Decadent Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee spoke about college football. As usual, it made some waves. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Gee told Ohio State’s Athletic Council on Dec. 5 that there was “ongoing discussion” for Big Ten expansion (Maryland and Rutgers joined in November). He also thinks college football is heading for the “superconference era,” with three to four conferences of 16-20 teams.
It doesn’t appear that the Big Ten is necessarily content to stay at 14 members. According to the minutes of the Dec. 5 Athletic Council meeting obtained by the Dispatch, Gee said “there has been ongoing discussion” about expansion and “believes there is movement towards three or four super conferences that are made up of 16-20 teams.”
When a student member of the Athletic Council asked Gee what direction the Big Ten might take, Gee said “there are opportunities to move further south in the (E)ast and possibly a couple of Midwest universities.”
There’s nothing alarming here, beyond Gee being so candid. A further realignment round is all but definite. One pillar holding the present alignment in place, the ACC’s $50 million exit fee, is under legal challenge. The other pillar, the Big 12’s Grant of Rights agreement, expires with the TV contract in 2025. When one falls, the shift comes quickly. Let’s say Maryland sets a precedent with a reduced buyout…
Big Ten: Demographic decline, positioning for its first-tier rights auction and trying to get the Big Ten Network onto as many basic cable tiers as possible. Adding Maryland and Rutgers threw football and culture out as concerns. The only hesitation about taking two of UVA, UNC or Georgia Tech is to see if ACC and broader uncertainty scares Notre Dame.
SEC: Like the Big Ten, the SEC will have a network to sell. Like the Big Ten, the SEC will be on the hunt for valuable footprint. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami would be untenable politically. The SEC counters the B1G creep southward adding Virginia Tech and N.C. State.
Big 12: Ten teams without a conference network is okay for now. Superconference expansion may change that. Poaching Texas and Oklahoma remains the only viable expansion route for an ambitious Pac 12, which has its own network. This becomes more tangible as the grant of rights closes. Does the Big 12 pluck programs (Miami, Florida State, Clemson and a few others from the ACC) and form a network to ensure its own survival?
[Photo via USA Today Sports]
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