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Conference Realignment: What’s Up Next?

Category: ACC Expansion & Realignment, American Conference Expansion & Realignment, Big 12 Expansion & Realignment, Big East Expansion & Realignment, Big Ten Expansion & Realignment, Conference USA Expansion & Realignment, Editorial, Featured News, Mountain West Expansion & Realignment, NCAA Conference Expansion & Realignment, SEC Expansion & Realignment, Sun Belt Expansion & Realignment, WAC Expansion & Realignment

The Recap:

So the ACC struck first by adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. The SEC followed by adding Texas A&M and Missouri from the Big 12. The Big 12 then added TCU and WVU.

And things seemed normal. Patterns remained intact. And we waited for the next, seemingly logical move.

And then the Big East came up to bat…

What did the world expect? Some logical moves following the same familiar patterns. When the Big East lost 3 schools in 2003 (Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College to the ACC), the replaced those 3 all-sports schools with 3 all-sports schools from CUSA: Louisville, Cincinnati and USF. And to appease the 6 non-football schools in the Big East, non-football members DePaul and Marquette were also brought in from CUSA.

So when the Big East was down 4 football schools, we just assumed they would follow a familiar path. First, we expected the annual phone calls to Army and Navy. Upon the annual rejections, the Big East would then look to CUSA. In response to the initial losses of Syracuse, Pitt and TCU, the Big East then lined up UCF, Houston and SMU. And it made sense to everyone, knowing that if WVU or Louisville left for the Big 12, that the conference would still have local options to consider such as Temple, Villanova (FBS upgrade), Memphis, and ECU.

But instead, the Big East went bold, going coast to coast. The first school they called: Boise St. for football only. And Boise St. accepted.

Next school up: Air Force. Despite some interest, Air Force passed, as they did when the Big 12 reached out to them, citing the competition level, travel, etc, as reasons to pass.

Next up: BYU. Despite mutual interest, ultimately, BYU passed on the idea, citing financial interests as the reason. But many still think that with rival Utah being in the Pac-12, that remaining independent is the only move that can keep BYU on pace with Utah…as the Big 12 and Big East as less attractive options than the Pac-12.

With Air Force and BYU out, the Big East then went after San Diego St. for football only…who accepted.

So with the Big East football membership then at 10, the Big East was able to convince Navy to join for football only.

And with WVU leaving and the membership at 11, the Big East then passed on football-only and all-sports options like Temple in favor of all-sports membership by Memphis.

And with the Big East at 12, all seemed to settle down.

But now it was time for CUSA and the Mountain West to make their moves. The result? An all-sports merger by the conferences.


The CUSA/MWC Merger aka the “Countrywide Conference”:

The CUSA/MWC merger makes sense on a number of levels. It brings stability to a conference by bringing it’s membership to 15 all-sports and 16 football schools. If even 5-6 left, they’d still have 9-10 schools as a base. And for a new television contract, covering so many markets across the country will make the conference more appealing than as 2 separate entities. To save on travel, the conference will be split into 2 regional divisions. And with so many state schools in the conference (16 schools in 13 different states), the conference will have some political power, something it might not have as 2 separate conferences.

But what is most interesting is that even at 16 schools, the still un-named CUSA/MWC merger might add more schools.



Future Conference Realignment:

Let’s start with the conferences more people are interested in, the BCS level conferences:

Big%20Ten%20Conference Conference Realignment
Big Ten:

Despite the expansion by the SEC and ACC to 14, the Big 12 considering to go beyond 10,  CUSA/MWC at 16, the Big Ten will likely remain at 12. They sat at 11 for many years, waiting for the perfect opportunity (Nebraska). They have given up on Notre Dame, basically telling Notre Dame they will no longer invite them, but will listen if Notre Dame approaches them. Should Notre Dame ever do that, you could see them seek a 14th school to balance the divisions.

Probability of expanding in the near future:: slim to none

Notre Dame: the school the Big Ten wants, but the same school that seems set to pass on the Big Ten
Missouri: they are in the SEC now, so a move to their desired conference, the Big Ten, might be a long shot now
Pitt & Syracuse: both schools are now in the ACC, similar situation to Missouri. Both schools may be able to compete in the ACC for football, the Big Ten might be more difficult.
Rutgers: long thought to be future Big Ten member, the Nebraska addition makes a move less likely.
UConn: similar to Rutgers in providing access to the northeast.
Kansas: another longshot since they’d only be considered as a #14 school with Notre Dame, in which case an eastern school like Rutgers or Uconn would make more sense.


Southeastern%20Conference Conference Realignment

We can keep this one short and sweet. The conference just expanded to 14 and it will take some time to get it’s legs with 2 additional members, adding two new markets, new regions even, with Texas A&M and Missouri. There will always be a chance that the SEC might go bold with a move to 16 and redefine the landscape as the top football conference.

Probability of expanding in the near future: slim to none

Virginia Tech
NC State
Florida St.*

Georgia Tech* 

* SEC has said they will not add any schools currently in a state that an SEC school is in.


