In a perfect world all FBS college football programs would be treated equally by content providers like ESPN and Fox Sports. Currently college football is financially divided into the Power 5 have's, and the Group of 5 have not's. Until recently cable companies had a stranglehold on sports content, but now other options are coming online. Companies like Sling TV, Amazon, Twitter, beIN Sports, and Netflix are looking to expand into sports programming in a big way. Right now ESPN is the big dog calling all the shots. But the times they are a changing.
Conference USA was the first to diversify setting up deals with smaller content providers like the American Sports Network, and beIn Sports. True this was a deal made of necessity when Fox Sports pulled out of C-USA, and they have taken a financial haircut, but they have also increase their exposure. Now C-USA will not only have many more football games available to its fans, but will also have more basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, and softball available. This is a good first step for C-USA, but it still keeps them beholden to cable content providers. A C-USA fan must still purchase a sports package through their cable company to receive this content. Many C-USA fans want C-USA content only.
The next logical step for all Group of 5 conferences is to cut the cable, and go with online streaming packages. Conferences could set up exclusive package deals with Amazon to stream all their content completely bypassing cable companies. No more purchasing content fans don't want just to get the content they do want. No more standing at ESPN's front door hat in hand waiting for equal treatment. ESPN has the Power 5 programs they want already, and obviously have no interest in the Group of 5 beyond filling up their bowl game schedule. In fact rumor has it that they are actively discouraging the BIg 12 on expansion. Which brings us to G5 conference realignment.
Currently there are plenty of G5 programs worthy of Power 5 inclusion. These programs have rabid fans and are located in some of the largest sports markets nationwide. The Big 12 invited most of these schools to make presentations for inclusion in their conference. If the Big 12 believes they are worthy of Power 5 consideration then they are worthy enough to start their own Power 6 conference. In fact why not call it the Power 6 Conference. The AAC likes to consider itself a unofficial Power 5 conference, and they do have some Power 5 worthy programs, but so do the other G5 conferences. Unfortunately they are spread out among all the many different conferences. Here's the solution.
All the G5 programs that are P5 worthy, like those invited to make Big 12 presentations, but are being excluded from expansion, should start their own Power 6 conference. Yes they would have to buy their way out of their current conferences, but they would also be breaking free of the terrible contracts they currently live under. They would be free to negotiate new contracts with Amazon, Twitter, or Netflix to stream all their content, cutting the cable cord forever. Be assured that ESPN would step in quickly with a new contract offer if teams in large TV markets like Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane, UCF, Cincinatti, UConn, Ohio, Buffalo, SanDiego State, Army, Navy, and Air Force, start their own conference.
These are just 12 worthy teams, but their are enough worthy teams for a 16 or 18 team super conference. Even if ESPN steps in with a new offer they should be wary of sticking their necks in that noose once again. Streaming target specific online content is the wave of the future. Why not get in on the ground floor.
After the first four weeks of college football the access bowl picture is finally coming into focus. Currently there are eight Group of Five programs that remain unbeaten. Right now Houston is the clear favorite having beaten a top five ranked Oklahoma in game one. It would have helped their cause if Oklahoma would have stayed ranked, but they could return to the rankings during conference play. Beyond Oklahoma's fall from the rankings, Houston still has some high hurdles to clear before the access bowl prize is awarded. Lets take the current unbeaten AAC access bowl favorites one by one.
Houston - Houston has cleared its first hurdle beating Oklahoma, but they still have Louisville to contend with at home. Even before Louisville they have two matchups with currently unbeaten conference opponents Navy and Memphis on the road. Adding in two 2015 bowl teams, UConn and Tulsa, to the mix doesn't make things any easier. Tonight Houston will have a chance to avenge their only loss from last season against a offensively challenged but solid UConn defense. This is Houston's chance to make a big impression on the CFP committee before the poll comes out.
