Ask the Monkey – The Offseason, e.g. Expansion Season

The Offseason, e.g. Expansion Season


ask monkey hd


I’d like to thank the friendly neighborhood norovirus for taking me out the past week and, with that, clogging up my inbox.   Instead of responding directly I’m going to funnel many of the topics into broader categories.

Q: Per the article on about Verizon’s new packages, do you think this signals a threat to ESPN?

The Fanatic is a lot more offensively optimistic on the demise of the cable system than I am, though this is definitely a wound that will radiate throughout the industry.  First things first, the cable companies as you know them are not going anywhere.   They own the most important aspect in the puzzle, something we, in the business, like to call the “last 100 feet”.   Anyone can blow fiber optic cable down abandoned gas lines, matter a fact we shot so much of it under the U.S. during the dot com boom that its primary purpose now is holding up all the dirt around you.  What really matters is who controls the access from those pipes into the house, e.g. the last 100 feet.   It has always been about that.   At first phone companies thought they had the upper hand with twisted pair cables, but DSL was easily supplanted with the coaxial data pipe the cable providers ran into most homes.   That is the part that is unlikely to change without a massive technological revolution.

Within that industry who own the “last 100 feet”, Verizon is nowhere near the largest player.   While it is large, it is fifth on the list of total subscribers, having about 6 million.  Comcast and AT&T/DirecTV have about 50 million between them.   After that there are literally hundreds of providers dotting the landscape.   The big five companies basically battle for 9% of the land in the US where the bulk of the people live, providing satellite service to those who may live outside the densely populated metros.   If Comcast and AT&T make changes to their agreement with ESPN when the current contracts expire, then we’ll start to see a major shakeup on how we view live sports.

However, at the end of the day, ESPN is a large content provider and will find a way to display said content to the largest audience possible.  It could very well be that it causes ESPN to become the Netflix of Sports, but there is too much content at stake to think that ESPN is withering on the vine, even if they have made a great mistake of over extending themselves on content purchases.  Heads will roll, some contracts won’t be extended or won’t be bid on, and life will continue.  Because while the cable providers may be taking heat for how much ESPN is charging, they also make quite a bit of money off the sports channels as well.

Q: In your article on expansion you indicated informal talks were going on with Arkansas and you mentioned Kentucky?   Are you [redacted] stupid or something?!

Honestly, determining if I’m stupid depends on who you ask.   But you seemed to miss the wording in the article. (see here) What I mentioned was that there were informal talks, I was in no way stating that someone was ready to move or even wanting to move.  Remember, there are a lot of people of influence who move within the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas who see more similarities than division.  That being said, the Big 12 and Arkansas have had a lot of conversations over the years.  They are informal and always just gauging the situation.  Presenting my saying “informal talks” as “that a school is ready for a move” is a leap that you inferred, not that I implied.

Q: Are the proverbial lions, er Bears, at the gate outside Baylor with how these rapes were handled?

Yes the hammer is about to come down.   As much as Baylor enjoys winning football, the greater organization sees these acts, not only the horrible sexual assaults and rapes that occurred, but also the attempts to diminish them, as a stain upon the university’s moral honor.    President Starr, much like Wolfe at Missouri, will likely be the first head to roll and it will likely occur before the Fiscal Year is up.  Athletic Director Ian McCaw may survive the heat only because of the success he’s built across multiple sports over the past decade.  However, with Starr out, McCaw will likely be left to the whim of the new regime, which is unlikely to keep an administrative link to the past.     The only link that will surely survive will be Briles, who is not going anywhere.   The powers that be still do like winning and view this as an administrative failure, not a football failure, for what that’s worth.   Going forward he will have to operate within a system that requires a much higher bar in regards to the social performance of his athletes, however.

