There is a conference expansion holiday coming for a select few lucky schools.
Those schools - mainly due to residing in a large television market - will open their presents one morning and find “Delaney Claus” or “Santa Slive” has left them millions of dollars under their tree.
As with every holiday fete, however, there is always the problem of what to do with those darn leftovers. Once expansion ends, unfortunately several highly successful programs are at risk of having lumps of coal left in their stockings.
No one knows for sure what will happen, or who might be left out when all the shifting stops. In 20 minutes or 20 weeks that could all change, but right now none of us know for certain what will take place.
As for myself and what I think will happen, I do not claim to be a psychic, and as I have been told by many, and many times by my faithful readers, I probably don’t know my behind from a hole in the ground.
And you are correct...probably. In no way are my opinions as valuable as Larry the Pool Cleaner in Hackensack or Billy Bob the Rodeo Clown in Austin. I am just a hack who, in no way, can possibly fathom the bigger picture the way Terry the Used Car Salesman in Columbus can.
What I do have is an opinion and an imagination. And since we started this whole piece talking about holidays and leftovers, then we might as well add in a few fairy tales to complete the picture.
Now to appease all our little leprechaun friends, I will allow them to remain independent and not join Jim Delaney’s Big Ten. I have that kind of authority. Ask anyone.
As for the Big Ten and the teams they might grab, let us just go ahead and drive a stake through the heart of the Big East and give Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers to the Big Ten. Oh, and let’s start the tremors around the Big 12 as well, by giving Nebraska and Missouri to the Big Ten too. I am generous that way.
The Pac-10 doesn’t need to expand by extreme numbers because they already monopolize the western portion of the United States as far as the BCS goes, but they do want a conference championship. If their whining to the NCAA to allow them to stage a conference championship without growing to 12 teams goes unheard, then they will add Colorado and Utah and take their ball and go home.
As the old expression goes, you have to let the big dogs eat, and Mike Slive’s SEC hound dogs will take a big bite out of the Big 12 by grabbing the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
Not to be outdone (well, again anyway) smiling Jim Swofford decides he wants to play Delaney Claus too, but politics jumble his white Christmas just a bit. They are fortunate enough to grab a stud addition to their basketball ranks in Connecticut, and South Florida helps them in football.
But the politics begin to come into play at this point, and the delegates in North Carolina force the hand of their in-state schools and make them include East Carolina for this expansion go-round. Remember, this is a holiday fairy tale, so do not get your shorts in a wad. Virginia politicians forced the ACC’s hand in allowing Virginia Tech admission during the last expansion holiday season, so do not think crazy things will not happen this time.
To finish off their expansion plans, the conference that gave Donna Shalala a voice in college athletics decides to keep an all-East Coast presence by adding Central Florida to their line-up as team number 16. That way, every school in the conference resides in a state that can boast of beach front property.
So now that all the good little girls and boys have been rewarded for their efforts, what will happen to the schools that fell onto Santa Slive’s or Delaney Claus’s naughty lists? What becomes of the teams from conference’s that had members leave to become part of ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10, or SEC early shopping lists?
Well, that is what we are really here to talk about. Nothing I have said so far is exactly new in concept, and if you need a reminder, see my previous statement about the hole-in-the-ground.
Having said that, several quality schools with very good athletic programs will possibly be left on the roadside as the one-horse open sleigh glides passed them en route to a television contract negotiation meeting.
So what are those schools to do?
How about forming a conference of leftovers? A 16-team super conference of leftovers that stretches across most of the country, and that is divided up into four regions each featuring four teams in mini-divisions.
Now is that in any way the best idea around? No (again, see hole-in-the-ground). But for pure survival aspects, it may be an option to consider. As for the four divisions in the new 16-team leftover conglomeration, they are split up as follows:
Division A: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, SMU.
Division B: Boise State, BYU, Colorado State and Texas Tech.
Division C: Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Memphis.
Division D: Baylor, TCU, Houston, Southern Miss.
Schools in different divisions that are in closer proximity to one another would be given scheduling priority with each other.
Football would be very solid with Boise State, BYU, Texas Tech, WVU, Cincinnati, and TCU representing as typically strong programs year-in and year-out, with other schools like Kansas, Kansas State, Southern Miss, Louisville, and Houston capable of putting in dominating performances in any given year. Those are a lot of potential bowl bids come holiday bowl season.
As for basketball, you are looking at a league that is capable of getting at least six NCAA bids on an annual basis with the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Memphis, West Virginia, Baylor, BYU, and Cincinnati.
Is this conference worthy of its own network? Who can say for sure, but I do know that the Mountain West Conference’s network, “The Mountain,” would be in dire straits if all those schools left the MWC for greener pastures, so a re-branding of “The Mountain” might be in order, as it could become this new conference’s flagship station.
With the huge footprint the conference would provide, the re-branded network could negotiate its way into newer markets in areas that they never had a prayer of being a part of before across a larger section of the United States. That might even give “The Mountain” network executives visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
So do not fret, and do not be dismayed if your school is left out in the cold. Much smarter people than myself are in charge and on top of the situation. See the aforementioned com…ah, you get the idea. Conference expansion may seem like a scary time are first, but everything will work out in the end.
And now that my holiday fairy tale is spent, I wish you all a merry conference expansion season and a happy new lucrative television contract over several years.