If you are a fan of Big 12 and Big East football enjoy it while it lasts because this is probably the last season that those two conferences are going to exist. Like it or not the dawn of the "Super Conference" era is upon us. The wheels were set in motion by Texas A&M earlier this month when they were conditionally accepted into the SEC.
We all know that the SEC isn't going to stand pat at 13 teams so the ACC had to make a defensive move to add teams before the SEC and possibly the Big Ten started poaching members from within their ranks.
Adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse who were possible Big Ten targets was a bold move. It took away two serious Big Ten targets. Could the Big Ten retaliate by swooping in and grabbing a Maryland?
Lets break down the possibilities conference by conference on who the candidates are to go where after the break.
The Southeastern Conference
Texas A&M couldn't live with the Longhorn Network and unequal revenue sharing so they applied for membership in the SEC and were conditionally accepted. The SEC isn't going to stay at 13 teams. They are going to pluck three more schools from either the ACC, Big East, or what is left from the Big 12.
So who are the best bets to be extended membership in the SEC?
Florida State - The Noles keep saying that they are happy in the ACC but the lure of the SEC would certainly be tempting. Florida probably wouldn't like it but in the world of 16 team uber-conferences sacrifice is part of the equation when it comes to growing the revenue pot.
Missouri - The Tigers would jump at the chance to join the SEC but in my mind they are a much better fit for the Big Ten. They aren't exactly located in the sweet old land of Dixie but they do expand the conference footprint into St Louis and Kansas City. If I was Jim Delaney of the Big Ten I would open immediate discussions with Missouri before they disappear just like Syracuse and Pitt did over the weekend.
Maryland - The Terrapins would deliver the Mid Atlantic markets of DC and Baltimore. It is a good school with strong athletic programs which would fit in well with the SEC.
Virginia Tech - Blacksburg isn't huge market but it would put the SEC brand in a new region which is what you want to do when you expand.
West Virginia - Solid historical programs in both football and basketball. Probably a better fit with the ACC but the SEC certainly will consider them.
Miami - Major probation is on the way for the Cane's and that could complicate a move to the SEC. Attendance is also down ever since the team moved from the Orange Bowl to Fort Lauderdale. Miami football has a rich history but the program seems to be in a down trend. Academically the school is a better fit with the ACC.
Georgia Tech - They were a member of the SEC until 1964. They left because of a feud with Alabama, and other conference members over scholarship allotments plus the general treatment of the student athlete. Tech has won four national championships in football. Tech has tried to rejoin the SEC in the past but bitter rival Georgia has always been opposed. Adding another team in Georgia doesn't expand the conference footprint.
Clemson - Geography and a strong brand make the Tigers a natural pick for the SEC but how competitive would they be compared to where they are in the ACC. South Carolina hasn't exactly lit it up since joining the SEC. If Clemson is smart they stay where they are because the ACC isn't going to go away. Adding an additional program in South Carolina doesn't ad much to the SEC.
Louisville - A real dark horse with a decent shot of getting an invitation depending on which way the ball starts bouncing out there. Does the SEC need another program in the state of Kentucky?
Baylor - Texas A&M could use a travel partner and Baylor could use a home. The move would expand the footprint in Texas but is Waco where they want to put the foot down?
Texas Christian - Same theory as Baylor but the school is located in Fort Worth which is a lot more attractive than Waco.
Memphis - The Liberty Bowl seats over 60,000. Memphis as a city and a market has a lot to offer. That being said UT probably owns this market and Memphis football isn't supported currently at an SEC type level.
The Big Ten
All this expansion nonsense started here when Jim Delaney floated the idea that his conference could expand to as many as sixteen teams. All the Big Ten really wanted was Notre Dame and they said no. They ended up taking Nebraska over Missouri so they could balance the league at twelve and have a championship game.
I find it odd that Syracuse and Pitt jumped from the Big East to the ACC before waiting to see what the Big Ten was going to do. Everyone knows the Big Ten end game is forcing Notre Dame to become a member. Everyone knows that the demise of the Big East is the falling domino which gets that done.
So does the Big Ten continue to wait on Notre Dame or do they start forcing the issue by deciding to invite Missouri, Kansas, Rutgers, and U-Conn?
Notre Dame - The Big Ten really doesn't want to expand unless the Irish decide to join the conference. The Irish on the other hand want to keep their independence in football and only the demise of the Big East threatens that at this point.
Rutgers - The Big Ten has always been fascinated with the NY-NJ television market. Even though Rutgers is a traditional doormat they do hold the key to gaining cable subscribers in this area. They are AAU members which is a huge plus and they also have a new 52,000 seat football stadium.
Missouri - The Tigers seem to be headed to the SEC at this point but their preference would clearly be the Big Ten. Missouri is a perfect fit and they do bring two new television markets with them. That being said that didn't matter last year when they picked Nebraska instead.
