UPDATE: Both OU and UT have BOR meetings on Monday with conference realignment on the agenda… the UT meeting is scheduled two hours after the OU meeting. Could be set up in response to OU voting to leave.
Though nothing has been made official by any conference, make no mistake all hell has broken loose in college athletics. The Big XII isn’t just a sinking ship – it’s a sinking submarine. It’s been underwater since Nebraska and Colorado bolted with all the life rafts last summer. Women and children first. For the past year the skipper (Texas), in classic pirate fashion looks to have raped and pillaged their final victims in the Big Texas. Texas A&M abandoned ship a few weeks ago and is slowly swimming their way to safety in the SEC. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are opening the hatch of the submarine about to let the ocean water into the cabin to finally sink Texas and their mindless goons (Baylor). The question is, who will get a life raft and who will get sunk with Texas?
Enough with analogies, you get the point, this is all the fault of Texas and their Longhorn Network. Too long has Texas hogged the majority of the Big XII revenue, too long have they basked in the money of an independent school while enjoying the perks of dominating a conference politically. Due to Texas’ arrogance, a conference poised to once again be second fiddle to the SEC is on St. Peter’s doorstep. The only way I see the Big Texas surviving into next year is if the Longhorns and their cronies drown the league with incompetent Texas programs like SMU, Houston and Rice. No stable program in their right mind would throw themselves in the dumpster with this lot. What most people tend to think is when word is official that OU and OSU are gone the dominoes will begin to fall, which could happen as early as Monday when the OU board of curators is expected to vote for Pac XX membership.
Outside of rumors and speculation there is really no solid information on how this will play out, the best anyone can come up with is a good ol’ scientific guess. I’m going to move conference by conference stating how I think everything will play out as of today based purely on what I’ve heard, what I believe and going with my gut.
First up is the SEC! The SEC could very well be the first conference to become a “power conference” with sixteen teams, but may not be the first conference to play a schedule with sixteen teams. Due to a gentleman’s agreement among SEC schools, it has recently seemed unlikely any school from the same state as a current SEC school will be asked to join the conference, same thing goes for ACC teams. On September 13th Florida State formed a conference realignment committee meaning they could be looking to jump to the SEC, which many FSU officials and boosters clearly prefer to the ACC. The problem with a potential FSU move would be that Florida, Georgia and South Carolina could team up to block their membership. Another key factor in a Florida State decision is they need to give two years notice before leaving the ACC, therefore they wouldn’t be eligible until 2013 – but neither would West Virginia, another potential SEC member. From what I’ve learned the SEC would like to add in this order: Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Florida State, North Carolina State and West Virginia. The first three schools seem to be out by default. Virginia Tech can look as much as they want, but the Virginia state legislature has already brought up specific problems with them leaving. This leaves Missouri as the next most viable option; Missouri would bring in a ton of TV sets and very good football, basketball and baseball programs. Therefore I believe Missouri will join with Texas A&M in 2012, while two teams, most likely to be West Virginia with the possible addition of FSU could join the conference in 2013. Missouri and West Virginia are as close to automatic as you can get in this new stage of conference realignment and it looks like Florida State is taking the most action out of the ACC teams to leave.
