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Game of Chicken in NCAA Sports

Syracuse and Pittsburgh recently announced that they will be leaving the Big East athletic conference to join the ACC.  This move could be the first domino to fall in a major realignment of college athletic programs.  Texas and Oklahoma are currently in talks to move to the Pac-12, and would most likely bring Texas Tech and Oklahoma with them.  Baylor is also currently suing to stop Texas A&M from bolting from the Big 12 to the SEC.  This whole scenario is described by insiders as a big game of chicken. Nobody wants to be the one who destroys the current collegiate athletic landscape.  It can be modeled using the following simplified matrix of Hawk-Dove games.

The article by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated describes the scenario in game-theoretic terms.  The article is here:

Should Oklahoma decide to swerve first and leave (compromise in the matrix), then it will look like the bad guy that ruined the party and get a negative payoff.  However, Oklahoma will not move first and will wait until Texas A&M move, thereby looking like they did not swerve (don’t compromise in the table) and get a positive payoff.  Texas A&M use the same logic and the game of chicken has commenced.  Either party moving first would lead to the end of the Big 12, but since the Nash equilibrium of this game is at (Don’t compromise, Compromise) and (Compromise, Don’t compromise), neither party wants to come out as the loser of this game of chicken.  It is inevitable that the game will reach its equilibrium; the only question is who will be the party to move first.


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September 2011