possible? If so, how? Or, do the Iowa State's of the world have to wait for the dominoes to fall?

CS:Never wait. I don’t care what you’re doing in life, whether it’s going to Homecoming or finding a job, don’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Iowa State doesn’t have the same sort of stature or power as a Texas, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a wallflower either. Talk to as many like-minded people inside and outside your conference as possible. Plan for every eventuality and don’t get caught flat-footed. When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

The landscape is shifting. Every team in every conference has to be on its toes about where it wants its future to be and how it wants to position itself.

KD:I haven’t read the book The Secret, but I know what it’s about, and I firmly believe in it: if you want something, put it out there in the world. When I wanted to be on the tv show SportsNite on Comcast Sports Southeast, I didn’t just sit by the phone hoping they’d call. They probably would have never found me. I sent an email, told them what I wanted and gave them my credentials. Two weeks later I was live on the air, and after a few months I had a regular weekly segment.

I see nothing wrong with Iowa State coming out and saying, “If the Big 12 collapses, we think we deserve to be a part of the Big East.” Put together a nice pitch and send it to the Big East offices or the school presidents who make up the Big East.

In my legal career, I’ve always heard that if you’re not taking your client to lunch, someone else is. The same applies here. If you’re not pitching yourself to the conference you want in, another school probably is. Case in point: SMU’s Athletic Director was all over the radio a couple of weeks ago making the case to take Texas A&M’s place in the Big 12. There aren’t unlimited seats at the table. This is musical chairs and you better be positioned to grab a chair when the music stops playing.

CF: Let’s say that the Pac-12 does indeed jump to 16 but other conferences do not follow immediately. Reports have linked teams like Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri (or some combination three of them) landing in the Big East. Would something like that make sense to you in the present day?

CS:It’s conceivable, but I see the SEC as a more appropriate and likely home for Missouri.

KD: I see Kansas landing in the Big Ten and Missouri in the SEC. I don’t think Notre Dame decides to affiliate with a conference, so the Big Ten will be scrambling to get members who make sense if they feel forced to expand (which I don’t think necessarily happens). If I absolutely had to create four 16-team super conferences, I’d put Kansas in the Big Ten. I think Iowa State and Kansas State could end up in the Big East if there’s no move to four 16-team super conferences, but otherwise they end up in a new conference that doesn’t exist yet with teams like Louisville, UCF, USF, Tulane, Houston, SMU, Rice, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis and Baylor.

CF: The future of the Big East’s television package is currently unknown. In a scenario that the Big East expands to let’s say, 12 (or more) football teams. Any estimation as to what each school could make in a future television deal?

CS:It’s not likely to be as much as Iowa State would get from the Big 12, but it should be enough to sustain the athletic department without having to operate at too great of a deficit. Enough to live off of, but not enough to get rich off of.

KD: Iowa State could stand to make more money than they’ve been making (not more money than they would be going forward in the Big 12, but more than what they’ve made in past years) by joining the Big East. Many believe the Big East will double their tv contract in the next year, which could mean more than $10 million for each of the current eight football schools. Of all the conferences, they’re in the best position in terms of being able to immediately profit off adding members. If they add members before they strike a new tv deal, there’s no reason to think they can’t get an even bigger contract than expected. Iowa State hasn’t been on the winning end of unequal revenue distribution in the Big 12. They received $8.9 million for the 2008-2009 school year, so there’s reason to believe they could see a rise in conference distribution (compared to past years) if they joined the Big East.

CF: Is there a chance that Oklahoma and Texas’ talk about going to the Pac-12 is a power play to force Notre Dame’s hand? At the end of the day, I assume that Texas nor Notre Dame want super conferences right?

CS: Notre Dame doesn’t care about super conferences, the Big 12, the Big Ten or anyone else. It is not influenced or pressured by any conference or school. It will do what it thinks is best irrespective of the landscape today or tomorrow.

KD:I think the BCS has a role that can’t be ignored. If the BCS is determined to keep the bowl system as is, regardless of conference realignment, then Notre Dame can safely stay independent. And I firmly believe they will choose to. They’re not independent because it’s financially advantageous; they’re independent because it is a part of their history and culture. However, if there is a shift in BCS structure and Notre Dame football finds itself at a disadvantage, I think they might seriously consider joining the Big Ten.

As far as Texas goes, I don’t think they’re ready to become an independent yet. I think the Longhorn Network gives them the ability to be independent, but I think they want to wait a few years. However, Oklahoma could force Texas’ hand if it moves to the Pac-12. Despite all the rumors of Texas also joining the Big 12, I see no reason for them to do so other than scheduling for sports other than football. They could be financially independent because of their large donor base and the new network, and they could attempt to join another conference for Olympic sports, probably the Big East. While that may be a downgrade for the other sports, it beats becoming an equal with schools like Washington State and current conference little brother Texas Tech.

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  • September 6, 2014
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