I’ve largely stayed away from all the various NCAA conference expansion and/or realignment rumors floating around the interwebs the last few months because, well, they’re just rumors. One day you hear the Big Ten is going to steal the University of Texas away from the Big 12, the next you hear Texas is going to the SEC. One day the Big 12 is imploding, the next it’s expanding. Publicly, athletic directors declare their undying love for their conferences, but then they’re supposedly working vigorously in the shadows to broker a million other deals. And all the while, state legislators are trying to influence the process for their own particular benefit.
Is this college sports or As The World Turns?
The latest rumors have the Pac-10 asking Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, OU, Oklahoma State, and Colorado to be their new BFFs, thus elevating the Pac-10 to a 16-team superconference and completely decimating the Big 12. That would leave Baylor out in the cold, a result that doesn’t sit well with Waco’s state senator, David Sibley, who is apparently now fighting to have the Bears superglued to the other Texas teams. Meanwhile, the Big Ten, which has been rumored to be courting everyone from Texas to Nebraska to the North Dakota School for the Deaf, is supposedly focusing its efforts on Notre Dame. And Boise State, which was a lock for the Mountain West, is putting its plans on hold to see how everything else shakes out.
And of course, everything in the previous paragraph will be null and void by the time you finish reading this post.
Personally, I’m fine with the UT et. al heading to the Pac-10. I would prefer that to them going to the Big Ten or SEC; I just think it’s a better fit. What I would hate to see is Texas and A&M separated from Tech and OU. Those rivalries are just too good to relegate to non-conference status.
If the Pac-10 does expand to 16 (plus-or-minus Baylor or Colorado), the Big Ten and SEC would almost certainly follow suit, probably gobbling up Nebraska and/or Missouri or other Big East or ACC teams. The result would be three superconferences plus a handful of wannabes. Can you imagine how much griping about the BCS there’d be at that point? Yikes!
As far as Baylor is concerned, though, as I tweeted yesterday, I think they’d be better off in the Mountain West, where they’d face their old Southwest Conference rival TCU every year in addition to Utah and Air Force. Strictly looking at football (which is where all the money is, and let’s face it, that’s what’s driving all of this), the Bears have a much better chance at success in the Mountain West than they do anywhere else. They’ll never win a Big 12 championship, and they would certainly never have a chance in the Pac-16. Which is why I wish Sibley and his buddies in Austin would stay out of it. It was Austin politics that got Baylor into the Big 12 instead of TCU 16 years ago; we don’t need to repeat that same mistake this time around. (And understand, I’m not bashing Baylor. I like Baylor a lot, which is why I want to see them be successful.)
One thing’s for certain, though. Change is coming in college sports. With so much money at stake, it’s undeniable. It may be a complete shake-up, or it could just affect a handful of teams, but something is eventually gonna give. I just hope fans don’t get lost in the process.
Update, June 9:
Orangebloods.com is now reporting that Nebraska has unofficially accepted the invitation to the Big Ten, which pretty much guarantees the Big 12 South teams will bolt to the Pac-10. And yes, that will include Baylor and not Colorado. If UT has any say over the matter — and they absolutely do — there’s no way they would choose the Buffaloes over the Bears. First, Waco is just up the road from Austin (and conveniently directly between Austin and the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas). Second, there is a huge amount of history and tradition between the two SWC schools, something both Mack Brown and Darrell Royal highly value. And third, there’s always the political factor, which shouldn’t be ignored.
Of course, there’s always a chance UT could decide to keep the Big 12 intact, gambling on its attempt to form its own TV network. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen. There’s no loyalty in Texas (both the school and the state) to the Big 12 North, so there’s little incentive in Austin to keep this sinking ship afloat.
So where does that leave the other five Big 12 North teams? The most logical choice for Colorado would be the Mountain West, and probably for Kansas and K-State as well. If the MWC goes through with their plans to add Boise State, that would go a long way toward acceptance as an automatic qualifier for the BCS. Plus, Kansas and K-State both bring a lot to the table in basketball, so that would be a huge win for the MWC.
As for Missouri and Iowa State, they’re probably out of luck, at least in the short run. The Big Ten doesn’t seem interested in Mizzou any more, instead focusing on Notre Dame and then probably looking east to Rutgers and maybe Pitt. I suppose one or both teams could go to the Mountain West or Big East, but that’s probably the best case scenario.
Then that leaves the SEC. So far, they haven’t shown much interest in expanding, and really, they have no reason to from a financial standpoint. But with a 16-team Pac-10 and an expanding Big Ten, I think they’re gonna be forced to keep up whether they want to or not, at which point they’ll probably target teams such as Miami and Virginia Tech in the ACC.
It’ll most likely take a few years for all the dominoes to fall, but the momentum is definitely picking up!