There exists this idea that four 16-team super-conferences are what all of the realignment push has been building toward. Do a Twitter search and you'll find plenty of people just casually assuming that is the end game. Check out Google and it will give you ample posts speaking to the same thing.
Casual fan, average fan, small-time media and big-time media alike; everyone has bought into the four super-conferences ideal.
Hell, until recently, I was one of those people who believed it. However, after looking at the landscape around the time of the Maryland move, it became pretty clear to me; four super-conferences are not nearly as inevitable as people think.
Not even close.
Sure the idea of the four 16-team leagues sounds good. If you look at the numbers 4 x 16 = 64 and compare them to what we have now in the five major leagues, 64 teams, it even seems to make sense. Except it doesn't because when you actually examine the current landscape, this is what you have:
5 Major Conferences
3 conferences of 14 teams (ACC, Big Ten, SEC)
1 conference of 12 teams (Pac-12)
1 conference of 10 teams (Big 12)
It would make sense if the Big 12 was going to dissolve and give the Pac-12 four teams, then lend two apiece to the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. But, that's not going to happen as long as Texas, and to a lesser extent, Oklahoma have any say.
Sure, everyone looks to the ACC. Except as quickly as they were picked off by the Big Ten, they replaced with one of the few remaining schools of quality from the outside looking in. Even if the league drops four, two to the SEC and Big 12 each, they are still at ten teams. As Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer explains, the ACC's demise is no more likely now than it was a year or two ago:
They say we're going to 4 16-team conferences. But there are 5 conferences that ain't going anywhere. ACC "collapse" isn't imminent
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) November 27, 2012
The Pac-12 is in no position to add teams to their boat. Not because they cannot support the weight, but solely because there are no properties in their half of the country that could push them to act. Boise State is never going to do it for them. The heart of the conference will fight vehemently against BYU's inclusion.
Expecting the Pac-12, a league that is as strong as ever currently, to pick up four teams is just not a realistic view of things. Especially since we're merely talking about reshuffling the exiting "major" 64 teams, not adding new bodies to the mix.
Essentially, what it would take to have the four super-conferences that folks are dreaming about is a massive restructuring of the college football landscape. Eliminating conferences as we know them now, to redraw leagues and create a hypothetical North, South, East and West setup.
Yet, that won't happen either. The SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 are here to stay and, as it sits right now, so too is the ACC. It will take a massive blow to John Swofford's Atlantic Coast Conference to change that fact, and given how the core of the conference has dug in, that is not likely to happen.
Could we get to the four 16-team super-conferences? Sure, but the idea that it is a foregone conclusion is a bit too extreme.