Once the B1G had added Nebraska as their twelth member in the Summer of 2010, the conference expansion discussion found itself quietly simmering in the other room – out of sight, but not entirely out of mind. Every once in a while, not surprisingly, someone has to get up and stir the pot a little.
We’ve watched the Big East scramble to find partners, seeing their own demise written on the wall with the loss of Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC. We’ve seen the SEC poach Missouri and Texas A&M off the Big 12. And we’ve seen the Big 12 pick up WVU and TCU to boost their flagging numbers.
In the last two weeks that simmering pot just had to go and boil over onto the floor and force us to really pay attention to it again. This time though, the B1G fans and bloggers get to sit back and watch someone else clean up the mess.
Word passed down this weekend, reportedly from very high up sources at FSU, that the Seminoles will indeed be leaving the ACC for the Big 12. With this move Clemson will very likely follow right along behind, as has been speculated for the last week or so.
This is a major shift in the nature of conference powers. A conference that many of us wrote off as dead a little over a year ago, having lost 33% of their composition to the SEC, B1G, and Pac-12, is now potentially a surging power in College Football again. With the inclusion of WVU and TCU the Big 12 will again be at 12 member institutions.
And there’s always the chance this could grow into something bigger.
Some speculation exists that the current talks regarding a 4-team playoff might lead this conference realignment scenario to go crazy. One of the primary influencing factors could be a decision to make the playoff’s available to conference champions only (with possible exceptions made for those red-headed stepchildren in South Bend*). Current thoughts suggest that if the playoffs in fact go to conference champions only, we could see the rise of 4 super conferences – ostensibly including, considering the current climate: the B1G, SEC, Big 12, and Pac 12.
If the super conferences move happens you may see each conference aim for a total of 16 teams. The SEC has long had their eyes on Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to join their membership, which would put them at 16 exactly. There’s been chatter regarding Miami possibly wanting to sneak into the Big 12 (though their recent indiscretions could kill that), and Georgia Tech has apparently been quietly talking to the Big 12 as well. With a sudden mass exodous from the ACC, the B1G could swoop in and pick up such luminaries as Maryland, Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina – all solid academic institutions that fit the B1G’s culture.
That’s assuming the Big 12 doesn’t get there first, as they are reportedly already having quiet conversations (warning: NSFW).
You really have to feel for poor Pittsburgh and Syracuse, having jumped last year from the burning Big East straight into the now burning ACC. Incidentally, they could also be potential targets for the B1G, though they may not be as attractive as the four suggested.
And, of course, the Pac 12 could always take a few additional teams. There’s Boise State for example, who would love a chance to join a major conference. They’re so desperate they were trying to jump into the Big East! And what about BYU? A school that the Pac 12 has basically told to take a hike, could start looking more attractive if they suddenly want to boost inclusion to the conference (though I doubt it). San Diego State is another possibility (again Big East), but might not be big enough to keep the Pac-12 from laughing them out of the room.
As you may have guessed, things are rapidly getting interesting in the world of conference alignment. We will keep our eyes on things and post updates as they happen. For now, you should take away this – it is only a matter of time, perhaps sometime this week, before Florida State is putting the down payment on a house in the Big 12′s neighborhood.
It would be ridiculous if I didn’t point out the contributions of Frank the Tank, a blogger who has been in on the conference realignment stories for the past two years. Keep an eye on his blog, and follow him on twitter at @FranktheTank111, if you want to know more about what is going on. He does an excellent job breaking down the decision making, especially regarding financials and other critical factors (such as culture/academics). Despite what some people might say (cough: ESPN), financials are not the only deciding factor in all of these moves – though it is critical in some.
The biggest shame in this whole discussion, and the one that is going to get next to no press at all, is the possible loss of the annual B1G/ACC challenge in basketball. That event has become increasingly popular, and I think was a big factor in helping drive the B1G back into a position of power in College Basketball. To lose a feature that drew great attention and viewership to both conferences is a terrible shame.
Keep in mind, a lot of this is speculative. We don’t know yet for certain which way the winds are blowing in the B1G, SEC, nor Pac-12 offices. It’s probably fair to say that whichever way they’re blowing, they’re probably a little stronger today, even if it takes a little time for the resulting talk to get anywhere.
* No, this has nothing to do with the stereotypical hair color of the country of Ireland. Interestingly, there are hints that no exception will be made and Notre Dame will be forced to join a conference. Talk suggests that the Big 12 is interested in picking them up, though the academic issues involved could prevent that from happening.