All That and a Bag of Mail

FILE – In this Monday, July 18, 2016 file photo, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees during Big 12 media day in Dallas. Bowlsby has referred to what the Big 12 is about to step into as it moves toward expansion as a seller’s market. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File) Tony Gutierrez AP

It’s Friday and if you missed it yesterday, Outkick is officially five years old. Here are my thoughts on Outkick being ready for kindergarten. Check it out if you’re curious about the site’s future or my ideas about online media. 

On to the mailbag:

A ton of you:

“What do you think the Big 12 does about expansion?”

I already wrote that I believe the Big 12 is basically auctioning off membership in the conference to the schools that will take the least amount of money.

But since I wrote this the governor of Texas and the president of the University of Texas have both seemingly endorsed Houston to the Big 12. So I think you have to make Houston the leader in the expansion clubhouse at this point. Sure, Texas, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech could defy the governor of the state and oppose Houston to the Big 12, but that seems like a risky move given how much state money the governor distributes to each school. 

Some may say that politicians getting involved in realignment is dumb, but I actually think it makes perfect sense for politicians to get involved with state institutions when it comes to realignment issues. Remember, Governor Ann Richards got Baylor into the Big 12 and Governor Rick Perry was instrumental in supporting Texas A&M to the SEC. Back in Virginia Governor Mark Warner helped ensure that Virginia Tech got into the ACC. So there’s a long precedent of politicians being connected to realignment.

When I tweeted out the comments from Texas leaders, several people immediately responded that it made no sense because the Big 12 didn’t need the Houston market, but, again, markets only make sense if you are expanding and have a conference network. The Big 12 has no conference network so you might as well take the best teams available.

 

With that in mind here’s my updated ranking of Big 12 conference expansion odds:

1. Houston

2. Cincinnati

3. Memphis

4. BYU

5. Central Florida

6. UConn 

7. Colorado State

8. South Florida

9. Tulane

10. Boise State

The biggest expansion question I have is this: does the Big 12 really have the ability to expand and add as many teams as it wants and continue to receive equal payout, or is it capped? If it’s not capped then why not go ahead and add ten teams — pocket an additional $250 million a year! — and set up two divisions that play round robin. Then you continue to play the entire existing Big 12 schedule, but these new ten teams would all play each other and the champions of each division would meet in the title game. 

I just keep thinking that there must be a cap on how many teams the Big 12 could add and keep making the same money, but maybe the Big 12 has found a huge contractual loophole and just wants to drive a semi truck through it. 

If, however, I’m ESPN or Fox and the Big 12, wouldn’t you want to lock in a new deal for additional years predicated on the conference expanding? This clearly makes sense for the Big 12 to do and it limits the downside for Fox and ESPN. Otherwise you’re talking about discussions of the Big 12 blowing up in a few years when the television deal expires. And essentially everyone will be asking, where are Texas and Oklahoma going?

So my best bet here is that ESPN and Fox talk about a TV rights extension as part of any Big 12 expansion deal. 

Then the biggest question becomes this: Will Texas and Oklahoma commit to the Big 12 for another 10 years or more or do they want to keep their options open? That’s a fascinating issue that could emerge as this story continues to develop. 

Christopher writes:

“Assume the “best case” scenario you outlined for the ACC comes true: Notre Dame and Texas join at some point in the future. Then what? Oklahoma would be the next domino to fall. The B1G supposedly has its eye on OU and Kansas. Would OU go to the B1G over the SEC? The money is more or less a wash. B1G offers an easier path to the CFP and more academic prestige. But the lifeblood of OU football is Texas recruiting. Assuming the Red River Rivalry continues, is that enough, or would OU want to be in the SEC for an annual game against A&M, too? And, if OU chose the B1G, would it risk Oklahoma State joining the SEC and rising to the level of peer program like A&M has done with Texas? (I know you’ve said there’s no way in hell the SEC would add OSU, but if the ACC teams are locked in, who else is out there?)”

First, I think the conference network leagues don’t have much incentive to expand unless the teams are huge prizes, like Texas and, to a lesser extent because of the population in the state is much smaller, Oklahoma. I also think with the cord cutting and cord never issues in cable that many leagues are content to wait and see what happens going forward. 

