Texas A&M seems prepared to move to the SEC, sparking the SEC to pluck another team from the ACC (Virginia Tech) or the Big 12 (Missouri) to go to 14. This would destabilize the already tenuous BCS conferences and set the dominoes falling on radical conference realignment. This prospect appears imminent, which is why John Marinatto wants to meet “face to face” with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and ACC commissioner John Swofford. One of their conferences might fall apart at the others’ expense.
Because it’s fun, we thought we’d look at a couple plausible, though speculative, realignment scenarios. Here are a few reasonable assumptions beforehand.
* The Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC are stable with longterm TV deals. Those conferences might add teams. They aren’t going to lose teams.
* Notre Dame will stay independent. The only conference that makes sense for them is the Big Ten. The Big Ten, with strong revenue sharing, would not tolerate Notre Dame having a separate TV deal.
* Texas won’t join another conference. If the Longhorn Network isn’t tenable for the Big 12, it won’t be tenable for one of the major conferences. Texas made it’s bed with ESPN and must lie in it.
* An offer form the Big Ten or SEC would be accepted by anyone beyond a Texas/Oklahoma caliber school.
* Baylor will sue if it’s not invited to the party.
Scenario 1: The End of the Big 12
Let’s say the SEC expands to 14 teams, taking Texas A&M and Missouri. This brings the Big 12 down to eight. The conference needs ten teams to hang onto its TV deal. The logical choices would be SMU and Houston. However, at that juncture, does ESPN: The School stay in the conference? Texas will want to enhance its brand. With that in mind, is it better to be playing neutral site games with big powers and Notre Dame every year or locked in road games at Iowa State and Kansas? They would also keep all the money from a BCS appearance. Texas goes Independent. The Big 12 becomes a free-for-all.
The two highly-prized assets in that scramble are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Big Ten is happy at 12 and only wants to expand with schools that make sense. Those two schools make sense. Does the SEC want to go to 16 teams? Is the Pac-12 interested? The Big East wants to expand Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech merge with TCU to form a new Western Division for the Big East. Still no marquee teams, but look at that footprint!
Big 12 – Non-existent
ACC – Intact
Big East – Syr, Conn, Rut, Pitt, WVU, USF, (Nova/UCF)
Big West – Cinn, Louis, Kansas, KSU, TT, TCU, Baylor
Scenario 2: The End of the Big East
Virginia Tech joins the SEC, leaving the ACC down to 11 teams. Miami is decimated by sanctions. Florida State and others get antsy, waiting for an SEC offer that is not arriving. The ACC must add at least a team to save its title game. It looks to the Big East. Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia could each be appealing. They could all be appealing with an expansion to 14. John Marinatto seems like a spunky, ambitious guy and could try to flip this the other way and use his leverage with the new TV negotiations to flip a couple ACC teams to his conference. Though the thirst for stability probably doesn’t mesh with the notion of jumping to a crazy new Big East. His conference being beheaded and stripped of its useful parts seems more likely.
Big 12 – loses Texas A&M, adds Houston
ACC (1): BC, Maryland, NC State, WF, Pitt, WVU, Syr
ACC (2): Ga Tech, Miami, UVA, UNC, Duke, FSU, Clem
Big East – remnants form some form of fusion conference with C-USA and MAC teams, sans a BCS bid. They are never heard from again, except on Wednesday nights.
[Photo via Getty]