Friday, July 27, 2007

Round #138 of Big Ten talk...

I was going to post this as a "Mizzou Links" item, but I think it grew out of that and into its own post. With the latest "Big Ten looking for a 12th team" talk, Mike Dearmond talked to Mike Alden about if Mizzou had been contacted. Here's a blurb from the article:

“We have eight states,” [Big Ten Commissioner Jim] Delany told the Des Moines Register Wednesday. “With expansion, you could have nine.”

Syracuse or Rutgers — seen as a scheduling partner with Penn State — would seem to fit that bill and are already the subject of strong speculation.

Nebraska has also been considered, in the not-so-recent past, as a possible target of the Big Ten.

Notre Dame, wooed unsuccessfully by the Big Ten in 1999, would not qualify as bringing another state with Indiana and Purdue already in the Big Ten. But Notre Dame’s national following certainly makes the Irish attractive.

Alden said any talk of Missouri and the Big Ten probably would come at the level of the system’s Board of Curators — if it comes at all.
I would have to imagine that if the Big Ten really did put out some feelers, they'd have to contact Syracuse, Missouri, maybe Nebraska, maybe Rutgers, and probably Notre Dame and Pitt even though they wouldn't add an extra state. With recent discussions of inequality in the Big 12, you have to think Missouri would at least listen. Would it go any further than listening and pondering? I'd put the chances at about 40%. There's an academic draw to the Big Ten, and let's face it, there might be better chance of both money and athletic success there for Mizzou.

Predictably, this has also been the source of discussion on Big Ten message boards. A buddy of mine from Michigan State sent along this thread from Spartan Tailgate. I only bring it up because it's interesting to read the level of skepticism about Jim Delany. It appears that quite a few Big Ten people aren't totally sold on the Big Ten Network idea, nor are they sold on Delany. Delany's a polarizing figure, but from an outsider's perspective, I sure wouldn't mind my conference having what he's brought to the table. But it's worth looking into the reasons for skepticism, especially if Mizzou fans are going to be re-running the "Big Ten?" debate over the next few months (or years). MGOBLOG had this to say about some Delany statements last month:
A couple emailers have passed this along but they didn't need to, since the Big Ten actually sent me this email they blasted out to apparently everyone from actual newspapers to two-bit bloggers:



“Comcast recently has characterized events that will be on the Big Ten Network as ‘second and third tier.’ I believe Comcast owes every Big Ten university an apology. The comments are an insult to Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin: To the universities, their students, their fans and alumni and their communities. There are no second-rate contests in the Big Ten.”
I... what do you do with that? Comcast has a tough-talking guy who correctly characterizes most of the sports on the Big Ten network as uncompelling, so the Big Ten throws a public hissyfit and demands an apology? Is Jim Delaney a fifteen-year-old girl? Is he having a super sweet sixteen party later?
Delany is a bit, shall we say, reactionary? Sensitive? Crazy? Here's more from The Hoosier Report:
Unfortunately, this is just the latest public statement by the commish that casts doubt on his fitness to lead a major conference. Let's not forget, just months ago, this ridiculous broadside against the SEC, including:
I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. Each school, as well as each conference, simply must do what fits their mission regardless of what a recruiting service recommends. I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process. Not every athlete fits athletically, academically or socially at every university. Fortunately, we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so that we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards.
First, it's idiotic for a conference commissioner to issue any sort of statement, snippy or otherwise, to serve as a self-described response to "recruiting services and talking heads." Second, why impugn an entire conference? No one will soon confuse the SEC with the Patriot League, but our fine league, which I think is great, has had its share of black eyes in the last decade. The scandals involving the Michigan and Minnesota basketball programs were among the most breathtaking in the history of the sport. The disclosures about the class loads of Andy Katzenmoyer and Greg Oden make one wonder whether the typical Buckeye is getting anything approximating a college education. To be fair and balanced, one could note that one of the few Big Ten programs that has never been found guilty of an NCAA "major violation" hired a coach with a less-than-pristine compliance record. What an odd decision by Delany. And again, this wasn't an off-the-cuff temper tantrum in front of a live mike; this is a letter that remains on the Big Ten's website months later.
So yes...a move to the Big Ten would be accompanied by having to put up with a crazy commissioner's monthly rants and generally insane statements, and it would insert Mizzou into a conference whose schools, from time to time, go to even more unethical lengths to win than Big 12 schools. But would this be a deal breaker? In the end, I doubt it. Let's remind ourselves that our commissioner just quit to take a job with the Big a planning and development guy for their TV network. VP of P&D for the Big Ten Network was seen as a better opportunity than Big 12 Commissioner? Not necessarily--both Weiberg and the conference are obviously taking huge risks here, especially since details for this coming season's coverage are still up in the air--but the perception of the move still does not reflect well on the Big 12.

I've expressed my opinion on this issue before--I won't cry if we leave, I won't cry if we stay...I know, I'm quite the polarizing figure--but I think two things have become obvious heading into the 2007-08 sports year: 1) the days of "Mizzou would never ever leave the Big 12" are gone--we might not leave, but if asked, there's no doubting that we would seriously consider it; and 2) the hiring of the new Big 12 Commissioner is absolutely huge. Never mind Mizzou--the Big Ten might go after Nebraska too. The Big 12 cannot let this happen. To make sure that it doesn't, they need the new commissioner to step in and almost immediately a) quell some of the anxiety, and b) get this conference back to living up to the potential it's shown for quite a while.

How's the Commish search going? Well, last week the conference hired a consultant, Parker Executive Search, to help...which doesn't lead you to believe a decision is forthcoming in the next week or two. Naturally, the interim commissioner, Dan Beebe, would love to get 'interim' removed from his title, but I'd say it's smart of the conference to perform a wide-reaching search first. Other names being thrown around? Our old friend, Joe Ca$h, for one, but he just got a nice raise. Beebe, for another. Conference USA commish Britton Banowsky, too, not to mention Mountain West head Craig Thompson. Beyond that, who knows. I'm sure there are about 26 other candidates that nobody's mentioned. Personally, I've always taken a liking to Joe Ca$h (for no real reason)--I think he has the right personality for this type of job, and I wouldn't mind the conference taking another run at him (even though it would mean an insane amount of money and power). I have no idea what to think about the other candidates. CUSA just lost half its teams to the Big East, so I'm not exactly sold on Banowsky; meanwhile, my perception of the Mountain West is that it's allowed the WAC to make up ground in the last few years. But that doesn't mean either of them wouldn't do a good job. Guess that means I'm putting my faith in Parker Executive Search, huh?

I used to get so damn sick of the "Big Ten?" debate when it came up once a month on Tigerboard--it wasn't on the slate, so it was a pointless, I grew up in Big 8 Country and had no interest in moving away from the rivalries I knew and loved--but I'm much more open to discussing the idea at this point. I'm not worried about the long-term future of Mizzou Athletics, but if we would be better served by switching conferences (and starting an utterly massive domino chain that would be fun to watch), it's an idea that should be taken seriously.

Of course, the Big Ten might just invite Syracuse and quickly end all discussion. Who knows?