Of the eight Southwest Conference members pictured above, one is already in the SEC, one has been formally invited and one (I predict) will likely be invited when the Big East collapses. Two are likely headed to the Pac-12 and two are currently in Conference-USA (C-USA). That leaves Baylor.
If the proverbial crap hits the fan in the coming weeks, Baylor will go ahead with its lawsuit. At that point, the possible outcomes are:
- Baylor is invited to become a member of the SEC (snowball's chance in Waco)
- Baylor wins lawsuit against SEC (least probable)
- Baylor settles out of court with the SEC for a sizeable sum (somewhat probable)
- Baylor loses lawsuit against SEC and is counter-sued by Texas A&M (somewhat probable)
- Baylor is invited to C-USA, which will inherit the Big East's AQ status (most probable)*
*In this last outcome, I leave the outcome of the lawsuit undetermined, though I would lean slightly towards the prediction that they would settle out of court, given the circumstances mentioned.
So what happens to the rest of the Big East? Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida would be orphaned. Baylor would be orphaned by the collapse of the Big 12 (I predicted in the last slide that Kansas State would be "adopted" by the MWC). There would be two reasons for C-USA to pursue these four members.
First, it would bring C-USA to 16 members (it already has 12) and put it on a par with the BCS conferences in numbers, if not in prestige.
Second, if it were to add four teams from defunct BCS conferences, it could (and I predict, will) make a case for inheriting the Big East's automatic qualification berth in the BCS.
C-USA West: Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, Louisiana Tech*, Tulane, Tulsa, Southern Miss
C-USA East: Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marshall, East Carolina, UAB, South Florida, Central Florida
* If TCU *is* invited by the SEC (this is my prediction; I admit that the chances are slim, but definitely possible, especially if Texas A&M is in), then I would see UTEP moving to the MWC, and Louisiana Tech taking its place in C-USA.
If TCU is not invited by the SEC and joins an AQ-status MWC, then the C-USA will keep its existing 12 members and add Baylor along with the three Big East orphans.
Finally, I address the independents and the three "mid-minor" conferences, the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Sun Belt Conference and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC):
MAC West: Northern Illinois, Ball State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Toledo
MAC East: Miami (OH), Akron, Kent State, Ohio, Buffalo, Temple*, UMass**
* Temple has been a football-only associate member of the MAC since 2007.
** UMass will join the MAC as a football-only associate member and begin FBS play in 2012.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, South Alabama*
* South Alabama is already a Sun Belt member and is scheduled to begin FBS play in 2013.
WAC: Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State, New Mexico State, Texas State*, Texas-San Antonio (UTSA)*, North Texas**
* Texas State and UTSA will join the WAC and begin FBS play in 2012.
** North Texas is currently a member of the Sun Belt, but might be persuaded to move to the WAC if given enough, uh, "incentive" to do so. Perhaps some Texas politicking is in order?
Contrary to some speculation, I predict that Notre Dame will remain independent. I would only expect that to change if, for whatever reason, its special status within the BCS (which is constituted by the six existing conferences and Notre Dame) were revoked.
I also see BYU. Army and Navy remaining independent—at least given my predictions for the rest of FBS. So of the 124 FBS teams in 2013, 90 will be in BCS (automatic-qualification) conferences, 30 in non-BCS conferences and four independents (of which one has special BCS status).
Having said all this, it's really time that the NCAA stepped in and instituted a proper playoff format, similar to the one found in FCS (but involving TV rights and revenue on a scale similar to "March Madness"). But that's a story for future (and past) columns.