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Realignment, ESPN and behind-the-scenes intrigue


Mike Miller

Like we’ve said over and over again, expansionocalypse is far from over.

For those that have been out of the loop over the Columbus Day weekend, here’s a quick recap: TCU is expected to officially join the Big 12 today after receiving an offer from the league late last week; Missouri, who has been flirting with everyone from the Big 10 to the SEC over the last year, is trying to decide whether or not they will stay in the Big 12 and, more importantly, whether or not they actually have an offer from the SEC; and in an effort to try and shore up their league on the football front, the Big East is considering providing offers to Temple and Central Florida as well as Navy, Air Force and Boise State for football only.

Boise State and Air Force in the Big East? So now, not only does the Big 10 have 12 teams and the Big 12 have 10 until Missouri leaves (and who can forget about the 14 team Atlantic 10), but the Big East now has teams that are farther west that current members of the Pac-12 and the West Coast Conference. Because that makes sense.

But the most talked about information to come out this weekend came from this article in the Boston Globe. For folks that live in the Northeast -- particularly folks like me, who spent the weekend in the state of Connecticut -- the big news from that story was Gene DeFilippo, the athletic director at Boston College, freely admitting that he and his school had been the driving force in the ACC adding Pitt and not UConn, whom the league originally wanted.

“We didn’t want them in,” DeFilippo told the Globe. “It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.”

Perhaps more interesting, however, was a different quote DeFilippo gave Mark Blaudschun where he all-but confirms what realignment conspiracy theorists have been stating all along.

“We always keep our television partners close to us,” DeFilippo said. “You don’t get extra money for basketball. It’s 85 percent football money. TV - ESPN - is the one who told us what to do. This was football; it had nothing to do with basketball.”

Why did this take people by surprise? Look, we’ve known all along that the juggling of conference alliances has been about nothing more than the money that can be generated by football and their TV contracts. Last summer, the ACC negotiated a deal with ESPN to televise their games that was worth $1.86 billion over 12 years, or $155 million annually which, more or less, comes to about $13 million for each school. With Pitt and Syracuse joining the league, the ACC will be able to renegotiate with ESPN for a bigger deal. And you’re surprised that folks at the ACC had some communication with ESPN over who would be the most valuable addition?

This entire process is about money. The ACC did their due diligence in finding out from the folks that they have a television contract with which additions would make their (the ACC’s) product the most valuable. And, for the record, you’re naive if you believe this is the first time that ESPN has pulled some strings and influenced a change in the conference landscape.

That’s why it seems so hypocritical when the folks at ESPN criticize schools for switching conferences. The company that signs their year-end bonus checks is the one that is playing the role of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

Yeesh. Is anyone else sick of this yet? I’m going back to sleep. Wake me up when its over.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.