Two different formats are being looked at, two divisions of eight teams or four “regions” of four teams – with two regions in each of two divisions. Personally I like the idea of four, four-team divisions, which could create a playoff within the conference leading to a quad power conference playoff system… finally destroying the BCS (the root of all evil). In this scenario the winner of each region would play the winner of the other region in its division. Then the winner of the division would play the winner of the other division creating a conference championship. The winner of each of the four supposed “power conferences” would face each other in a four-team playoff. Confused? Here’s a scenario:
We end up with four regions in the SEC (in 2013) looking something like this:
Region 1 (West)
Region 2 (Alassippi)
Region 3 (Appalachian)
Region 4 (Southeast)
Regions 1 and 2 would be in the Western Division, while Regions 3 and 4 would make up the Eastern Division, or something incredibly pretentious like Leaders and Legends. Throughout the course of the season each school would play their own region, along with two schools from every other region. Therefore Arkansas’ conference schedule in 2013 would look something like:
This makes for three non-conference games. In 2014, the schedule flip-flops home and away games. However in 2015, they exchange out of region opponents so their schedule would look like:
Get it? Good. Now as far as the league playoff goes, let’s say LSU, Alabama, West Virginia and Florida State win their regions. Then LSU would play Alabama for the divisional championship and West Virginia would play Florida State. The winners of these games would play in a Conference Championship resulting in the winner of the SEC. The winner of the SEC would then go on to play the winners of the other four “power conferences” in a four-team playoff… if the power conference format were to take shape, which I think we will find out shortly if that happens.
As of now I’m predicting the Pac XX to stay at 14 if Texas doesn’t submit to their demands of giving up the LHN. If that happens I could see Texas joining the ACC, taking the spot of Florida State. The Big East has already been prodding for KU, KSU and MU, but with MU in the SEC they would likely replace them with Texas Tech. This would expand the Big East to a 12-team football conference and 20-team basketball league. I could then see them adding either Baylor or Iowa State to replace West Virginia. In my opinion the only way the Big 10 makes a move is if Notre Dame finally decides they are ready to join, or if the Pac-12 also expands to 16. With only one 16-team football conference the Big 10 won’t see it necessary to expand, therefore we may have to wait until a third round of conference realignment to see power conferences, if we ever see four of them developed.
IF and that’s a big IF the Power Conferences become prominent in the NCAA I could see thing play out somewhat like this, with the Big East getting picked off next:
The Big 10 would likely have to make the next move in round 3 of conference musical chairs by adding independent Notre Dame, while stealing UConn from the ACC and Pitt and Kansas from the new Big East… unless Kansas hadn’t made the move yet. Here are your Big 16 divisions:
Region 1 (Leaders)
Region 2 (Legends)
Region 3 (Narcissists)
Region 4 (Farmers)
With KU gone the opportunity for a KU/KSU team to head out west is gone. Therefore the Pac XX would look back west at Nevada, BYU, Boise State and Air Force. I believe they would choose BYU for the TV sets and Boise State for the football team. Giving you a new conference alignment of:
Region 1 (California)
Region 2 (Northwest)
Region 3 (Southwest)
Region 4 (The Rockies)
The last, but not least power conference would be the ACC who has already replaced FSU with Texas. They have the pick of the litter among the remaining Big East teams. I’d say the first two they pick up would be Syracuse and Uconn. The remaining top options would be Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, TCU and Texas Tech. TCU would be last on the list with South Florida close behind, since they already own the market thanks to Miami. I would assume Texas would beg for Texas Tech to join with the ACC with which they would comply and also drag Louisville into the fold. This would form a conference shaped like this geographical jumble:
Region 1 (Northeast)
Region 2 (Coastal)
North Carolina State
Region 3 (Atlantic)
Region 4 (Sucks to be Wake Forest)
So to clarify my playoff scenario, let’s say Alabama wins the SEC, Oklahoma wins the Pac-16, Wisconsin wins the Big 16 and Florida State wins the ACC. We pit Oklahoma (Pac-16) against Wisconsin (Big-16) in the Rose Bowl then Alabama (SEC) against Florida State (ACC) in the Orange Bowl. We’ll say Alabama wins the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma wins the Rose Bowl, creating a National Championship through a Conference style playoff system giving us a more defined National Champion by far than the current BCS system allows. Again I don’t believe things will end up going the power conference route any time soon, but it’s fun to think about. All we know right now is the Big 12 is on life support, things will get interesting very soon and with the possibility of college athletes being paid, the entire college landscape could change very quickly. As Samuel L. Jackson would say in “Jurassic Park”, “Hold on to your butts!”