Q: Why all the backtracking by the Big 12 Brass on Expansion

This one is far simpler than you may imagine.  The first thing you need to do is think about expansion differently.   University presidents are not spending their time reading all the articles or trolling all the fan boards that talk about expansion non-stop, like it is a game of Risk.  There is a strong contingent who wants to expand, but don’t believe for a moment that they are willing to expand with anyone.

The reason it is cooling a bit is because the group pushing expansion want to grow with big brands.   These are teams in other Power Five leagues, not raiding the AAC just to get to twelve.   The overall goal is to consolidate money, not spread it out to more people.   The message returning back to those pushing the expansion agenda is the brands they are after are either not available now or won’t be available for multiple years.

The Big 12 doesn’t want USF or UCF, at all, they want someone like Florida State.  They don’t want Memphis, they want someone like Arkansas or LSU.  They don’t want Cincinnati, they want someone like Kentucky.

To this you’d probably reply the same thing I’ll say; “Um, but none of those teams are going to leave their current situation”.   I agree.   However, that doesn’t change the thinking nor the approach.  If the Big 12 ever wants to go big, they can’t start by going small.   The perceived monetary difference won’t be as large as advertised if they do nothing, but if they want to keep pace with the Big Ten and SEC they need established brands, not projects.   Members #11 and #12 are far more important than possible members #13 and #14.   Look at the Big Ten, they added Penn State and Nebraska, then they added Maryland and Rutgers, not the other way around.  Additionally, there is smoke on the horizon showing that it may be advantageous for some 14 member conferences to go back to twelve.  If so, that may present a “kill two birds with one stone” opportunity.

I also caution you against thinking everything is wine and roses at every other conference, but the Big 12.  The money is a win for the SEC, but I’m told the largest argument to date within the conference is about exposure and how the current contract, namely the SEC Network, doesn’t provide it evenly, especially not for the inventory required.  That’s fine for a school like Missouri, it is not fine for a school like LSU, who is already fuming about scheduling.    When you feel like you’re bringing more to the table than you’re receiving, cracks start to develop.

Now, to be clear so I limit the hateful comments/messages, I am not saying LSU is on the table nor that they are moving or anything related to realignment.   What I’m pointing out is that a school like LSU will make whatever it makes now, wherever it plans to go.  Due to that, money is not always the issue.   Matter a fact, it is rarely the issue.  Something else always drives the train that you justify with money and, for some schools, the money moves with them.

Additionally, the stability in the ACC was brokered with assurances of a network.   However, the chances of that looking like what the football schools imagined it to be are very slim.  Either the ACC brass will need to position it perfectly or by the time the Big Ten and Big 12 are looking for new media deals, the unhappy schools in the ACC will have plenty of suitors and a much shorter window on their grant of rights to worry about.

More will be clear once BHV presents next week, but when all the noise is ending on the Big 12 expansion talk, it isn’t because of cold feet.   It is because who you think is available and who they want to target is not the same list.

Q: Honestly, the “Number Monkey”?   Why hide behind a moniker, loser?

You’re all so hurtful.   The moniker was created because I am literally paid in bananas.   And, as awesome as that sounds, it doesn’t pay the bills like you’d imagine it may – so I kept my career in consulting.  I started writing because a lot of the reporting I’d read on media contracts was just wrong and a someone I knew who worked in the SEC offices shared some behind the scenes stories with me of how realignment went down in Birmingham, which also didn’t jive with commonly accepted stories at the time.  With that the Expansion Project was born It just so happened Big 12 Fanatics needed content, so we started talking.  To begin we had to either create a pen name, because this had to stay separate from my work, or a moniker.  A “number monkey” refers to someone who is forced to slave over the numbers to ensure everything makes sense.  That seemed fitting.  Once we found out @theNumberMonkey was available on Twitter, well, the rest was history.  Hope that helps.

Q: Big 12/SEC basketball pairings for 2017 were announced, any thoughts?