Virginia- This move would really shake up the ACC wouldn't it? Strong academics, lots of history, expanded footprints, and plenty of TV sets.
Maryland - See above and continue...The Cavaliers would need a strong travel partner and Maryland would fit the bill.
U-Conn - Not exactly a great history if football but they do have a new football stadium and it would help expand the brand in the Northeast. Obviously they would be good travel partners for Rutgers. If the Big Ten doesn't take them the ACC certainly will.
Kansas - A perfect fit from an academic and cultural standpoint. The basketball program is historically one of the best in the country. The football program is well supported but is pretty much a doormat. Kansas isn't a growth state by any means and it doesn't add many TV sets.
Iowa State - Another AAU school which would be a good academic fit but does the Big Ten need two teams in Iowa? ISU could end up stranded in the Mountain West or some type of new configuration of schools who have been left behind.
Kansas State - Kansas and Kansas State share the same board of regents but that isn't going to insure that both of these programs land in the same place now that the Big East is imploding. I don't see the Big Ten going in this direction.
The Pac 12
The Pac 12 wouldn't mind waiting a few years to expand. In fact they wouldn't mind it at all if the major conferences concentrated on having 12 members rather than 16. That all changed when the Oklahoma schools expressed interest in joining the Pac 12 with or without Texas. That coupled with the exodus of Texas A&M to the SEC doomed the Big 12 to extinction.
I expect that Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State will announce that they are joining the Pac 12 as early as this evening Texas and Texas Tech will join soon after.
Texas - The Longhorns aren't a lock because of the Longhorn Network but I think they are missing the boat on that one. I think the network works better with a partner like Texas Tech.
Oklahoma - The school doesn't match up that well academically with the conference but you can't argue with an athletic pedigree which is among the best in college athletics.
Kansas - The Pac 12 would prefer the Jayhawks over Texas Tech or Oklahoma State but that isn't going to happen unless the Texas schools go elsewhere.
Oklahoma State - The Cowboys get to come for two reasons. The coat tail of Oklahoma and the bank account of T. Boone Pickens. The two schools are a package deal.
Texas Tech - Texas would need a travel partner and Tech would fit the bill. If Texas goes elsewhere or goes independent Tech will not be invited. If Texas could ditch Tech they would.
Kansas State - If Texas goes elsewhere or elects to go independent Kansas and Kansas State could end up being a package deal.
The Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC just finished making the bold move of adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse which more than likely is the death blow for Big East football.
Texas and Texas Tech have expressed some interest in the ACC over the past two weeks but I think that interest is solely to add leverage in the Longhorns future negotiations with the Pac 12.
The ACC needs to add two teams to reach sixteen but I expect that the SEC will poach 2-3 of its existing members which would open up slots for most of the remaining orphans from the demise of the Big East. Notre Dame is also a wild card to possibly consider.
Notre Dame - If Notre Dame does join a conference it isn't a given that the Big Ten would be the destination. The ACC raid on the Big East could help or hurt.
U-Conn - The Huskies don't want to be left behind and they immediately started lobbying for membership in the ACC the minute that Syracuse and Pittsburgh left.
West Virginia - This program will find a home in either the SEC or ACC depending on which moves the SEC makes in coming weeks.
Louisville - Not exactly academically up to par with the rest of the ACC even though it would give the conference a new market.
Cincinnati - The Bearcats have developed a strong football program since joining the Big East. This is a program that runs a strong risk of being orphaned by the big four.
The Big East and the Big Twelve
Nobody expected Syracuse and Pittsburgh to jump this quickly. They both had to know something. That something had to be that the Big Ten wasn't interested and the ACC was all over them.
U-Conn will be the next to leave as they are also actively seeking membership in the ACC. West Virginia is also as good as gone and will find a home in either the ACC or SEC. Rutgers could end up in either the Big Ten, ACC. or get stranded with Texas Christian, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville.
So how do you rebuild a conference that loses 4-5 of its teams? Do you just let it die or do you scramble and regroup with what is left.
I think you start off by grabbing what is left over from the Big 12 before the Mountain West gets its grubby little fingers on it.
Kansas - If the Big Ten doesn't expand the Jayhawks are going to need to find a new home and they could end up being the cornerstone of a new Big East...or whatever you want to call this reincarnation.
Kansas State - Wherever Kansas goes Kansas State will go if they can.
Iowa State - The Cyclones are going to be orphaned one way or another. They could go East or West. Perhaps they just go where somebody wants them the most. ISU is a great school and the only negatives they have are geography and population which results in a lack of TV sets.
Baylor - The Bears and TCU would be fits as travel partners and rivals.
Memphis - Great basketball school with a football program that can compete in this conference.
Central Florida - Would be a good travel partner and rival for South Florida.
Temple - The Owls have been reborn since being kicked out of the Big East a few years ago.
Villanova - The move to Division One probably gets put on hold.