Pac-12 Expansion Rumors: How Will the SEC and Other Conferences React?
Expansion rumors in college athletics are anything but certain. In the summer of 2010, it seemed like the Pac-16 was all but a certainty. Nebraska and Colorado had officially left the Big 12, and it looked like the Texas and Oklahoma schools weren't far behind.
A few weeks ago, Texas A&M to the SEC was reported as imminent. The Aggies will likely join the SEC in the near future, but it wont happen as quickly as some people think.
Oklahoma president David Boren says multiple conferences are interested in the Sooners. T. Boone Pickers says the conference will not exist within the next five years and that Oklahoma State will probably join an expanded Pac-12.
The future of the Big 12 is in serious doubt. It may soon become a thing of the past in college athletics like the Southwest and Metro Conference.
If the Pac-12 does expand into Texas and Oklahoma, it won't be the only conference looking to get 16 teams or beyond.
The expansion focus would then turn to the remaining five remaining Big 12 schools.
The SEC would need to add another school (or three) to go along with Texas A&M, and could do so amongst those schools. However, they would also face competition from Jim Delaney and the Big Ten.
Meanwhile the ACC, Big East and others are left wondering what will be the outcome of their futures.
College Football has had larger conferences. The SIAA once had 27 teams and the Southern Conference had 23 teams, before the SEC broke off of it. In the late 1990s, the WAC had 16 football members and the Big East currently has the same amount for basketball. However, the Pac-16 would be the first in the super-conference race.
Larry Scott's empire would boast from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, all the way to Great Plains. The western division is the old Pac-8 and the eastern division resembles a modified version of the original Big-12.
The newly expanded conference could easily challenge an SEC, of 12 or more teams, as the best football power in the nation. In terms of geography, no one comes close. Your conference is doing well when one of your biggest problems is deciding between the Rose Bowl or Jerry World as the site for the conference title game.
The Rest of the Big 12
If Oklahoma and Texas depart, along with Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the conference will be left with five teams:
These schools probably won't be the foundation for a new conference, but they should be able to find homes in another. Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri will have little trouble joining a different BCS conference. Baylor and Iowa State might not be as fortunate.
Texas A&M's reluctance to head west last year is a big reason why the Pac-16 fell through. Their interest in heading east this year has reignited the inevitable talk of conference realignment.
If the Aggies eventually join the SEC, the conference won't stay at 13 teams for long. At most the SEC would play one season with 13 teams before going to 14 or 16 members.
Finding members 14 through 16 is the only hurdle that is delaying the addition of Texas A&M. Mike Slive and the SEC are interested in Oklahoma, but they won't be able to get the Sooners without taking Oklahoma State as well.
Interest has been shown in Florida State and Clemson, despite hesitation from some current members. The Seminoles already compete with Alabama and Florida for recruiting and would do so even more in the same conference. Also, the SEC already has a presence in both Florida and South Carolina. Adding either school would not put the conference's footprint in new markets.
This is a reason why the SEC has interest in going after Missouri and ACC schools like Maryland and Virginia Tech.
The conference will also probably need to find a way to expand without having to put Alabama and Auburn in separate divisions.
In any case, the SEC will be one of the benefactors of expansion.
The Big Ten won't be the first super-conference. However, Jim Delaney started the concept of going to super-conferences and the Big Ten will benefit when it's all said and done. The question now is, where will the conference expand?
Delaney could deliver the final blow to the Big 12 by extending invitations to Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. This move does not strengthen Big Ten football to an SEC level, but it might put them on par with the Big East in basketball.
Kansas and Missouri are obvious targets. The Jayhawks are one of college basketball's cornerstones and the Tigers have solid football and hoops programs.
Kansas State may not be Delaney's first choice, but the Wildcats might be able to join their in-state rivals in the Big Ten, if the conference is unsuccessful expanding eastward.
Iowa State would probably only be added as the 16th team in this scenario. Otherwise, the Cyclones will likely be left out of a BCS conference in the future. They could have trouble finding a home altogether.
The MAC and Conference USA each have 12 teams and won't expand to an odd number of teams.
Although the Big Ten would have some interest in adding Kansas and Missouri, their real goal is to add some teams from the Big East.
The Big East has the most unclear future of all the BCS conferences. Their 16- (soon to be 17-) team basketball league sent a record 11 teams to the tournament this past season and is considered by many to be best in the nation.
Their football conference is equally unimpressive.
Some college football fans rank the Big East below the Mountain West, as the seventh-best conference in the nation.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are atop of the Big Ten's wish list with Rutgers and Connecticut not far behind. If the Big Ten does get Kansas and Missouri, the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh would put them at 16 teams.
