For movie buffs of all generations, the scene is an iconic one.
Robert Redford (Bob Woodward) in a garage talking to Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) about a path to go down in the classic Watergate-theme movie, All the President's Men.
When Woodward tells Deep Throat that he and his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein are stumped about where to go in their investigation, he is told simply:
"Follow the money.''
Almost 50 years later, the advice would be sound in figuring out many things, including the on-going soap opera regarding conference reconfiguration and playoff expansion.
There will be more chatter about whether the current 4 team CFP playoff will expand to 12 teams next week when an announcement is made on whether to proceed sooner rather than later, or table it for a few years when more bidders (and more money) can be injected into the debate, which should be a clue as to what will happen.
Let's focus on the Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and the American Athletic Association, the two leagues with movement right now
This much we do know.
Oklahoma and Texas are leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are leaving the AAC for the Big 12.
The AAC is contemplating rebuilding with an expansion of its own which could range from 4 to 6 to 8 schools.
What we don't know is WHEN this going to happen.
Officially, the word being parsed out is that it will be at least two and perhaps 3 years before it can be implemented.
Which brings us back to Deep Throat: Follow the Money.
""Right now it's in the hands of the lawyers,'' said one source familiar with the talks being held in the conference offices. "It's all about settling on a price to let schools leave early.''
Right now Oklahoma, Texas, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are lame duck members of their conferences.
No one on either side thinks that is a good situation for even one year, much less two or three years.
I"ve seen it before in the Big East (Boston College in 2004 before going to the ACC the following year,'' said one former conference administrator, ""and it was horrible.''
The solution seems obvious.
Negotiate a price for each school to leave after this season, write the check and
We're talking a lot of money--in the 80 million dollar range for Oklahoma and Texas and perhaps as much as $30 million each for UCF, Houston and Cincinnati.
But those are starting points in the talk, open to negotiations. There are ways to design compromises, spreading out the payments over several years or having schools borrow money from their new conferences against the projected increased income those schools are projected to make.
But's it a financial, non athletic move, which can be worked out.
No change that.
For the good of everyone involved it MUST be worked out.