Football

WILLIAMS: Answering some realignment FAQs about Iowa State, other conferences and more

With Texas and Oklahoma expected to formally announce their intentions to leave the Big 12 Conference on Monday, the next week is going to be quite insane when it comes to realignment news and rumors (a lot of these, folks, so please, do yourself a favor and not believe EVERYTHING you read on Twitter). 

Knowing that, I wanted to do the best that I can to get out in front of things and hash out a few topics that I’ve seen floating around on social media and the forum regarding Iowa State’s future. 

Some FAQs, and my best attempt to answer them: 

Regarding a potential invitation to the Big Ten for Iowa State. How realistic is it? Does the Big Ten need to expand and if so, what makes Iowa State a quality candidate?

In any previous era, no, the Big Ten would not NEED to expand just as a reaction to the SEC. But 10 years ago, conference realignment only occurred because of media contracts and money. 

Stressing this: I do not know that I am correct in the following assumption … But my gut told me the second I saw the Texas/Oklahoma/SEC news that this was about way more than media contracts. In the wake of all of the changes currently going on, namely the powerless feel of the NCAA, the SEC was up to something much larger and was wanting to begin to shape the future of college athletics. 

Again, I highly encourage readers to take most of what you read on Twitter regarding realignment very lightly. However when I saw the following piece on Friday night, “makes sense” is what came to my mind. 

An SEC, super-duper conference is what I have been suspecting all along. 

Back to the Big Ten …

Again, in a normal scenario, adding Iowa State and Kansas (just as examples) wouldn’t do much to move the needle in terms of media value to the league. Both institutions are nice athletic products with Iowa State’s growing and rabid fan base partnered up with Kansas’ blue blood basketball. But if this was simply about media markets (no longer a thing in the cord-cutting era), TCU would be the best property that the Big 12 refugees have to offer. 

If the Big Ten decides to expand, it’s because the league sees the need to somewhat keep up with the SEC as far as size and scope as we all venture into this new era of college athletics together. 

In this new world, it would be about being a large, viable entity on your own when the NCAA is essentially non-existent over the next decade.

Point is: These decisions now are about much more than “what School X adds in television revenue.”

Media contracts still matter but if I am right, these expansion decisions will be based on much more than that. 

What role will FOX play in all of this?

ESPN saved the Big 12 in 2010 by giving Texas its prized Longhorn Network. That’s why last week, I constantly pondered what ESPN’s motives were this time around. 

Due to contracts that will soon come into play, ESPN will profit more off of a juiced up SEC than it will lose by the demise of the Big 12. 

Whenever the devil on my left shoulder gets nervous about Iowa State’s future, I have the sweet angel on my right telling me this: “College football is a very popular product. It is only growing in popularity. Live media rights have never been worth more. Iowa State’s football program has never been more valuable and the fan base continues to sell out the stadium and grows by the year. Iowa State is a great piece for any league going forward.”

If this whole thing ends up with 60-70 programs playing big boy college football, Iowa State will have a seat at the table. If this thing ends up with the SEC starting its own damn division, Iowa State is in deep trouble but will not be alone.

I am curious where FOX (or any additional streaming partners) fit into the future of the sport. 

FOX has a heavy Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 presence on Saturdays during the fall. In not wanting to lose relevancy to the “world-wide leader,” will FOX get in the game and push for expansion for the Big Ten and Pac-12?

FOX has a lot at stake here, especially if the SEC starts raiding conferences other than the Big 12. 

The pros and cons of a new-look Pac-12

I think Iowa State would obviously rather be in the Big 10 as opposed to a new-look, expanded Pac-12 that would spread over three different time frames. 

But assuming the money is right, I don’t think this would be a terrible option for Iowa State. It would keep the Cyclones playing longtime Big Eight rivals and as long as the Pac is stable with a long-term Grant of Rights, there are way worse scenarios out there. 

I guess the con is recruiting territory for football. The current staff is killing it in the upper Midwest. I guess this really wouldn’t change much as to where Iowa State will be playing games in the future. 

Honestly, football recruiting is pretty much a national deal these days anyhow. I am probably overthinking the geography aspect of this.

Admittedly, I still need more time to wrap my mind around this one. 

How long is all of this going to take?

My father-in-law asked me this after church today and I really didn’t know how to answer it. 

Two things …

1 — These types of deals usually take forever to work out. 

2 — There is nothing normal about this current situation. Uncertainty is terrible for the sport as a whole and as we have seen the last few days, this is quickly going from being a Big 12 problem to a sport-wide issue. 

My sense is that the power brokers of college athletics will want to move as quickly as possible.

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