As much as I like seeing Kansas go to Kentucky and vice versa, I’m not a fan of back to back match ups.   Now, I could get behind the idea if, and only if, they pitch the challenge as a seeded match up.   That is someone does a quick guess on how each conference should rank from top to bottom next year and one plays one, two plays two, etc.  And, looking at the list that could very well be how they do this, but it’s hard to tell because the SEC is just so gawdawful at basketball.

Outside the obvious, A&M at West Virginia and Florida at Oklahoma seem to be the two other featured games that day and both should be great story lines.  After that the next tier is Texas at Georgia and Iowa State at Vandy.  Arkansas at Oklahoma State also may present an interesting match up since new Cowboys coach Brad Underwood knocked West Virginia out of the NCAA tournament last year coaching Stephen F. Austin.

All in all, having it later in the year does build the buzz a bit, but my guess is we’ll see a 6-4 split this year to make the all-time record 26-14 in favor of the Big 12.

Q: Big 12 Baseball Tourney, who ya got?

The top four seeds (Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia) have a lot more talent than the rest of the field so I’m not anticipating someone taking it from outside that bunch.  However, you never know if someone’s arm is going to go south or the bats stop when they shouldn’t, so I’d not be surprised if at least one of them drops.   Currently I think the championship game will be #3 TCU vs #1 Texas Tech with Tech taking home the hardware.

Q: Any thoughts on how Big 12 football will shake out this Fall?

Well, we learned last year injuries change everything, right Baylor?   So without doing a deep dive into the line ups, here’s my way to early prediction of order of finish.  Look for more in August:

1 – Baylor

2 – Oklahoma

3 – Texas

4 – Oklahoma State

5 – TCU

6 – West Virginia

7 – Texas Tech

8 – Iowa State

9 – Kansas State

10 – Kansas

Q: When laying out your rankings for Financial Health, can you explain how you attributed the points?  Is it biased towards the Big 12?

No, not biased.   Matter a fact, when entering all the data I don’t even look at who falls where until I begin the write the articles.   Sometimes the Big 12 looks bad and sometimes they look good, but I wasn’t asked to write for this website to sugar coat everything.   I was asked to be upfront about what I was seeing; good or bad.   And, in short, the Big 12 resides in a positive, yet strange position.   The Big Ten and SEC are pretty close to each other on top and the ACC and Pac 12 are pretty close to each other at the bottom of the Power Five, regardless of the reasoning.  The Big 12 falls between these two groups in nearly every category, stronger than the averages of the ACC and Pac 12 and below the averages of the Big Ten and SEC.   However, they are closer to the Big Ten/SEC averages than they are the ACC/Pac 12.   To move up they either need bigger brands or they need the schools within the conference to grow.   There is no reason that schools like Kansas, Oklahoma State or Texas Tech couldn’t increase their presence to match the likes of Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa, they just need to invest correctly or, in Kansas’ case, have some football fans show up.   If they did, then the numbers would change drastically.

As for the financial health rankings, which were wrapped up here, but covered three articles, after the data was collected some of the areas are ranked scoring (meaning where you fall on the list of FBS schools provided your score),  so each school was different, and some was threshold scoring (meaning if you breached a threshold you received a specific score), so many schools may have shared the same score.   For instance, due to the large differences in Profit After Subsidy, the scoring was too crazy if it was ranked from top to bottom.  Instead it is set up that if a school triggers a specific threshold, say negative ten million, then they get one score.   If they trigger another threshold, like positive ten million, they get another.  The thresholds were more defined than that, but hopefully that is a simple example.

For attendance it was basically ranked scoring per sport with men’s basketball and women’s basketball earning a fraction of what football earned.  For instance, if you ranked first in women’s basketball you earned about 10% of what you’d have earned if you ranked first in football.  I debated adding men’s baseball to the list, but when I looked at sports fielded throughout the FBS, the three I used were fielded by more universities than the rest.   This gave a broad base to compare across multiple sports, as opposed to having a lot of zeros in the data because someone doesn’t offer lacrosse or baseball.

Adding them all up blended the categories and scoring philosophies together.



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