Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Will Aggies Bolt the Bully of the Big XII?

Aggies thumbin' a ride
to the SEC?
Yep, I heard yesterday's rumors of Texas A&M's impending (and any second, day, week, or month now) announcement that they will be joining the SEC, and it got me thinking about what a mess can become of bad management.

I have recently started my own business, and once you get past the excitement and enthusiasm of how you're going 'to do great things', you actually have to think - how am I going to manage this thing? What would be the smart thing to do? Fortunately for me, my father is probably the smartest person I know. Not in like a 'he's my dad' kind of way - he's actually the smartest person I know. The guy thinks of everything: every angle, possible outcome, you name it.

So I spent some time with him talking about the business structure. And a portion of what he said came back to me as I thought about what was happening with the Big XII.

He said, "Once you get going, never let one client become more than 20% of your business. Because if you do, you become beholden to that one client." And it makes sense, because if you lose that one client, your business will be able to maintain and recover.

Don't let this man near
your secretary.
You've seen it before. Mad Men, Season Four: Campbell's had to let Clearasil go because of a client conflict, and the boys are trying to figure out a way to foul up a competing agency (the fake Honda commercial episode). As they review the accounts, it is revealed that Lucky Strike is something like 71% of their billing.

Without Lucky Strike, Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price is either kaput or in a really bad spot. And all it would take is Roger Sterling sleeping with a Lucky Strike executive's wife to do it. (I'm only through the first few episodes of Season 4. But, when I did a quick Google to check my stuff here, it seems that this could be some foreshadowing...)

As for a relationship Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price needs Lucky Strike more than Lucky Strike need them. Not good for SCDP.

But this is what's happened with the Big XII. The conference members and conference office has allowed (yes, allowed) the University of Texas to run roughshod over everyone. And it's not necessarily just on the field - Oklahoma has continued to be a top team since Stoops has been there (finished Top 11 in 9 of 12 seasons). The Big XII North... not, not so consistently good. It has been a bit of a two-team league for the recent years.

But here's how the networks see the Oklahoma/Texas relationship...
The State of Oklahoma, 3.7 million people
The State of Texas, 25.1 million people

And that's oodles of TV money that the Big XII conference wants. And they need Texas to get it.

Problem is, Texas has seen the Census figures, too.

And it all led to a disproportionate revenue sharing system in the Big XII. Favoring Texas, of course.

But you know all this stuff. Tom Osbourne knew it, too.

Tom Osbourne.
Madder than hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.
Tom Osbourne, who put together twenty-five years of greatness in the Big 8 and Big XII for Nebraska was smart to get out. Never one to be comfortable playing second fiddle, as Nebraska's Athletic Director since October 2007, was not comfortable with the direction of the Big XII and its catering to the wishes of Texas. And he got out.

To further score how much the Big XII/Texas love probably crawled under Osbourne's skin, here is a brief list of Osbourne's accomplishments at Nebraska:

Never won less than 9 games.
Finished in AP Top 15 in 24 of 25 seasons!
Did not lose a conference game in last 5 years as head coach.

Like any great leader, Tom Osbourne knows that you don't give bullies an inch. Because once they seize power, they hold it over you, and they'll be wanting more and more. It's either their way or no way.

Tom Osbourne can spot a bully. And he decided he didn't want to deal with the bully and enablers (Big XII conference) anymore. Now with the Big Ten Network revenue sharing and what's left in their rear-view mirror, Nebraska made out pretty.

Now the Big XII is a mess, as Texas continues with the push of their (and ESPN's) Longhorn Network which will further put other Big XII schools at a disadvantage. Talking heads from all over are commenting on the likelihood of Texas going independent and the soon-to-happen disappearance of the Big XII.

All because the Big XII's leadership and other member institutions allowed it to happen long ago. Upon the formation of the Big XII and the revenue distribution formula developed (which roughly split half the money evenly, and gave the other half to the teams that appeared on TV more often, i.e., Texas and Oklahoma), schools like Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and others openly acknowledged that they are and will forever be a lesser player to Texas.

Now, the schools with any relevance at all will (or at least, should) clammer to get out of town. Because who wants to hang around and let another school - their competitor - dictate to them how things are going to be?

Right now, Texas is more than 20% of what the Big XII is today.

And that's not smart business.

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