Memphis - So far Memphis has played a fairly light schedule beating a woeful Kansas (43-7), and demolishing Bowling Green (77-3). New head coach Mike Norvell has drastically improved offensive production, even without Paxton Lynch, but the biggest improvement has been on defense. Historically Memphis has had to win shootout games for lack of a serious defensive threat. This year Memphis has racked up 155 points and only given up 27. This week Memphis will face its biggest test against a Top 20 Ole Miss team on the road. Ole Miss will be out for blood after losing to Memphis on the road last season. Memphis has a good chance to upset Ole Miss, but win or lose they will still get a shot at Houston, probably for the AAC West title, the last game of the season. Memphis and Houston are currently the access bowl favorites.
Navy - This is not the Navy team of 2015. How could it be after losing the greatest quarterback in Navy history Keenan Reynolds. Keenan now holds the NCAA records for career touchdowns (88), and rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559). To say Keenan is irreplaceable is a massive understatement. Even still Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has found a way to eek out two conference wins after losing his starting quarterback to injury in game one. To remain unbeaten Navy will need to play their best game this week against another unbeaten and access bowl contender Air force. The following week brings Houston to Navy's home field for a possible battle of unbeaten's. Navy's road to the access bowl is strewn with depth charges like Memphis and Notre Dame, but don't count them out just yet. The triple option is a powerful explosive in its own right and should not be mistaken for a dud. If Navy can quickly jell around heir backup QB this carrier could navigate itself to the access bowl.
The AAC isn't the only conference with unbeaten access bowl contenders. The MAC has a solid Western Michigan team that has already beaten two Power 5's, and a high flying Toledo team that can light up a scoreboard. Toledo has a good chance to upset a shaky BYU team tonight on the road.
The MWC has three unbeaten programs including perennial giant killer Boise State who has already dispatch two PAC 12 opponents. Add in unbeaten San Diego State knocking off Cal, and a Air Force team already on top of the Mountain Division, and you have a recipe for MWC access bowl inclusion.
Enjoy the games!
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When deciding on expansion candidates the Big 12 will be looking at more than just a programs football record. They will be looking at the financial health of a university. A colleges endowment is not only a reflection of its finances, it directly relates to alumni, private donor, and corporate support of a university. The larger the endowment, the larger the community support. It also reflects how well university administrators have done as fund raisers, and stewards of private donations. Endowments indicate just how deep a university's pockets really are on a private level.
If the Big 12 is smart they will find programs that are similarly endowed as their current membership. If a program wants to move up to the Power 5 they should already have a Power 5 spreadsheet to display their excellence in fund raising as well as athletics. If a university has a great football program, but a terrible bottom line, it's the administrations fault if they don't make the grade. There are huge sums of money in the hands of private and corporate sports enthusiasts waiting on the sidelines for the right charitable opportunity. Winning coaches are doing their part to move up, now it's time for administrators and presidents to start winning on the field of finance.
A quick look at Group of 5 university endowments brings forth many surprises in comparison to the teams being considered for the Big 12. In the AAC top contender Houston has a respectable endowment of $716,000,000, but is nowhere near the 1.5 billion endowment of SMU, or the 1.2 billion endowments of Cincinnati and Tulane. If the Big 12 where to pick a Texas school based on endowment the biggest surprise is Rice coming in with a whooping 5.5 billion dollar endowment. The other most frequently mention teams for expansion don't even come close, UConn $436,900,000, South Florida 417,000,000, and UCF $155,500,000.
If the Big 12 where to base their choices on endowments alone here are the top ten picks.
Mountain West Conference - 1. Boise State $672,200,000 2. Wyoming $455,100,000 3. New Mexico $403,700,000.
Sun Belt Conference - 1. South Alabama, $497,000,000 2. Idaho $241,000,000 3. New Mexico State, $221,000,000.
Clearly the colleges in the best financial shape having billion dollar plus endowments are Rice, SMU, BYU, Tulane, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. These teams already fit the financial profile of a top Power 5 program. If the Big 12 was forward thinking they would take all six programs before the are gobbled up like candy in some future expansion by other P5's. This way the Big 12 won't get stuck with financial basket cases in the future. Big 12 food for thought.