Expansion talk and the changes to the college football landscape have dominated sports talk of late. Some believe that it is done and college football can now fall back into the usual slot it occupies in the sports universe in the month of July with conference moves being “finished”. However for those who believe that expansion talk is done, think again. I know this statement is obvious but I will say it anyway; expansion and contraction are nowhere near done in the world of college football. The Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012 but who knew they were speaking of college football and the the end being the world as we know it. This is complete with a conference that is not yet a BCS conference possibly being the lynchpin, yes I am speaking of the Mountain West Conference.
Tommy Tuberville, the new Texas Tech head football coach, appeared on Sirius radio recently and said what any sane college football fan looking at the Big-12 situation would believe is obvious. Basically, Tuberville said that he can not see the Big-12 lasting long, mostly because of the economic disparity between programs in the conference. He also said, reading between the lines, that if a conference calls with a better offer¸ the school being offered would be foolish to not listen, and could ultimately make the jump (maybe he means Texas Tech). These statements are so obvious to anyone except for the Big-12 “higher ups” and administrators who have to tow the party line. It is obvious that the schools with “more stroke” as Tuberville put it, are pleased with the arrangement in the Big-12, and you could say the schools that had to pay to keep the Big-12 together are pleased because they are not exiled to the MWC or C-USA (both non BCS leagues at present). The question I have is this; let us suppose that the MWC becomes a BCS conference in three years, does the Big-12 stay intact? Kansas and Missouri believe that they are too good for the likes of New Mexico and Colorado St. currently, this is mostly based on conference affiliation, but what if the MWC has a seat at the BCS table, does Kansas go from clinging to Texas and Oklahoma to being clutched onto by the likes of Wyoming and Air Force?
You have to believe that the MWC will become a BCS conference in the next cycle, the schools in the conference have seen the blueprint for BCS membership and have been making an effort to make the leap. You also have to believe that with the Justice Department really looking into College Athletics and specifically the BCS, the BCS may actually do what it can to push the MWC, into the BCS, which may help them in the long term. The MWC becoming a BCS conference helps the BCS in avoiding costly litigation, bad press and losing their cherished bowl system if there is a negative verdict rendered. They can always say; “The MWC was not a BCS conference when we started but we gave them some criteria and through hard work yada yada yada, They are a BCS conference.”
The MWC would probably earn their way with the achievements of some of the member schools, so let us suppose the MWC becomes a BCS conference; how would this would affect the Big-12? The reality at this point is that Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A & M are not going anywhere. The money made for each school within the conference is more than they would make in any other conference. The schools that observers should watch are Texas Tech, Missouri, and Oklahoma St.. Those three schools are schools with football programs that on a scale of one to ten, maybe sevens; but they are programs that believe they are nines or tens. How long do you think those proud programs will look at how the money is divided in the Big-12 and will be okay with being second fiddle to A&M or Oklahoma? OSU does not believe it should take a backseat to OU which is something organic in the “Bedlam series”, while A&M’s performance this decade speaks for itself and speaks even louder to Missouri and Tech, who have had more success than the Aggies this decade. You have to think at some point Tech is going to believe it has passed A&M as the second BCS conference program in the State of Texas. Missouri will look at their own success and compare it to A&M’s and wonder why A&M is making more money. So if the MWC makes an offer armed with a seat at the BCS table and an easier route to a BCS game would any of those programs listen.
What saves the Big-12 currently is that these schools do not have options at present. However, if the MWC were a BCS conference you could see any two of these programs; Tech, Kansas, Kansas St, or Iowa St. leaving for the MWC. That move would leave the Big 12 with a number less than nine, which in this day can be disastrous for a conference with designs on producing a program that would play for a national championship. While there are conference championship games in the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac-10 and even C-USA, the Big 12 will be trying to sell A&M versus Baylor and the like as a marquee game to put up against those games, which is a scenario the viewer will have after this year.
Any two programs leaving could effectively destroy the Big-12 as in Sloppy Joe’s scenario which is a scenario which is not that farfetched. Furthermore and more controversial the MWC actually holds the key to expansion. If the MWC is a BCS conference then they become attractive to the next (four through ten) programs in the Big 12 that are falling behind Texas, Oklahoma and A&M by the year and are tired of the disparity in revenue. The irony in this is if two or more schools leave you could see Texas, Oklahoma and A&M scrambling for a conference or attempting to cut deals with the Pac-10 or SEC in order to save face.
That may sound a little far fetched, but would you have believed in 1995 that Nebraska would be in the Big-10, Colorado and Utah would be in the Pac-10, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Oklahoma St. flirting with the idea of membership in the Pac-10, or even Louisville, South Florida or Cincinnati being in the Big East. So at this point anything is possible. Which means stay tuned.