We open with Texas Christian getting an invitation to join the Big 12 after negotiations with BYU stalled. Sources say that BYU was cautious about joining a conference that almost fell apart a couple of weeks ago and is possibly about to lose another member.
That additional member would be Missouri who has the choice of remaining in the Big 12 for at least six more years or possibly joining the SEC as its 14th member next season. Missouri boosters and fans overwhelmingly favor a move to the SEC. That move won't happen until the SEC makes an official offer.
The Birmingham News reported this morning that Missouri does not have the nine necessary majority votes to join the SEC. The majority of the SEC schools want to sit tight and see if they could possibly poach a Virginia Tech or Maryland from the ACC.
In a perfect world Missouri would be invited to join the Big Ten where they are the ideal cultural and academic fit. The Big Ten isn't interested in expanding unless Notre Dame is interested in joining. Notre Dame wouldn't be a lock for the Big Ten even if they decided to join a conference. They have plenty of traditional rivals in the ACC.
So perhaps Missouri ends up being tied to the Big 12 for another six years which isn't exactly a bad deal with all that new television money coming in. Most importantly they get to keep playing their traditional rivals in a conference that isn't as competitive as the SEC.
So does the Big 12 stop at 10 teams or do they expand to as many as 16 teams and become a super conference?
Keeping it at just 10 teams would keep the Fox Sports TV contract in place. Less partners means more revenue for each school. What it doesn't do is increase the stability and viability of the league. It also prevents the rebirth of the lucrative championship game.
Texas would be happy to see it stay at only ten teams while Oklahoma has previously stated that they would like to see 12 teams in two divisions. The majority of the schools in the league favor 12 teams but they will fall in line with whatever Texas and Oklahoma decide to do.
Brigham Young, Boise, State, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia are the top candidates the Big 12 would choose from if they decide to keep expanding. BYU and Boise would make excellent travel partners as would Louisville and Cincinnati.
Big East football is now down to only six members which puts the football part of the conference in immediate peril.
Army, Air Force, Central Florida, East Carolina, Navy, Temple, U-Mass (FCS), and Villanova (FCS) are all potential expansion candidates but the service academies are reluctant to give up their independence or current affiliations to join a conference that could potentially lose as many as five members before next season.
U-Conn and Rutgers want to join the ACC. Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia as mentioned above would love to be invited to the Big 12 (or anywhere for that matter). South Florida is in limbo with no realistic options.
Central Florida, East Carolina, and Temple would all jump at the chance to join the Big East even with the uncertainty surrounding the conference. They also may be the only realistic expansion candidates in the short term. I predict that the service academies will stay where they are until things settle out.
Villanova who is currently a member in all Big East sports except football is still interested in upgrading its football program to the FBS level. U-Mass will will be a FBS member in 2012 and has joined the MAC in football. Both schools are located in major markets but they are basically new programs without large followings.
So what is Notre Dame thinking right now?
The Irish depend on the Big East to host all their sports with the exception of football. Would the Irish be content to keep parking their sports in what could become an all Catholic league?
One option for the Irish is joining the Big 12 in all sports except for football. That offer is currently out there for Notre Dame according to Texas AD Deloss Dodds who has always championed a potential partnership or alliance with the Irish.
Could Notre Dame be tempted to join the ACC or Big Ten?
Notre Dame wants to keep its football independence. They don't want to play eight or nine conference games. They want to be able to pick and choose who they play each season. Think of it as a big road show sponsored by our friends at NBC. I don't see the Irish joining a conference until they are forced too.
If they do join a conference the ACC just may be the best way for them to go. BC, Pitt, and Georgia Tech are all traditional rivals of the Irish. Perhaps in a 16 team league only seven conference games would be required which would give the Irish the freedom to schedule five OOC games each year. Of course that sucks for the schools who are not in Notre Dame's division.