Pacific%2010%20Conference Conference Realignment

The Pac-10 laid out a bold plan and 2 years in a row, came close to pulling off a major coup. They seemed within hours of closing the deal, twice, to add Colorado, Utah, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. In the end, the conference passed on expansion to 16 once they added Colorado and Utah, as the demands made by Texas and other elements involved in adding the Oklahoma schools and Texas Tech led to Pac-12 stability at 12. While the door seems shut for expansion, we can never rule it out…given the on again, off again Big 12 relationships.

Probability of expanding in the near future:: unlikely. Once the current Big 12 television contract expires, Texas and Oklahoma might always consider the Pac-12 again…if the Pac-12 would listen. But for the time being, the Pac-12 seems set.

Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech


Atlantic%20Coast%20Conference Conference Realignment

The ACC is in a rare spot where the conference, even at 14, might actually be in a position to increase their per-school revenue by adding schools that might not add obvious value. Notre Dame is the top option: if the school were to leave the Big East and forced into an all-sports conference, the ACC is considered the top option. Many would question that, thinking the Big Ten makes more sense. But the ACC would provide Notre Dame with a strong academic conference, an easier level of competition, rivalries with the popular northeast schools (and fellow Catholic school Boston College) and most importantly, recruiting access into the southeast.

If a Notre Dame addition happened in the ACC, Uconn would likely be brought in as #16.

But the ACC might be in a unique position where even if Notre Dame ultimately passes on the ACC for good, the ACC could still expand with Uconn and Rutgers. Yes, the same Uconn that is set to lose it’s long tenured basketball coach, and the same Rutgers that just lost it’s football coach. But with the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, along with existing members Boston College, Maryland and former Big East school, Miami (a popular school with people in the northeast), the ACC could put in the final blow to the Big East in taking over the northeast region as it’s own. The Atlantic Coast Conference could become the actual conference of the entire Atlantic coast..complete with a takeover of MSG for the basketball conference tournament.

Probability of expanding in the near future: very possible.
Notre Dame is the key. The ACC would also need to get revenue estimates from the networks (ESPN) as to what the new value would be if Uconn and Rutgers were added. As no move has been made yet, we can’t assume that is because the revenue numbers are poor. Instead, perception could be a factor as the ACC has been labeled as “raiding” the Big East now for 5 schools…while the Big East, who took 9 CUSA members in less than a decade, has never had that negative label.

Notre Dame: the top option by far
if Notre Dame is added, Uconn would be #16
if Notre Dame passes, Uconn and Rutgers could be added


Big%20Twelve%20Conference Conference Realignment
Big 12:

How things change. For the past 2 years, the Big 12 appeared ready to fold with 5-6 schools heading to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten. But the members held with only Texas A&M and Missouri leaving. Their replacements? TCU and WVU who one can argue have been superior football programs to the departed. After some legal hassles between WVU and the Big East, the Big 12 is set for 2012 at 10 members. But just a few months ago, Louisville appeared ready to join in the spot taken by WVU. Even today, it seems like only time before Louisville joins the Big 12. The problem is finding a #12 school for a conference named the Big “12”. BYU was approached, but passed over financial concerns. Would a newly united conference change their mind? Perhaps. Air Force was also contacted but passed due to fears of not being competitive. But with Navy now in the Big East and the CUSA/MWC merger all that is left for Air Force, maybe they would be wise to consider a tougher schedule in favor of higher relevancy. But after those 3 schools, 2 of which have passed on the Big 12, the candidate pool takes a step back. You have schools like Houston who could perhaps add something to the lost Texas A&M market. You have Cincinnati, the school many feel can most easily be slotted in for #12 with WVU and Louisville. And then there is Rutgers, a school that could give the Big 12 it’s stake in the vulnerable northeast region, current split up by the Big Ten (Penn St.), ACC (Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt) and Big East (Uconn and Rutgers). Uconn, like Rutgers, is an option, but Rutgers offers more access to the NYC market and is a closer proximity to WVU and Louisville. UNLV would be another option, pushing the conference footprint to the west, providing access to the Las Vegas market.

Probability of expanding in the near future: very possible.

Louisville: top choice for #11
Air Force


Big East Conference Conference Realignment
Big East:

Now at 12 schools for football and 17 for all-sports, there would seem to be little room to grow. If football schools are added, it means expanding to 14. This would seem to only work if football-only schools joined like Air Force, BYU or Temple. Of that group, only Air Force and BYU would be true favorites since they would help provide stability and travel ease in the western region. Others such as Temple and ECU seem only to be possible is other Big East members left (Louisville, Uconn, Rutgers). For all-sports members, the list is even smaller: why add more members if they don’t benefits both football and basketball. There currently aren’t any schools that would fill that criteria.

