A Seismic Shift in the College Football Landscape
During this college football offseason the hottest topic has been conference expansion. This was pushed to the forefront by Jim Delaney of Big Ten when he noted that his conference was looking to expand from 11 to 12, 14 or even 16 teams. The time-table for expansion was set at 12 to 18 months and aside from various rumors hard facts were hard to come by.
On Thursday afternoon Orangebloods.com broke a story that the Pac-10 was gunning for Texas and five other of its Big XII brethren to swell its ranks to 16. Suddenly the Big 10 was trumped in the conference expansion race by the stodgy tradition bound Rose Bowlers to the west.
Message boards, talk radio and the internet were on fire with speculation as to whether the report was true and how the anticipate move would impact the college football landscape. The teams leaving the Big XII were at issue with some reporting that the 6 would be Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado while others left out the Buffalos in place of Baylor.
Missouri and Nebraska were two schools who names were circulating as being at the top of the Big 10′s list so much so that by Saturday the Big XII issued an ultimatum and requested a pledge of loyalty. At this point the Big XII looked to be on the verge of disintegrating and by this morning the very survival of the league remained in question.
Everyone has a theory on how college football realignment will take shape and although I am not an expert I see it happening in the following manner:
- The Big XII has move the time-table up with the ultimatum to Missouri and Nebraska. The deadline is Friday and by that time I think Nebraska will be a member of the Big 10. Tom Osbourne and company do not see eye to eye with Texas, the teams that for all practical purposes runs the conference and will jump ship to land a more lucrative television deal. Nebraska is also an AAU school and will have natural rivalries with Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
- Once Nebraska jumps ship the next move will come down to Texas. While one school leaving the conference will not cause its demise the mighty dollar will likely cause the Longhorns to look west to the Pac-10. Some had opined that the ‘Horns, A&M, OU and OSU could be SEC bound but I do not see that happening. Academics play a role in Austin and the SEC’s do not measure up to the Pac-10′s. Also, although they are in Texas, Austin is an island of liberalness in an otherwise Red State and has more in common culturally with Berkley, Seattle and Corvallis than Tuscaloosa, Oxford and Athens.
- Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri (for the moment), Iowa State, and Baylor will be the big losers following the other schools exits from the Big XII.
With the above move the Big 10 will now have 12 teams and the Pac-10 will now have 16 and the 5 orphans will pretty much screwed. However, I do not see Delaney and the Big 10 stopping at 12 teams. The man is an expansionist driven by the mighty dollar and the promise os subscription rates to the Big 10 network by various cable providers. In a state without a Big 10 team they get $0.10 a home. In a state with a Big 10 team they earn $0.70 a home. This will drive the Big 10 to push east and south. I see the next round of expansion playing out like this:
- The Big 10 covets the mythical New York college football market and will extend invites to Rutgers and Syracuse making them the 13th and 14th teams. Delany rejoices as Big 10 subscription rates skyrocket in the Garden and Empire states.
- In the race to become the 15th team to join the Big 10 will be Missouri and Pitt. Both schools are members of the AAU and offer high academic standards. Unfortunately for Pitt they sit in a state already home to a Big 10 team and adding them will not expand the leagues footprint or increase the Big 10 network’s revenues. For these reasons Missouri will get an invite and in the process the Big 10 will add the St. Louis and Kansas City markets.
Notre Dame will now be backed into a corner. With Rutgers and Syracuse being plucked from the Big East this conference will teeter on the brink and its other 6 football schools will scramble for a place to play in a BCS conference. As the Big East dissolves the golden domers will no longer have a home for their other sports teams (excluding football and hockey which do not play in the Big East). Seeing the writing on the wall and wanting to keep their current games with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue Notre Dame will become the 16th Big 10 team.
When the Pac-10 and Big-10 become 16 team superc onferences the SEC will finally act. The SEC is driven by fierce rivalries, a football first mentality and close proximity to member schools. In an effort to maintain their identity as the one true Southern football conference the SEC will raid the ACC and pluck Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Why? Because:
Florida Stat is an SEC school playing in the ACC. The Seminoles also continue to draw great ratings on a national scale and will have natural rivalries with Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tech.
Clemson like FSU is also an SEC school playing in the ACC. Adding them will make South Carolina have 2 schools in the conference in the same way Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
Virginia Tech, see above. With Mark Warner out of the Governor’s office and in the U.S. Senate he’ll be unable to dictate which conference the Hokies play in.
Georgia Tech, an original member of the SEC returns home to restore rivalries with Auburn and Alabama and intensify those with UGA.
This will result in the ACC picking the bones of the Big East clean as they take UConn, Pitt, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia and South Florida. Since they need 2 other teams for 16 I’ll throw in Kansas and Kansas State. The academic powers that be may be unhappy with several of these additions but survival will dictate they also expand to 16 teams.
Quite honestly the ACC will have to make due with the leftovers. While academics are held in high regard in the conference they will not be able to survive as a 8 team league once FSU, Clemson, VT and GT leave. Adding UConn and Pitt (2 schools with solid academics) will only bring them to 10 and they likely would have to slum with the WVU’s’ and USF’s of the world in order to maintain their position in the college football landscape.
In the end college football will be left with 4 BCS Super Conferences (Pac-16, Big 10, SEC and ACC) and 1 knocking on the door (MWC/Big XII Remnants).
University of South Florida
With the exception of the Kansas and K-State to the ACC I think my predictions have a fairly high probability of happening if and when conference Armageddon is triggered.