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ACC’s New Deal With ESPN Causes A Major Big 12 Reaction

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For the second time, ACC moves cause shock waves across the NCAA

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Big 12 logo Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that the ACC has reached an agreement with ESPN on a conference network (even though it’s not yet officially announced) has already caused a significant reaction from the Big 12, which pretty much immediately reversed course and will now pursue expansion.

NewsOK sums this new mood up nicely:

“While the Big 12 presidents met across town in Las Colinas, West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen sat at a table mid-afternoon Tuesday in the downtown Omni Hotel and talked about the big college football news from the day before.

“The ACC was establishing a conference network, had secured grant-of-rights from its members through 2034 and had dibs on Notre Dame, should the Fighting Irish ever decide to leave football independence.

“‘Another poke in the side,’ Holgorsen said. ‘I think we probably need to get the network thing figured out. Need to get expansion figured out. I think you need to do it.’”

The Big 12 is apparently not amused at the idea that the ACC scored first and wants to increase revenue pronto.

Call it keeping up with the Delaneys.

The Big 12 has some real problems now though.

Not too long ago, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher was pretty openly pushing FSU to join the Big 12. That’s over now. The major prospects are already aligned so the Big 12 is looking at raiding AAC schools - Cincinnati is on the list as are UConn, Central Florida, Houston, BYU and less hopefully, South Florida, Tulane, Boise State and Colorado State.

The Big 12 can up revenue quickly simply by adding teams - ESPN is obliged to scale up payments if that happens.

However, the conference still has to consider TV markets and geography. UConn makes sense for TV, but the distance between Storrs and WVU is about 550 miles and West Virginia was a stretch geographically anyway.

From UConn to Norman is 1,604 miles. From UConn to Austin is 1,881 miles.

No big deal for football and basketball but for volleyball? Crew? Softball? You can’t do that in a bus and flying non-revenue teams that far is going to be an issue.

Boise State at least is a good football program but it’s in Boise and Boise checks in at #112 in the TV markets, between Springfield-Holyoke and Sioux Falls. BYU is a reasonable get football wise but we’re not sure about that market either. It’s not listed in the Top 200. However, like Notre Dame and Catholics, BYU has a wide audience among Mormons.

Cincinnati is #34 and Memphis is #48.

It’s going to be hard to get good football - which is what drives it - and big TV markets.

And while we’re not consultants, if it were us, we’d go in a slightly different direction.

Take Cincinnati if you must. It opens a new market. And maybe Memphis. It opens a different market than say Houston would.

But then look West - New Mexico is a school with a ferocious fan base. They’d get up to speed.

And for #4 (The Big 12 is considering adding four)?

Look, if you accept that you can’t get both passionate football and a big media market, then go for football. And if you can toss in an instantly marketable rivalry, why not?

Kentucky basketball fans are seen as among the most fanatical fans in college sports and fair enough, they are.

But there are other schools with that sort of intensity and for us, pound for pound, there are no better football fans in college than you see at Marshall games.

Marshall is basically a mini-Kentucky, only for football fans.

The Big 12 would get a great football school which would be thrilled to ramp up to a power conference. They’d also get an instant rivalry with West Virginia that would be as intense as any in college.

It wouldn’t be the conventional choice, but down the road, gambling on Marshall could pay off. We’d much rather see them play than Cincinnati or Memphis.

For that matter, Marshall and BYU would even be a game worth watching.