Conference Realignment Dominoes Continue To Line Up…Ready To Fall
* Pac-16 a possibility with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma St.
* Big 12 survival plans: If no Pac-16 defection, Big East raid of 2-3 schools a possibility
* Missouri as SEC #14 candidate would add 4th Big East team to Big 12 sights
* Pac-16 defections from Big 12 likely means end to Big 12 with Big East absorbing “leftovers”
* Can Big 12 “survive” by just absorbing all Big East football members (Big East split scenario)
When Texas A&M first made it public that they were interested in pursuing the SEC, the college sports world realized that what had been avoided last summer (utter chaos) could once again be within reach. In an article a few weeks ago titled “Potential SEC Expansion and the Conference Realignment Dominoes“, I addressed some of the possible scenarios that could play out.
As time progressed, it appeared that even if Texas A&M were to leave for the SEC (they have since announced they are planning to in fact leave the Big 12), that the Big 12 would keep their union of merry men together, a team of 9, that would simply “consider” adding a 10th school as a replacement. Seems fairly simple: you lose a school, and you replace that school and everyone lives happily ever after. Schools like BYU and TCU were considered high on the list, as was Houston (to replace the lost Texas A&M market), as well as schools outside the current footprint such as Pitt, Air Force, etc. Of course the “big get” options were Notre Dame and Arkansas, but neither school is expected to give the Big 12 much thought.
On the SEC side, it did appear that eventually, a 14th school might be an option. Various sources claim though that if the SEC were to add a 14th school, said school would likely have to come from a state NOT currently represented in the SEC. So ACC schools such as Florida St., Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami were CONSIDERED to be “off the list”. And with ACC solidarity by the 4 North Carolina schools, they seemed as if they were not options. And with some very public comments out of Virginia Tech, it appeared that school too would be taking itself off the SEC list.
Then you have schools like Missouri who also claimed little interest in the SEC (although we all assume that is not the case and instead it’s an effort by the school to avoid the embarrassment they suffered last year when publicly courting the Big Ten only to be passed over).
Seemingly, all of a sudden, it appeared the SEC was down to only a few options such as WVU, Louisville (seemingly a school in an SEC state that had less resistance from SEC members). Not exactly homeruns for the nations superior football conference.
Regardless, it still appeared that all would be well. The SEC would expand to 13 and maybe 14 at some point. The ACC would remain as is. The Big 12 would add a single replacement. Not exactly anything drastic.
But now that might all be changing.
Now, it appears that the seismic, drastic changes could actually still happen. And the result might be that mythical beast we’ve spoken about many times here before: the birth of the Super Conferences.
So here’s where we are now:
* The SEC appears to be set on adding Texas A&M as it’s 13th member.
* The #14 options are still all out there. If things remain as they are now, then Missouri or WVU could be the options.
* Depending on what happens with the Big 12, that could change the SEC strategy.
In other words, the “gentlemen’s agreement” of not adding schools in current SEC states might be scrapped if there were seismic changes. So the move to 14 might actually become a move to 16 if other conferences make a push to 16 before the SEC does.
The SEC might be the conference that starts the mass movement, but they might actually be reactionary in growing beyond 13 if other conferences like the Pac-12 make bold moves.
All seemed well. BYU, TCU, Houston, Louisville, Pitt, Air Force and even perhaps SMU (they want in the Big 12…no, really?) were notable candidates for the #10 spot.
But now things are getting interesting.
There HAVE been discussions between the Pac-12 with Texas and Oklahoma.
So what does that mean? It means that the Pac-16 could still be on the horizon.
The move would have Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. moving to the Pac-12 to become the Pac-16.
So what would that mean for the Big 12? Well, if Missouri left for the SEC and 4 schools leave for the Pac-12, then that means there would only be 4 schools left. In other words, it would mean Big 12: RIP.
The 4 remaining schools would be in a tough spot. Kansas would be the school with the most options. They might be able to even convince the ACC to consider them. And they would cross their fingers that the Big Ten would see them as a real option if that conference reacted. Baylor would likely aim for CUSA. But all 4 schools: Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St. and Baylor would likely end up in the Big East. Last summer, the conference had lined up to bring in Missouri, Kansas, Kansas St and Iowa St when it appeared the Big 12 was ready to fold. The only issue now is that with the Big East addition of TCU as the 9th member, it means that ideally, there would only be 3 spots to get to 12 football members, 20 all-sports members. It’s hard to tell who would be the 3 selected since with TCU now in the Big East, Baylor might be a more attractive option as a TCU travel partner. Kansas and Kansas St. for the final 2 spots, leaving Iowa St. perhaps on the outside looking in…and likely headed to CUSA.
Talk about a difficult spot. The Big East brought in TCU as the 9th member, giving them football stability. They toyed with the idea of Villanova for the 10th, only to also consider Houston, UCF and others as an option. Things looked calm for the conference. But now Texas A&M has rustled the bushes and the Big East is once again vulnerable on all fronts.
First, you have the potential Big 12 scenario:
* The Big 12 expands by 1-3 schools from the Big East from a group including Pitt, Rutgers, Louisville and WVU.
If a single Big East school left, UCF or Houston would likely be brought in as a replacement. If 3 Big East schools left, it would not be as easy. UCF, Houston and likely a third school from a pool including Memphis, ECU, Temple and UMass would likely be considered. But the Big East BCS autobid would certainly be called into question if the conference lost some of its top members.