Having said that, here’s the biggest expansion question about Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, the three most attractive schools in the Big 12 to other conferences, what would the politics look like if these three schools decided to leave for better conferences? In particular, would Texas be able to leave the Texas schools, particularly the state school, Texas Tech, would Oklahoma be able to leave Oklahoma State, and would Kansas be able to leave Kansas State? It’s unquestionable that Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have good options in other conferences, but can they leave behind the other state schools? I don’t think they can because Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State immediately plummet in standing once their fellow state schools leave the Big 12. 

That’s why if I were the Pac 12 — having tons of difficulty getting my conference network picked up and falling more and more behind the Big Ten and the SEC — I might be willing to make another play for Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas and be willing to take Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State as part of the bargain. 

Then you’d have an 18 team conference, which you could break up as two nine team divisions. Put the six Big 12 schools alongside their former foe Colorado and then slide the two Arizona schools into the Pac 12 East. The Pac 12 West would be USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State. 

It’s a bold move, but it could be a good one given that the Pac 12 lacks natural expansion candidates and has had tremendous difficulty getting substantial conference network pick-up.

Again, the biggest question about the Big 12’s future is how much ability do Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas actually have to leave without their state school compatriots? Answer me that question, and I’ll tell you the future of realignment.  

Craig writes:

“Clay,

I have a confession. In the run up to the Olympics, I’ve found myself very into women’s pole vaulting. I’m an Arkansas alum, and Arkansas has twin freshmen pole vaulters that are (a) smokeshows and (b) very very good. One of them, Lexi Weeks, won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships as a true freshman, and just qualified for the Olympics last week. In fact, two of the three members of the US women’s pole vault team in Rio will be Razorbacks (Sandi Morris won a national championship for the Hogs two years ago).

Have you ever actually watched pole vaulting? It is such a weird, random sport. I can’t figure out why these hot athletic girls chose pole vaulting of all things to be good at. Until these Arkansas girls started getting coverage on the local news, I’d never really paid attention to the technical skill it requires. You have to run as fast as you can with a 15+ ft. pole, stick it in just the right spot in the ground, fling yourself in the air feet first over a bar you can’t touch, and try not to break your neck landing on the other side. It blows my mind. Here’s a good video to give you an idea:

Here’s the bar bet: my buddy is convinced that, given 10 minutes of instruction and a few practice runs, he could clear a 10ft bar. For reference, the bar in the video crossed by the female Olympian was 15’9″. He’s in his early 30s, in decent shape, but pretty much a normal dude with no prior experience. I don’t think he could clear a bar at all without breaking several bones. Please help settle this debate.”

Lexi Weeks? Come on, that’s a top ten name you hear and you know the girl has to be hot before you even see her. Back in high school we used to make bets on whether girls were hot or not based entirely on their names. We’d get other school yearbooks and someone would give a name and we had to wager on her hotness. It’s uncanny how well you can predict a girl’s hotness based entirely on her name. I don’t know how this happens, but my theory is that hot moms are better equipped to name their daughters hot daughter names.

Call it hot mom naming privilege.

As for this bar bet, I would definitely watch average dudes try and pole vault. In fact, I would love to host this show and set betting odds on average dude attempts. There is a 0% chance that after ten minutes of instruction that your buddy could pole vault 10 feet. In fact, I don’t think he could even get airborne and clear a five foot bar. Also, if he does get airborne the odds of him going the direction he wants to go are also 0%.

You need to take him up on this bet and then film it with your iPhone and send it to us.  

Christian writes:

“Clay, this past weekend I believe I put my self in a pickle. My girlfriend of 6 years and I had gone to one of her sorority sisters weddings. After the ceremony there was a cocktail hour and drinks were flowing, but anyway pictures were being taken on my phone of us and all her friends.

After the pictures concluded my girlfriend who never looks on my phone was checking out the photos and began swiping way too far left and came across some pictures of diamond rings I had been looking at. Immediately I ripped the phone out of her hands acting like it was nothing, all I saw was her walk away with her friends to a table and hugs being given to her.

Long story short her, her sisters and her mom have been asking since we graduated college when the question will be popped.

I look at this situation in one of two ways.

1. I have to propose ASAP as she’s excepting it and I don’t want to compete with college football in the fall for a wedding next year (I know how you feel about this)

2. I actually bought myself some time until I’m ready like I actually planned. Possibly her seeing the photos I took at the jeweler may satisfy her knowing I’m going to eventually propose.”

