Are They Heading for the SEC?
Hello, college football and college basketball fans!
Conference realignment was put in motion last year when Nebraska was invited to the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah was invited to the Pac-12.
There was talk of a movement to the "superconference" era with some of the most powerful conferences expanding to 16 members each.
However, when Texas and the rest of the Big 12 decided to stay rather than join the Pac-12 (would have been Pac-16), the "superconference" era was placed on hold.
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz regarding a proposed move of Texas A&M to the SEC which would have put the SEC at 13 members with at least one more and possibly more on the way.
Then the SEC seemingly put the brakes on the invite of Texas A&M. But Texas A&M is still discussing leaving the Big 12. Is Texas A&M to the SEC a foregone conclusion and if so, will we finally see the superconference era?
This proposal is part what I want to see happen and part what I think has a realistic chance of happening.
Proposal: Add Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State
I am a much bigger fan of college basketball than college football so I like the ACC more than the SEC.
I think Kentucky should "upgrade" to the ACC while Clemson should be kicked out of the ACC and be "forced" to join the SEC.
Of course in the real world, everything in the South revolves around football and the SEC (well outside of North Carolina and Kentucky).
I am not from the South. Apparently, being in the SEC is so big that Florida doesn't want Florida State and South Carolina doesn't want Clemson in the SEC.
Then again, other schools want their in state rivals in the same conference. Back in 2003, then Virginia governor Mark Warner pushed Virginia Tech into the ACC.
Also, it is rumored that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are a package deal as well, they won't split up.
Assuming that the SEC doesn't add any new members from current SEC states, that takes out Florida State, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina. Of course, economically it makes more sense to expand to new markets than expand in markets you currently have a footing in.
So, Virginia Tech looks like a great choice to get a presence in the Northeast and adding the Oklahoma schools improves the SEC's presence in the Southwest.
With the four new members, the East and West divisions need to be slightly realigned since three of the four fit in the West. One team would be forced to move to the East.
If it is just a single team moving, geographically Auburn would make the split. But that would split them with Alabama. A compromise would be moving both Alabama and Auburn to the East and Vanderbilt to the West (Vanderbilt and Tennessee really don't have much of a rivalry anyway).
Proposal: Add Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Maryland or Connecticut
According to Jim Delany, the Big Ten has no interest at this time to expand. But there should be some pressure if the SEC does go to 14 and/or 16.
As I wrote last year, I think the Big Ten should expand its presence in the East Coast and invite Pittsburgh, hopefully getting the Big East to fold (at least in football) and then force Notre Dame to join.
My plan now would be to add Pitt and Syracuse to make it 14. They give the Big Ten more of a presence on the East Coast and hurts the Big East and could cost them their BCS automatic bid (especially if the ACC raids the Big East as well).
This may force the split between the Big East football members and non football members and take away Notre Dame's safety net. Would Notre Dame want to stay in the Big East without Pitt or Syracuse (and possibly more members gone)?
Assuming the Big Ten can get Notre Dame, I think the 16th team should be Maryland as it would give the Big Ten a presence in the DC market. I'm not sure Maryland would want to leave the ACC, especially if they aren't heavily decimated by an SEC raid.
The backup would be Connecticut. It would help the Big Ten gain a presence in New York and/or New England. From a basketball standpoint (men's and women's), it's a slam dunk addition.
I would say at this point to put Pitt and Syracuse into the Leaders Division with Penn State and Notre Dame and Maryland/Connecticut into the Legends Division.
This puts an Indiana school into the Legends Division and allows Notre Dame to be in the same division with both Michigan schools while Penn State can renew old rivalries with Pitt and Syracuse.
Proposal: Add West Virginia. If Maryland leaves for the Big Ten, add Connecticut. Add Rutgers, Temple, Cincinnati, and Louisville.
Clearly, the ACC would need to add someone if Virginia Tech leaves for the SEC and/or if Maryland leaves for the Big Ten. Like the Big Ten, I think the ACC could certainly be helped by an increased presence in the Northeast.
I really have no love for Rutgers and hope they don't get chosen by either the Big Ten or the ACC. But with both conferences coveting the New York market, it seems unlikely both will pass on Rutgers. Of course being a Big Ten guy, I'd rather Rutgers join the ACC than the Big Ten.
Louisville and Cincinnati add two new cities and two new states to the ACC's footprint (Cincinnati opens up the Midwest).
Of the remaining candidates for the 16th bid, Temple seems to be the only remaining school that would add a market to the ACC (the Philadelphia market). Since the ACC already has two schools in Florida and four in North Carolina, adding South Florida, Central Florida, or East Carolina wouldn't add much demographically.
Temple doesn't have to worry about Villanova blocking their entry into the ACC and if the ACC has to choose one now between Villanova and Temple, it would make sense to choose the school that currently plays FBS football and not an FCS school unsure whether or not it should move.
Since Miami and Florida State aren't dominating the league as was expected, I see no reason why the ACC doesn't go to a North/South division alignment.
North: Maryland/Connecticut, Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers, Temple, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville
South: North Carolina, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami
Proposal: Pac-12 stands pat, Big 12 adds Boise State, BYU, TCU, Houston, Memphis
It would seem that if the SEC and/or Big Ten move to 16 teams, the Pac-12 should follow. However, I'm not sure they will.
Unlike the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC, the Northeast market isn't up for grabs. If the Pac-12 expands at all, it would assumedly be to gain a footprint into Texas.
But there are only two schools that are "home runs" there, Texas and Texas A&M. Texas A&M prefers the SEC (if they wanted to join the Pac-12, they would've last year). It seems like the Longhorn Network is a deal breaker for Texas in the Pac-12.
