Pitt and Syracuse Leave Big East: Projecting the Future Landscape of the NCAA
There's been a ton of conference realignment in college sports in the past year or so. Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 and Nebraska joined the twelve team Big 10 before the start of this football season.
Well the carousel doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. Texas A&M will become the first team from Texas in the SEC, and the ACC has begun another raid of the Big East. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are ACC-bound.
I personally love the conferences that are currently in place. I wish the six BCS conferences would continue operating, but it just doesn't seem like they'll be able to. All these conference changes are happening for financial reasons. The universities want financial stability, and football brings in the most revenue out of all the sports. So while most think of Pitt and Syracuse as basketball powerhouses, the move to the ACC is mainly driven by football. The Big East is a terrible football conference and the ACC's TV contract is way bigger.
As much as it pains me, I think the NCAA is headed to four powerhouse conferences, each with sixteen teams. This dramatic shift could be happening sooner than you think. This is mostly speculation, but here are the changes I can see occurring over the next few years. The conferences will surely look a lot different when it's all said and done.
Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State Head to the Pac-16
I think this will be the major move that leads to the demise of the Big 12 Conference. And it's really a shame, because you don't think of the west coast when you think of Texas and Oklahoma. But it's no secret that the Pac-12 wants to expand and they are eying these schools.
What's good about this move is that it would create clear cut divisions. The West Coast Division—USC, UCLA, Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State. And the Southwest Division—Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. It seems like the talent would be distributed pretty evenly.
Big East Collapses: Rutgers, UConn, Louisville, and USF Head to the ACC
With the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, it's clear that the ACC wants to dramatically expand and improve. They will narrow in on Rutgers, UConn, Louisville and South Florida. Four Big East teams will join the Panthers and Orange in the ACC, leaving only Cincinnati and West Virginia as Big East football schools.
What would the new divisions look like? If they go by geography, the North would consist of Maryland, Virginia (Charlottesville is farther north than Blacksburg) and the six new teams from the Big East. The South would consist of the remaining current ACC members, with South Florida essentially replacing Florida State. I'll get into that in a bit.
I bet TCU feels pretty stupid for joining the Big East, huh?
SEC Looks to Expand: FSU, West Virginia, and TCU Join
This is an intriguing one. With the ACC expanding, the SEC is going to look to keep up. Right now they have an awkward thirteen teams with the addition of Texas A&M. So look for at least one team to be added very soon.
Florida State is sure to dominate the ACC this season, and the SEC would certainly be a step up. I have a feeling that the SEC wants an in-state rival for the Gators, and they play each other every season anyways.
There's been a report that West Virginia applied for membership, but the SEC rejected them. I think the SEC will reconsider once the Pac-12 and ACC expand to sixteen teams. The Mountaineers would be a nice fit, and they have good football and basketball teams every year.
The TCU thing might surprise a lot of people, but it's not as farfetched as you would think. I'm nearly certain that the Big East will shut down its football operations, leading to TCU without a conference. The SEC has shown that they want to expand into Texas, and the Horned Frogs would be a nice complement to the Aggies. It would solidify the fact that East Texas is now SEC territory, and it would add another private school to keep Vanderbilt company.
Big 10 Unwillingly Expands: Cincinnatti, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri Join
I get the feeling that the Big 10 is the one BCS Conference that is kind of resisting expansion. But I think they're going to be forced to in order to keep up.
The Big 12 currently has 10 teams. That will soon become 9 when A&M leaves, and it will then become 5 when the Pac-12 invades. Four of those five teams will make desperate calls to the Big 10. Kansas and Kansas State will be accepted. What was once known as the Big 12 will consist of just Baylor and Iowa State.
Missouri apparently has been accepted by the SEC, but they are waiting to respond. My question is why wait? If they were seriously interested in going to the SEC, they would accept right away. I think they're concerned about being successful in that conference. They've been successful recently, but that's been while playing in the pretty weak Big 12 North. And does it really make geographic sense for them to be in the Southeastern Conference? Unlike the other three teams joining, the Big 10 will reach out to the Tigers. I hope this is where Mizzou ends up. I want the super conferences to be somewhat geographically based.
I'm not so sure about the Bearcats. Their football team struggles in the weak Big East, but the Big 10 makes the most sense for them. If the Big 10 rejects them, they will probably turn to the MAC. But in that event, the Big 10 would be stuck with an awkward 15 teams. Cincinnati joining the Big 10 is the most logical solution for all parties involved.
The Big 12 Rejects Find a Home in the Mountain West
The Mountain West has consistently improved. TCU leaving is a big blow, but Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada will be joining next season.
Boise State surely deserves to be in a BCS conference. Is there a chance that the Big 12 adds Boise State and BYU and is able to survive? I wish, but I don't think it's plausible. BYU can make being independent work. The Broncos would have been a great fit in the Big 12, but they will have no choice but to stay in the Mountain West.
The Mountain west will be drastically improved. I mentioned the three WAC teams joining, and they will surely welcome Baylor and Iowa State with open arms. It will be a distant fifth in terms of talent, but the Mountain West will be a pretty solid conference.
WAC Dissolves Amongst Conference USA and Sun Belt
The WAC is already falling apart. The demise began when Boise State left for the Mountain West. Conference USA might become, as its name suggests, a coast to coast conference. Utah State and Idaho might apply for membership in the Mountain West, but their addition would water down what is shaping up to be a pretty talented conference. They won't want that to happen.
So Utah State, Idaho, and San Jose State will awkwardly join Conference USA. Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State join the Sun Belt.
Big East Becomes a Basketball Only Conference: St. Joseph's and Temple Join
Try to imagine a Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden without Syracuse, Pittsburgh, UConn, and Louisville. It's tough, right? But like I said earlier, football brings in the big bucks, causing the dramatic shift to the ACC.
But don't fret Big East basketball fans. I think there are enough basketball only schools in the conference for it to survive. Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul, and Notre Dame are all going to continue playing basketball.
Eight teams doesn't seem to be enough, so I think the Big East will aim for the top two teams in the Atlantic 10—Temple and St. Joe's. These two schools have built consistent basketball programs, and we've seen them in the big dance a ton recently.
What this also does, is create a ten team, private school only conference. They could expand further than ten teams, or even look to mostly or completely merge with the A-10. But I think the ten team conference I am suggesting would be interesting. And the fact that they're all small private schools would make for an interesting rivalry with the predominantly public ACC.
So what impact would realignment have on a potential playoff? Well maybe none. But a huge part of the bowl system is conference tie ins. If the Big East and Big 12 just go away, what happens?
I think this is the perfect time for a playoff to be implemented. The landscape of the NCAA is dramatically changing, and everybody seems to want a playoff. Most of us are sick of a computer determining who plays in which bowl game.
Create an eight team playoff. Give the four Conference Champions automatic births. Have a selection committee pick the next best four teams. Have a separate committee rank the eight teams (so there would be no biases made when selecting the field). You can have each first round game played at the different BCS venues. And then have the Final Four at one of the BCS venues rotating every year. This would keep tradition and have the champion determined on the field.
The shifting of conferences might sting a little at first. Big 12 and Big East fans will surely be disappointed. But every team will continue to play football, and they will all have an opportunity to win a National Championship. All this conference realignment could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.