* And what-if the SEC adds a 14th school from the ACC? Well, the ACC likely replaces them with a single Big East school. Top targets would likely be UConn, Syracuse, Rutgers and followed by Pitt or WVU.
So the Big East COULD lose 3 members to the Big 12. If Missouri joined the SEC as #14, then the Big 12 (now at 8) could bring in all 4 schools: Pitt, Rutgers, Louisville and WVU to grow to 12. The Big East would be crippled with only UConn, Syracuse, Cincinnati, USF and TCU remaining. It’s hard to speculate what would happen then: folding as a football conference? Members joining CUSA? The most likely scenario would be UConn and Syracuse petitioning the ACC to add both. As for Cincy, TCU and USF…they’d likely join CUSA with TCU also trying to move back to the Mountain West.
Which is why this time around, the Big East is likely hoping that the Pac-12 expands to 16 so that rather than losing half of it’s members, the Big East could add 4 new members, even if eventually losing 1-4 schools to other conferences like the ACC or Big Ten.
The most recent reports ARE that Texas, Oklahoma and likely Texas Tech and Oklahoma St. are discussing joining the Pac-12. The big issues come only from Texas, where their new network, The Longhorn Network, would need to be discussed. the Pac-12 has just launched it’s own network with 6 regional Pac-12 networks (LA, Bay Area, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and “Mountain” a join Utah/Colorado channel). If new schools are brought in, you’d see a new Oklahoma Pac-12 network for both it’s schools. But in Texas, the Pac-12 would likely want the LHN to cease to give way to a new Pac-12 Texas to cover BOTH Texas and Texas Tech.
If the Pac-12 goes bold with this move, it likely ends the Big 12.
But it’s the trickle down that will really shake things up. The SEC might instead of looking at only 14 with Texas A&M and another school, instead be forced to be more aggressive and consider 16 with schools from the ACC such as Florida St., Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, etc.
The ACC might in turn be forced to replace schools or consider expanding to 14 or 16 on its own from the remaining Big East/Big 12 pool. If they lost up to 4 schools to the SEC, then it is likely that they would bring in UConn, Rutgers, Syracuse and a 4th school. That 4th school could be Pitt, WVU, Louisville or even Kansas at that point.
The sleeping giant. After adding Nebraska last summer, things seemed to calm down. The Big Ten recently even made a public comment saying that they are not interested in expansion. And they mean it….now. But if the SEC grows to 14 or 16, and if the Pac-12 added powerhouses like Texas and Oklahoma to grow to 16, then the Big Ten stance might change. And the result: more chaos. All of a sudden, all the top Big East schools would be lined up for the Big Ten picking. Schools like Rutgers and Syracuse would likely top the list. depending on Missouri’s position at the time, they too might be sought. As could even Kansas. Even ACC school Boston College would make an enticing option along with Syracuse, Rutgers and Uconn to lock up the northeast for the Big Ten. Maryland could even be on the radar. And Notre Dame has a virtual open invite to join the Big Ten. If the Big Ten feels the need to move, it could be the most impacting.
So what does this all mean?
We could see:
Big 12 adds a single school like BYU, Louisville, Pitt or Houston.
Ouch, Big East:
Big 12 adds 3-4 Big East schools, hurting that conference alone.
Big 12, RIP:
Pac-12 expands to 16 (4 Big 12 schools), SEC to 14 (Missouri) and the remaining Big 12 schools head to Big East.
But it’s the “earthquake” scenario that could lead to the birth of the super conferences.
Earthquake: Pac-12 becomes 16 (4 from Big 12), SEC expands to 16 (1 from Big 12, 3 from ACC), ACC replaces lost 3 with 3 Big East schools, Big Ten expands with Big 12/Big East schools, Big East likely folds at that point, Big 12 would have been fully raided. “Left over” schools from Big 12 or Big East seek refuge in non-BCS conferences Mountain West and CUSA.
What we could see would be the 4 super conferences.
NCAA Division 1 Football Reclassification Proposal:
And these 4 super conferences would likely go through with a proposal that has indeed been discussed within the NCAA: reclassification of D1 football from 2 subdivisions (FBS and FCS) to THREE subsivisions (BCS, FBS, FCS).
* The BCS conferences of Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-16 would compete at the highest level, perhaps with a “Plus 1” playoff where the top 4 schools have a playoff.
* “FBS” would now be solely MWC, CUSA, WAC, Sun Belt, MAC.
* FCS would remain as is.
And how could the conference lineups look 5 years from now?
Here’s an update sample, not too much difference from the ideas of years past when discussing the birth of the Super Conferences.
Kansas St., Iowa St., Baylor of Big 12: likely all join CUSA or Mountain West
USF, Cincinnati, TCU of Big East: likely join CUSA for 18 team conference, or even TCU returning to Mountain West
Of course this is all very unlikely. The problem with dominoes is that as soon as one at the very forefront falls in an unexpected direction, it changes the trickle down for all other conferences options. So something at the VERY top like the SEC #14 school could dictate a completely different path. And or course, these might be next to no real changes in the coming months with the SEC remaining at 13 and the Big 12 just replacing TAMU with a single school.