First, your girlfriend knew exactly what she was doing when she kept scrolling through your phone pictures. She was snooping and trying to be sly about accidentally doing it. “Oh, tee hee, I didn’t realize the wedding pictures were over!” Once she got clearly past the wedding photos, she was hunting for evidence of something. 

And she found it, engagement ring pictures!

I actually think this is potentially brilliant of you. Unintentionally you have given clear evidence that you intend to marry your girlfriend, without actually having to get engaged. You’ve been ring shopping on your own. Even better, you’ve been serious enough to take pictures, but YOU DIDN’T WANT HER TO SEE. 

Guys, learn from our man here, this is a golden move. If you can inadvertantly/intentionally let your girlfriend see the ring pictures you’ve taken on your phone, bang, you’re golden. How about getting a magazine with wedding ring info and leaving it up? Share a computer? Do engagement ring research and leave the page minimized when you know she’s about to check her email.  

This buys you at least six months. Sure, your girlfriend is going to be expecting to get proposed to every time you go out to a nice dinner or take any trip, but now the power is entirely in your hands. You get six more months before you have to propose and then after that you have another year before the wedding, you could probably even push this pretty easily to two years between now and marriage.

All because she saw a ring picture on your phone.  

I bet you got screwed so good that night after the wedding too, didn’t you?

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. 

S. writes:

“Clay,
As a 26 year old new sports writer, I loved your piece yesterday on Outkick being five years old. It’s impressive how far Outkick has come but how much of that success do you think is due to being associated with Fox Sports? I write 5 to 10 times a week for SB Nation (I know, PC Bromani paradise) but ultimately I want to get to the point where I have my own brand and have freedom to write anything. What would you say to someone like me who doesn’t have that connection to a company like FS1 right now?”

I honestly don’t know what you gain from writing at a site like SBNation that you couldn’t gain by writing on your own site. 

Are there really that many success stories of people who have gone from writing for free at a team page on SBNation to making a great career for themselves elsewhere? (I’d actually distinguish Bleacher Report here because at least Bleacher Report let you write about subjects of your choice. You weren’t locked in, at least initially, to having to write about particular teams or sports.) In many ways I think writing about one team actually boxes you in because it limits your subjects and restricts your ability to work on writing about multiple sports and issues. And if you’re going to be writing about one team all the time I think the best way to do that is as a beat writer or as someone who writes for a Rivals or 247 sports site affiliated with one team. Those guys know infinitely more than some dude aggregating their information and trying to write new articles based on their stories. I just don’t see it as a great route to make a living writing online. 

Like I said yesterday in order to succeed in business — or writing or really anything in life — you have to do one of two things: 1. do something better than everyone else or 2. do something that everyone else isn’t doing. 

Ultimately it has to be a combination of these because if you do something that everyone else isn’t doing eventually everyone else starts to do what you do. But you can start off by doing something that everyone else isn’t doing.  

As for Fox’s impact, I love working here because I have the best bosses in media and I’m excited about where we’re going as a network. I can’t imagine fitting better anywhere else in major media. But Outkick’s website traffic isn’t substantially different because of our Fox Sports connection than it would be without the Fox connection. Remember, Outkick was independent for over two years before we joined Fox. 

It’s not like Outkick stories are on the front page of FoxSports.com, we’re still pretty independent. Compare us, say, to Grantland, which ESPN.com put on the front page of their site every day. Anything ESPN.com puts on the front page of their site gets read a ton. So Grantland’s traffic was mostly due to ESPN.com But that’s rare in sports today, most big sites don’t bring in that much traffic through their front pages. So I wouldn’t get hung up with having a major partner or believing that’s required to get people to read you. 

Anyway, if I were starting writing online today, I’d do the same thing I did in 2004, I’d start writing online every day on my own site and try to build a following. What’s remarkable about the market today is there are still very few people willing to do what I did — write every day for free for years and slowly build up a readership. When I started Outkick in 2011 my thought was eventually if the site got rolling I’d be able to slow down my work because there would be a ton of younger writers doing what I did and I could feature them.

But that hasn’t been the case.

The truth of the matter is this — most people don’t have the drive to write every day and work their asses off to promote their articles.

They just don’t want it that bad.  

If they did, there would be a lot more people like me.

So my advice always comes back to a simple premise, writers write. 

Get to it. 

Have great weekends, Outkick will be live today at 3 eastern, come hang with us. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.