Conference Expansion

It’s happening. I never would have thought this would have happened six months ago, when the Big Ten formally announced that it would be looking at expansion options, but it’s actually happening. The stage has been set for not just one, but two 16-team mega-conferences. And it’s a guy who knew nothing about college football two years ago that’s pushing all the buttons.

Larry Scott served as the CEO and Chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association. Yep. He was the guy who was in charge of Venus and Serena and Justine Henin. On July 1, 2009, not even a year ago, he was chosen as the next Pac-10 Commissioner. He openly admitted he didn’t follow college sports upon taking the job, but he didn’t need to. He was brought in to make the conference money. And now he’s put together a bold move that will put the Pac-10 in the spotlight 24/7.

The Pac-10 recently has been tied to an expansion scenario in which they would invite six Big XII teams – Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. Yesterday, Scott was given the ultimate authority to expand the Pac-10. Also yesterday, the Big XII gave ultimatums to two of their other members, Missouri and Nebraska, to decide by this Friday whether they intend to be loyal to the Big XII.. They, of course, have been rumored to be joining the Big Ten.

What does all this mean? Jim Delany, Big Ten Commissioner, would have definitely liked to have more time to try to coax Notre Dame into their conference so they could stop at 12 without tearing apart other conferences. Now, however, with the Big XII seemingly coming apart at the seams at the hands of Larry Scott, Delany is being forced to move. And fast.

Expect things to happen by the end of this week. And I think by the end of this year, two historic things will happen:
1 – Notre Dame will officially give up it’s independence in football. It’s gonna happen. The Big East will collapse, and they will need to protect their other sports outside football. Joining the Big Ten will be the only way to do it.
2 – The Pac-10 will expand to 16.

It’s too late now. The Pac-10’s positioning has taken things to a level it can’t come back from. Any chance the Big Ten had of just going to 12 or 14 is done. They have to go to 16 now. It’s an arms race. Where do the other conferences go from there is the biggest question. Here’s how I see things shaking out in a quick hits format:

*The Pac-10 adds the aforementioned six and goes to 16
*The Big Ten adds Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pitt. It’s tough leaving Rutgers and the tri-state area market out here, but adding Notre Dame is more than enough to make up for it. Syracuse and Pitt both have better football and basketball programs historically, although Rutgers did play the first game. It’s a dog fight between those three – one of them is getting left out.
*The SEC gets to be reactive, but once the formal invites occur, they’ll make their move and raid the ACC. Going to the SEC from the ACC will be Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and either Clemson or Maryland. I’ll take Clemson… more solid football school. Maryland does bring the DC/Baltimore market to the table, but that won’t be enough.
*The ACC basically decides that football is a lost cause, and will try to become the ultimate basketball conference. They will snag UConn, Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati initially to join the ACC.
*The Big East basketball-only schools will see the writing on the wall and announce they all are leaving the conference. Those seven will join Dayton, Temple, and Xavier to form a Catholic Conference where basketball is king.
*The ACC then eventually goes ahead to 16 teams, grabbing the other Big East team that wasn’t chosen by the Big Ten, South Florida, Memphis, and someone else from CUSA. I have no clue who. Maybe they’ll stop at 14 and not take South Florida.
*The MWC gladly moves to 12 teams, taking in Kansas, Kansas State, and Boise State. Iowa State and Baylor are left out in the cold.

Does this actually happen exactly the way I picture it? No. Too many variables. But the pieces are moving very quickly right now, and college football will be changed forever. It’s not gonna be any small movements. That time has come and passed. It’s going to be large and dramatic pieces moving around. That you can be sure of.

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About aarongernes

Well, I like TV and movies and I love sports. So expect a lot about that.
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