The Big East coast-to-coast experiment could open some interesting doors though. Right now, the move is for football only. But what if that changed in the future. The Big East always seems to be 1 move away from a basketball/football split, yet they remain intact in a brutal hybrid: small catholic schools combined with mostly large, public football schools. But who knows what the future will hold? If a split did happen, it would open the door for the Big East to combine all-sports schools from the wast and the west, splitting into 2 divisions to ease with travel. And such a move wouldn’t be difficult to pull off. In the east, you could have a 6 team division of: Uconn, Rutgers, Temple, USF, UCF, Cincinnati. In the west, assuming Louisville left for the Big 12, you could have Memphis, Houston, SMU, BYU, Boise St., San Diego St.

But for now, it would appear that expansion is less likely. Any moves would be minor and likely just to replace any departing schools. For instance, if Louisville left for the Big 12, Temple could be brought in for football-only with 12 football members, 16 basketball members. If a 2nd school left, perhaps another run at Air Force or UNLV for football only could happen, with Temple joining for all-sports (giving 12 football members and 16 basketball members).

Probability of expanding in the near future: not entirely likely, yet still very possible.

Air Force


Conference%20USA Conference RealignmentMountain%20West%20Conference Conference Realignment CUSA/MWC Merger

Things really got interesting when the two conferences just on the cusp of BCS status, lost their top members, and then opted to merge. The result is a 15 school all-sports conference with 16 for football. But all indications are that the conference is not done adding schools. You have Temple as a football-only (and perhaps eventually all-sports) candidate. The logic behind that is to expand the conference into stronger media markets, and support nearby ECU and Marshall in the process. You have the previous MWC candidates Utah St. and San Jose St. Utah St. would replace the Salt Lake City market, lost when Utah and BYU left. San Jose St. would provide television access to the populated Bay Area. With no Dallas area schools in the conference, North Texas is a top option. After that, you have other schools that could be options at some point as either part of an expansion to 24 or as replacements. All the other WAC schools fit into that category, such as NMSU, Idaho, UTSA, Texas St. and LA Tech. In the Sunbelt, you have Florida Atlantic and Florida International that could add a Florida presence to the conference after it’s loss of UCF. You also have various FCS schools considering upgrades that could be slotted in such as Appalachian St., Charlotte, Georgia Southern, and Georgia St. Even schools like JMU and Delaware could one day make sense. Recent FBS upgrade UMass would provide access to the Boston market, an ideal partner for Temple is they are brought in. In the Sunbelt, you also have some schools like MTSU and Troy that could gain some attention. And the FCS upgrades might not be limited to the east, where Montana could see the CUSA/MWC merger as their only future option to remain relevant and upgrade.

Probability of expanding in the near future: very possible.

North Texas
Utah St.
San Jose St.
Florida International or Florida Atlantic
LA Tech
Texas St.
Appalachian St.
Georgia Southern
Georgia St.

Sun%20Belt%20Conference Conference Realignment

Sun Belt:

The Sun Belt has always seemed to be a conference at risk of losing members. But with the CUSA/MWC merger, and the addition of Karl Benson as commissioner (leaving the WAC), the Sun Belt is expected to make moves of their own. The likely targets will be WAC schools, but the conference will not rule out FCS upgrades.

Probability of expanding in the near future: very possible.

LA Tech
Texas St.
Texas St.
Appalachian St.
Georgia Southern
Georgia St.


Mid%20American%20Conference Conference Realignment

The MAC has an will likely always be a regional conference in the Ohio and Michigan area. The only two school likely to move on would be the 2 football only members, Temple and UMass. But as one of the only even somewhat eastern conferences that would accept FCS upgrades, you could see it as a transitional home for schools in the area such as JMU, Delaware, Charlotte, Appalachian St., Georgia Southern, Georgia St. and ODU. Note that each of those schools would prefer the SEC, ACC or Big East, but they will not be options. They all would likely want into the CUSA/MWC merger if they upgraded, but even that is not likely. The Sun Belt might have room for 1-2 from the south. But it’s the MAC that would be the only real option, with the conference accepting the basketball scheduling agreement as part of the pact.

Probability of expanding in the near future: unlikely. If FCS schools upgrade, the MAC could show interest.

Appalachian St.
Georgia Southern
Georgia St.


Western%20Athletic%20Conference Conference Realignment


Really, nothing to add here. The conference lost so many members that they had no choice but to grab FCS upgrades. Just to help on the basketball side, they added Texas-Arlington, Denver and Seattle. If the CUSA/MWC adds multiple WAC schools such as Utah St. and San Jose St., the WAC is over. Right now, LA Tech is lobbying hard to join the CUSA/MWC merger. If they are passed over, they’ll be ringing the doorbell at Sun Belt commissioner Benson’s house…with UTSA, Texas St, and New Mexico St. standing at the door with them. Idaho and NMSU seem to be in the toughest spot, as due to location and markets, Utah St., SJSU, LA Tech, UTSA and Texas St. all seem to be strong candidates to be in either the CUSA/MWC conference or the Sun Belt. Idaho and NMSU might be left out of the mix.

Probability of expanding in the near future: they would love to, but have no school available. They would need to literally beg FCS schools such as Montana, Montana St., Cal Poly, UC Davis, Portland St., Lamar, and SHSU to upgrade.

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