Obviously, the Oklahoma schools are an option for Pac-12 expansion but they are not directly in Texas and both schools probably don't have the same academic reputation of Texas or Texas A&M. Adding Missouri and/or Kansas might be a little far away from California.
So, without Texas, I don't think it's worthwhile for the Pac-12 to expand like it is for the Big Ten and ACC.
As for the Big 12, I think as long as Texas wants the Big 12 to exist the Big 12 will exist.
Of course the Big 12 won't be as good without Texas A&M and the Oklahoma schools. But assuming the Big Ten and/or SEC isn't interested in Missouri, where else will they go (and if the Big East gets decimated, they aren't an option either)?
You hear all about Oklahoma and Texas A&M (and last year Nebraska and Colorado) complaining about Texas. Who don't you hear? Iowa State, Kansas State, and Baylor. They have no other options. Where else would they go?
All the Big 12 has to do is get on the phones and I can guarantee there will be enough schools willing to listen. Tell me which of the five proposed schools would say no to a Big 12 invite unless they get a better offer? Tell me TCU or Houston wouldn't jump at the chance to be in a conference with Texas.
They also can have a conference championship again. Yes, I am proposing a North/South split. Without Texas A&M or the Oklahoma schools, the divisions look more balanced (if not in favor of the North with Boise and BYU).
North: Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Boise State, BYU
South: Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, Memphis
As long as Texas is still in the Big 12 (assuming last season was an aberration), they will still be a BCS conference. Unless one of the other eleven schools get a chance to join one of the other conferences, they will be happy to stay with Texas. Even if one or two leaves, SMU basically is begging to join.
The best thing? The Big 12 will finally be numerically accurate again!
MWC: Add Utah State. Add Gonzaga for all sports other than football.
Conference USA: Add South Florida and Louisiana Tech
Big East (non football): Add Xavier and Dayton
MVC: Add Butler and St. Louis
The Mountain West invites Utah State to replace Boise State and to gain a team in Utah again. This time, Utah State accepts (as opposed to last time).
This doesn't relate to football but to basketball and other sports. Next year, Hawaii becomes a football only school. Why not take Gonzaga to essentially take Hawaii's place for other sports? If not, the MWC is just a nine school conference outside of football.
Last year, BYU and San Diego State had terrific seasons in basketball. BYU and Utah both leave the MWC this year. Inviting Gonzaga instantly strengthens the MWC as one of the teams at the top of the mid majors chain (in addition to adding Utah State).
It also gives the MWC a team in the Pacific Northwest. The best part is Gonzaga doesn't cost the conference any football money but would bring in a lot of money from basketball.
South Florida is the big loser in this realignment proposal.
Geography won them a spot in the Big East after Miami and Boston College left the Big East. But now geography could cost them a spot in the ACC. They have really no other option than to join Central Florida here.
In addition, Louisiana Tech finally gets away from the WAC.
As for the WAC, only San Jose State, Idaho, and New Mexico State remain from last year's WAC before Boise State left. Maybe they will drop football and stay together for other sports, making San Jose State, Idaho, and New Mexico State independents in FBS football.
The MWC could grab two of the three to get a conference championship game but decided against doing so when Utah State (as well as Houston and UTEP) were available. If they do decide to go to 12, who do you leave out? San Jose State would help the MWC gain a footing in the Bay Area.
Perhaps Conference USA could take New Mexico State (pretty close to UTEP) and Appalachian State (rumored to be interested in moving up to FBS) to make it 14.
The Big East pretty much goes back to its roots of being a non football league. Villanova and Georgetown would be the headliners of the league and they should be able to bring Xavier and Dayton into the fold for a nine team league. If they wish to go beyond Catholic schools, Massachusetts might be a good tenth team.
They won't have 11 bids a year (pretty hard to with only nine schools).
They also lose valuable teams in Syracuse and UConn, but they still have good teams and I think they would be closer to the sixth "major" (if they aren't still better than the Big 12 and Pacific 12) than a mid major.
With just nine schools, they can play double round robin without traveling all over the country.
Another conference which I would like to see expand is the Missouri Valley Conference. The MVC has fallen on hard times lately in basketball (no at large bids since 2007) and Butler improves the conference. St. Louis is added for geographical reasons.
The Atlantic 10 will lose Temple, Xavier, Dayton, and St. Louis. They could go back to a 10 team league (another conference which would be numerically correct again!) They could raid the Colonial Athletic Association for teams. Or with VCU making the Final Four, maybe the Colonial raids the A-10.
According to this proposal, the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC become superconferences.
The Pac-12 and Big 12 stay at 12 for now. If Texas and the Pac-12 can come to a truce concerning the Longhorn Network, then the Pac-12 can become the Pac-16, giving us the four superconferences.
Personally, I kind of prefer having the Big 12 and Pacific 12 separate rather than one huge conference stretching from California to Texas (and possibly further East).
I don't really want a conference spanning three time zones and I'm not sure Stanford and USC really want to be traveling to Missouri or Kansas for baseball or women's volleyball.
If the BCS stays in its current form, there would likely be five "auto bid" conferences as the Big East would no longer support football. The MWC would not have much of a chance of receiving an automatic bid after losing Boise State.
With Notre Dame and BYU joining conferences, the only independents would be Army and Navy.
Finally, the Big East leaves football once and for all. It would be poetic justice if Temple essentially takes South Florida's place at the BCS table after the opposite occurred back in 2005. If the Big East continues to desire to expand, it seems inevitable the league will split apart soon anyway so maybe the best thing is to break it up now.
Obviously a lot of this is wishful thinking. If the superconference era is upon us, I would love this to be the result though. Clearly I would love to see more of an Eastern presence in the Big Ten (so Penn State isn't so isolated) and Notre Dame join the conference.