However, the likelihood of any Big East team leaving for the Big Ten is uncertain. Syracuse is a Big East charter member and Pittsburgh has been in the conference since 1982.
The Big East will have nine football members starting in 2012.
There has always been speculation of a split between the football and non-football members of the conference. However, it's not out of the question that the Big East could still expand to 10 or 12 football members.
Villanova football could go Division I, despite the setbacks that move has faced.
Conference USA teams such as Houston and Central Florida have been linked to the Big East. Both football programs are respectable and would give TCU and South Florida in-conference rivals.
Army and Navy could be possibilities if both programs relinquish their status as football independents.
Before adding TCU, the Big East approached Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State about coming aboard during the original Pac-16 speculation. That Big East would still have been a weak football conference, but could at least host a conference championship game. On the other hand, every other conference would always be a distant second in hoops.
The conference won't hesitant to add more football members, even though its basketball league could approach 18 or 20 teams.
Even in the aftermath of the super-conference, the Big East is likely to remain a power in college hoops in some form.
The Big Ten's interest in Notre Dame is widely known. For years the conference remained at 11 teams, hoping that the Fighting Irish would eventually become the 12th member of the Big Ten.
Any conference would love to have Notre Dame as part of it. Jim Delaney would likely go after Notre Dame in any effort to expand his conference to 16 teams.
The Fighting Irish could play a significant role in conference realignment. Notre Dame's addition to Big East football could save the conference's automatic BCS qualification in the uncertain future of super-conferences.
For now, they will remain an independent with a national TV deal through 2015.
Like the Big East, the ACC is being forced into a wait-and-see mode during this latest round of conference realignment rumors.
Unlike the Big East, the ACC's prestige is unlikely to take a hit in the super-conference era.
Even before the second wave of Pac-16 speculation, the SEC was already going after ACC members to go along with Texas A&M in a 14- or 16-team conference.
The SEC's attempt to get their 14th school from the ACC has so far been unsuccessful.
Virginia Tech seems hesitant to leave a conference they dominate and join one in which they will just be another good team. Also, the Hokies only joined the ACC seven years ago and may not want to leave so soon.
Florida State and Clemson could be possibilities, but disapproval from current members could prevent them from being added.
The SEC or Big Ten would love to get Maryland and/or North Carolina, but it's very unlikely an ACC charter member would depart, especially the Tar Heels.
If the SEC and Big Ten are successful in going to 16 teams like the Pac-12, the fourth super-conference would probably be formed from the remaining schools in the ACC and Big East leftovers.
The ACC/Big East hybrid would easily be the best in basketball amongst the super-conferences. The only question is would the conference tournament remain at Madison Square Garden?
Boise State and the Mountain West
When Boise State joined the Mountain West in the summer of 2010, the conference seemed like it was on the right path to eventually achieving BCS-qualifying status. The Broncos became its 10th member and gave the conference another strong football team to go along with Utah, BYU and TCU.
Things looked great until the Pac-16 never became a reality. Utah left for the Pac-12, BYU went independent and TCU is going to the Big East next season.
That's not exactly what Chris Peterson and the Broncos had in mind.
The Mountain West will instead look more like the WAC in 2012 when Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii. That will once again put the conference back at 10 teams.
Boise State will likely remain as a big fish in a small pond, unless Larry Scott calls about plans for the Pac-20.
If the Mountain West is interested in expanding beyond 10 teams, Waco, Texas will be on their radar. Baylor will be one of the losers in conference realignment. If the Big 12 falls and the Pac-16 rises, the Bears will need to find a new home.
Conference USA is unlikely because the conference currently has 12 football members.
The Mountain West is a logical destination. After TCU leaves, the conference will not have a school in the Lone Star State.
Another option for Baylor would be the WAC, which will be back to 10 teams next season.
In either scenario, the Mountain West or WAC would probably add a 12th team. That school could come from the other conference or 1-AA.
One upside about conference expansion is the opportunities it leaves for 1-AA programs to be promoted to Division I. Texas-San Antonio and four other 1-AA schools will join the MAC next season.
Wherever Baylor ends up, it won't be somewhere with the same prestige that the Southwest Conference and Big 12 once had.
The Super-Conference Era
If the Pac-16 becomes a reality in the near future, the era of super-conferences becomes official rather than just speculation. Mike Slive and Jim Delaney will not sit back and let Larry Scott be the only in charge of such a league.
How the SEC and Big Ten react to the Pac-16 will determine how the rest of the NCAA landscape looks like when it's all said and done.