Can Jerry Jones shake up the Big 12?
So just how much power does Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wield in the world of sports?
We just may find out.
According to a Lawrence Journal-World report, and citing a source familiar with his thinking, Jones would like to see his alma mater Arkansas move to the Big 12, where the Razorbacks would be reunited with former Southwest Conference rivals Texas and Texas A&M.
But that’s not all.
His preferred 12th member of the league?
The power-broking Jones, who played football for the Razorbacks, still has close ties with the school and is increasingly becoming a bigger presence with ventures outside of the NFL because of new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex. With a big boxing contest and soccer game already taking place at the venue, along with the Big 12 title game through the 2013 season, Jones is no longer just an NFL presence. Of course, it makes sense that he would want 12 teams in the Big 12 — there won’t be any future title games in his stadium if the league stays at 10 members.
Arkansas football has fallen off the radar since its move to the SEC in 1992. When the Hogs were competing in the SWC, they were able to get quality recruits from the state of Texas, specifically because they were on television in the state while competing against mostly Texas-based schools. However, the SEC hasn’t been seen as much on TV in Texas, which has affected the Razorbacks’ product on the field. In addition, a rivalry with Alabama or South Carolina can’t compare to what Arkansas had in the old SWC.
In an official release Wednesday afternoon, Arkansas officials stated, “From the beginning, we have been very clear that the University of Arkansas is a proud member of the Southeastern Conference and has no interest in joining another conference…Recent events have not in any way altered our commitment or desire to remain a member of what we believe is the strongest conference in the nation.”
Of course, leaving the SEC — and a lot of cash — voluntarily would seem insane. It’s a lucrative league for many reasons. But we’re talking about the Jerry Jones here, the same guy who truly believes deep down that he could successfully coach the Cowboys. For the Arkansas program, this move would be a grand slam home run. Not only would the Razorbacks be reacquainted with former longtime rivals, but they wouldn’t get lost in the deep sea of the SEC.
While Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe suggested that expansion currently isn’t on the league’s agenda, do you think he would decline an Arkansas-Notre Dame combo? Of course not.
Let’s forget about geography. While Arkansas and Notre Dame don’t necessarily fit into the map of the Big 12, money definitely talks. Unlike the Razorbacks, who have a history with some of the teams in the Big 12, the Irish don’t have a strong history with any of the league members simply because they have been independent. A move to the Big 12 would not necessarily be a detriment to the team’s recruiting effort because the staff could land more talent from Texas and still maintain a Midwest base. Regarding their east coast recruiting, you don’t think that a high school prospect wouldn’t want to play in a spread offense within the Big 12 at Notre Dame?
It’s difficult to get a sense of where Notre Dame stands on a move to the Big 12 because school officials are tremendous at keeping their business private. Strictly as a college football fan, I have always loved the fact that the Irish have maintained their independence. While it’s certainly a unique set-up, the idea that a school can play a variety of teams at any point of the season from any conference is fascinating. But a yearly dose of Notre Dame-Texas and Notre Dame-Oklahoma is hard not to like.
While it seems unlikely that the Razorbacks would punt its spot away in the SEC, it also doesn’t seem feasible that Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick would take the Irish anywhere else, as well.
How serious is Jones? He certainly has the cash, but this seems more like a dream sequence than anything else.
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