Wednesday, June 16, 2010

University of Texas Drives The Bus

MY NOTE: Yesterday was a business travel day, so posting was tough. If you missed me, thanks. If you didn’t, oh well…
There’s a popular story, a riddle more or less, that goes like this: You’re driving a bus. It starts out empty. After two blocks, it stops and picks up 17 people. Two blocks later, six people get off and 12 get on. A mile down the road, 13 get off and seven get on. And, at its last stop, everyone gets off and no one gets on. Question: What is the age of the bus driver?

At this point, let’s change that question, thank you, to:
What is the name of the bus driver?
The answer is obvious: the University of Texas.

And, that’s what happened in the rush to shuffle the intercollegiate conference line-up. The Big Ten talked about expanding, making overtures to several schools including Texas which dismissed that notion long ago: Not enough power and money. Then Nebraska, which has never been comfortable in the same league with Texas, at least in name, because Texas, with power and money demands, made itself the bus driver there, found the opening and decided the Big Ten was a better fit than the Big 12 and an easy excuse to rid itself of the Longhorns and jumped.

Then the Pac-10 came a calling, trying to rush to 16 teams and made eyes with six Big 12 players, wanting Texas, with its powerful draw for money, to lead five others to the west coast. Colorado, desired by the Pac-10 but in a possible squeeze play by Texas politics, took an early Pac-10 offer and a quick Big 12 exit, leaving the latter with just 10 schools, a very nice number when it comes to conference size.

The bus driver at this point was still Texas because Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M (which actually was looking east to the Southeastern Conference) weren’t going anywhere without the bus driver. By the way, wasn’t Jackie Gleason a bus driver in the Honeymooners sketch? Hey, maybe Mack Brown can play the Jackie Gleason role when he decides to step down as football coach. Think about it.

Anyway, when Texas, wanting more power and money, walked into the room the other day, when the Big 12 got together—in person or in conference call—Texas was the driver. And, the Longhorns were given a big new bus with bells and whistles that, at this point, are not hard to fathom because it’s the only type of bus Texas would ever have. They get more money; they get their own TV network and get to keep all that money; Texas gets more power; they do not have to play in a conference championship game once the Huskers and the Buffs depart.

For me, that last item is the best. Indications are that the Big 12 will not replace Colorado and Nebraska and stick with just 10 members. With that, each league team will play nine conference football games and 18 conference basketball games. And, with that, a true conference football champion will be crowned and a true regular season basketball winner will result. With 12 teams, as most Atlantic Coast Conference fans have discovered the last few years, is cumbersome and does not conclude with anything that resembles truth in advertising, or whatever I’m trying to say here. You decide.

This situation may just spread nationwide, depending on the strength of the conference and willingness to keep down the greedy. The Big Ten, when setting up its own conference network, preempted the members from going the TV network road, working a deal to bring in megabucks and increasing member revenue and exposure. (Imagine this: the Big Ten Network is on my cable package, in North Carolina, though I rarely watch. But, maybe I’m paying for it. I just don’t know.)

In the ACC, there are certain drivers which bring in high dollars when negotiating television packages. In basketball, Duke and North Carolina are those players. In football, they remain Florida State and Miami, though North Carolina has a huge national appeal as a school. When TV schedules are announced, those teams usually dominate the prime spots. By the way, many years ago, there was discussion of UNC developing its own TV network for basketball.

The current round of conference re-alignment seems at an early end except the Pac-10 probably will add a 12th member to coincide with Colorado’s shift. It’s doubtful without a bunch of big names that the left coast league will push to 16 colleges and universities. The ACC and the SEC seem to be set. The Big Ten now gets its conference football championship, if it wants it, but that’s still up in the air. It may not need it but it’ll be interesting to see how that league’s football and basketball scheduling works out. The Big East? Who cares? The other conferences? Same answer.

Playing the expansion guessing game was interesting and fun. All along, most everyone knew that the name of the bus driver was Texas. And, that's not all bad. If you didn't know, I'm a New York Yankees fan and I believe that the rich should get richer. just thinking, but has anyone ever accused the Yankees of buying a second place team?

Anway, back to the original questions about the age of the bus driver: From my perspective 58. You figure it out.
-Winner of the US Open: Phil Mickelson (easy choice).
-US Open non-cut-maker: Tiger Woods (easy to say).
-Winner, NC Democratic Primary, US Senate: Elaine Marshall.
-Most watched political video, either by desire or through broadcast commercials from now through the fall elections:

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