College Football Realignment Will Not Lead to 16-Team Superconferences

Donald FincherAnalyst IOctober 22, 2011

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 24:  A general view of Mountaineer Field is seen during first half play between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Louisiana State University Tigers during the game on September 24, 2011 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

There are a few fanbases that are on the realignment carousel that want to get off.  They just want their team to find a place to land in this madness.  But mostly, they just want it over with.  Good or bad, they're just tired of waiting.

And there's a familiar hopeful refrain of those that are on the outside looking in.  We may not make it to the conference we desire in "this round" of realignment...but when the conferences go to 16 teams, we will.

This is nonsense!  I hear this as if there's been some sort of memo passed around that says that's the plan.  If we've learned anything from this, it's that there is no plan.  Realignment would be a lot more sane if there were a commissioner or some governing body that has power that the NCAA doesn't have to regulate conferences.  At this point, the conferences can do as they please.

But those days are nearly over.  I'm about to explain why.  But first, let's put to bed this myth that conferences are on some sort of course for 16 teams each.

To do this, let's start by asking ourselves "Why 16?"  And the answer is because that's what the media has been batting around.  But sometimes things get passed around and become some sort of conventional wisdom—and the reason why it started getting batted around in the first place gets lost.  

When that happens, as it has now,  these myths just won't die.  The whole dynamic that caused the 16-team superconferences to be discussed in the first place no longer exists.  

But the myth has taken on its own life.

The genesis of this whole thing was the idea that the Pac-10 was going to take on Colorado, Utah, and a Big 12 foursome believed by most and rumored to be Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  They eventually did invite Colorado and Utah.  Well, they invited them all, but Colorado and Utah were the ones that came.

The Big Ten was believed to be looking at some sort of mega expansion from 11 to 16 teams.  And even though the Big Ten was begged by all of the likely candidates (Missouri, Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh), they said no to all of them and took only Nebraska.

The Big Ten has shown great deliberation and steadfastness throughout this.  They are averaging adding one team every 20 years.  They're not going to reach 16 quickly that way.

So both of the two conferences that discussed and studied going to 16 did not.

That brings us to now.

Even if the conferences were to put together a concerted effort to get there, they couldn't. The primary reason behind this is for the 16-team superconferences to exist, the Big 12 and the Big East had to be absorbed.  But the Big 12 is going to survive, and that cuts the 16-team superconferences off at the knees.  

Here's why each conference would have a very difficult, if not impossible, task of getting to 16...even if they put their minds to it...The Pac-12 flirted again with the Big 12 foursome and this time it was the Pac-12 that said no.  

Texas wouldn't budge on the Longhorn Network and the Pac-12 wouldn't budge on Texas not budging.  Since this has now been revisited twice in two years and hasn't happened, expect it  to die and not come up again for at least a decade, if not more.

Expanding to Texas and Oklahoma was already a big stretch geographically.  Nobody with a brain believes that the Pac-12 will look even further eastward.  

So the Pac-12 is stuck at 12 for the foreseeable future.  That's one conference not going to 16.  And that also takes the pressure off of other conferences to get there.

The Big Ten has been very convincing and consistent in their insistence that they are happy as-is and not looking to expand.  At this point, any expansion would lead to less revenue per school since the schools available would lower the overall profile of the Big Ten.

 Again, the league has only added one school at a time and that was over 20 years apart.

That leaves the ACC and the SEC as the other two conferences in this supposed four conference amalgam of 16 teams each.  Even without the Pac-12 or the Big Ten taking any teams "off the market," the ACC and SEC could not both get to 16 teams...even if they tried to do so.

That's because there are a limited number of BCS conference-worthy teams to even take.

Assuming that the Big East and the Big 12 were to both implode (a requirement for there to be close to enough teams to bring the superconference era upon us), the number of teams the ACC or SEC would be willing to accept are very few.  

Here's the list...

There's West Virginia, UConn and Rutgers out of the Big East and Missouri out of the Big 12, provided they decide to leave the Big 12.  That's it!  As long as the Big 12 exists, those are the only BCS-worthy schools that have profiles high enough for either the SEC or ACC to accept.

And the Big 12 will continue to exist because Texas and Oklahoma alone give it enough cachet to do so and no league other than the Big 12 seems willing to accept Longhorn Network.

That's 4 teams.  The SEC will add one to pair up with Texas A&M (Missouri if it decides to leave the Big 12, West Virginia if Missouri doesn't).  But the SEC will not move to 15 for the same reason they don't want 13 and are looking to even it up again.

For the SEC to expand past 14, they would have to find two of the three in that pool of available teams attractive...not just one of them.  And the SEC has no interest in UConn or Rutgers.

Some might say that the new $20 million handcuffs on ACC teams is not enough to keep certain of them in place if the SEC were to come calling.  So they might take Missouri now and West Virginia later with an ACC team that is not currently on the available teams list.  

Well, that's possible.  But again, if they do that, then the ACC won't reach 16 teams as they only have 14 now and will have gone backward.  And that's the whole point of the piece.  If the SEC goes to 16, they keep the ACC from doing so. and vice-versa.

In either case, no superconference era, because the Big 12 teams had to come available for that to happen.

So for those of you who follow the teams mentioned above—that's West Virginia (especially), UConn, Rutgers and to a lesser degree Missouri—if your team doesn't land somewhere in this round of realignment, it doesn't mean they won't.

A lot of things could happen that could take your team to the promised land of a better conference.  But it won't be because the conferences are inevitably going to 16.

That's just a media myth that won't die.


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