Monday Conference Realignment Updates
Here’s a quick look at where we’re at:
* All eyes are still on Missouri. The school will likely announce as soon as today, that they will withdraw from the Big 12. Of course, it will be conditional on getting a formal invitation from the SEC.
* With Missouri set to join the SEC for that conferences #14 spot, the Big 12 will act quickly to replace Missouri.
* WVU is expected to be the new #10 school.
* The Big 12, WVU and Big East will also likely work on an accelerated departure from the Big East, rather than waiting the full 27 months. The rationale is that the Big 12 will need to “budge” in order to secure a 10th member for the 2012 season as Missouri is expected to leave before then.
* Louisville is still on the big 12 radar for the #10 spot, but is behind WVU. This likely means that Louisville will only be a part of the Big 12 if they opt to expand to 12.
* Many of the Big 12 members, including Oklahoma, prefer expansion to 12, but Texas has expressed the most resistance to 12.
* Beyond the conspiracy theories of Texas “control” and fear that 12 members would limit their control of the conference, the biggest hit on expansion to 12 is the lack of quality candidates. WVU and Louisville are excellent options, as was TCU. But it’s a drop in the candidate pool after that with Cincinnati in the 4th spot and others like Houston not even seeming to be on the radar.
* The #3 candidate for the Big 12 remains BYU. But there are a number of issues in play with BYU that make a move more difficult. BYU has it’s “no Sunday play” rule and the Big 12 would like to opt for a Sunday college basketball championship. That and the problems with regular season scheduling make BYU somewhat of a problem. There is also the existing ESPN deal BYU has that would need to be reworked. BYU also has BYU TV, which would face the same issues that the LHN has within the Big 12.
* So it appears that if the Big 12 could get BYU without any problems, they and Louisville would be #11 and #12 after WVU as #10. But in addition to the BYU issues, there are other internal factors that need to be sorted out such as the big question: 10 or 12.
* The Big 12 might also be the front-runner to add a certain non-football school. Doing so would allow them to add BYU for football only and have 12 for football, 12 for non-football sports.
* No formal invites have been extended due to the shaky nature of all things related to the Big 12. The desired schools, Boise St., Air Force, UCF, Houston, SMU and Navy will all likely wait to see what happens with the Big East before making a decision.
* But if WVU and Louisville were to leave the Big East, there is a good chance we could see something more drastic done. For instance…
* If WVU and Louisville leave, the Big East would be down to 4 football schools. That would mean they would need to add 4 schools JUST to maintain FBS status. Note that it’s the BCS AQ that has Boise St. even giving the Big East some consideration. But if WVU and Louisville leave, it would appear the Big East BCS AQ would be gone.
* If down to 4 schools (UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, USF), in order for the Big East to remain an FBS conference and hope to retain the BCS AQ would be to expand with whatever they can get. Navy, Air Force and Boise St. would likely be off the table. More likely, you would see UCF, SMU, Houston and Temple brought in for all-sports to get to the magic number of (8) all-sports members (required to sponsor FBS football). The Big East would also likely consider football-only members such as ECU. Memphis is another all-sports option, despite their lackluster football status. Even UMass could be a candidate for football-only membership (along with ECU) to get the membership to 10.
* If WVU and Louisville do leave, the other option might make the most sense: to drop football. CUSA would likely welcome the 4 remaining Big East football members for football only or all-sports. Due to the basketball success, all 4 Big East schools would want to remain in the Big East for their other sports. So the Big East could be at 11 or 12 members with the 4 football schools participating in the CUSA/MWC partnership:
East Division: Uconn, Rutgers, Temple, Cincinnati, Marshall, ECU, UCF, USF, Memphis, UAB, USM, Tulane, Tulsa
West Division: Houston, Rice, SMU, UTEP, Air Force, Colorado St., New Mexico, UNLV, SDSU, Fresno St., Nevada, Boise St., Wyoming, Hawaii
CUSA/Mountain West Partnership:
* The official partnership is going forward, waiting to see what the exact membership will be.
* If Boise St., Air Force, SMU, Houston and UCF leave MWC and CUSA, the membership numbers will be (9) for CUSA and (8) for Mountain West. Replacements would likely come from the Utah St., North Texas, UTSA pool.
* The Big East is NOT part of the partnership. But if more Big East schools leave and the conference were to drop football, then remaining football schools would jump at the opportunity as it would be their best options.
* Notre Dame will likely make it’s decision on what it will do over the next 2 months.
* Notre Dame options:
- ACC for all-sports: this is still an option. The ACC has implied that if Notre Dame joins, it would need to be for all-sports. While the huge Big Ten payouts might be more attractive to most, the ACC offers Notre Dame two things they might prefer over money: more access to the northeast TV markets (heavily catholic) via Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The ACC is also a better recruiting region for the school.
- Big Ten for all-sports: like with the ACC, the Big Ten would require Notre Dame football to be included. The money is fantastic, but it’s a risk to Notre Dame if they are a middle of the pack program in their own region.
- Big East Hybrid: should more Big East schools leave (WVU, Louisville), Notre Dame will be looking at a conference made up of either 8 non-football schools along with Uconn, Rutgers, Cincinnati and USF…or the same 12 schools but also with UCF, SMU, Houston, Temple. When looking at that lineup, one can see why Notre Dame would consider all their options.
- Big 12 for non-football sports: this could be the best option now for Notre Dame. They would be able to maintain football independence, while joining a top non-football conference, one that could have nearby schools WVU and Louisville included.
* The ACC is interested in 16 if it were the right situation.
* Notre Dame remains the top option and the ACC is starting to put pressure on the school for a final answer.
* This pressure might also show some of the ACC’s hand. They are in no rush. But if forcing one, it might mean that the ACC has a backup plan.
* Uconn has remained a top option for the ACC if they expand to 16. In fact, most in the ACC (and ESPN) preferred Uconn over Pitt in the #14 spot.
* Notre Dame and Uconn are the desired #15 and #16 schools. But if Notre Dame passes, there is some support for either: A) remain at 14 or B) expand to 16 with Uconn and Rutgers. In grabbing Uconn and Rutgers, the ACC would secure virtually the entire northeast region and likely have MSG approach them for basketball tournament hosting. With BC, Uconn, Syracuse, Pitt and Rutgers (or Notre Dame) the ACC would be the dominant conference in the population rich area…something that will improve their television contracts.