The Final days of the Big 12

The collective groan that everyone is hearing is coming from the Big-12 offices in middle America. The expansion talk which is picking up steam in the aftermath of the week long golf outing that masquerades as a meeting regarding the future of college athletics, could leave the Big-12 suits doing what most Americans are doing; looking for a job. The common belief is that the Big-10+1 controls this expansion talk, and though that may be somewhat true, no one program or conference controls this talk.

The fact is that each conference and program wants to put itself in the best possible position to make money in the coming years. If you believe the reports floating about, that has the Big-10 already inviting Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Rutgers, the opening salvo in this realignment battle has been fired. The Big -12 programs should accept but Notre Dame is “iffy”, but it does not mean Notre Dame will not join a conference, it could be after long being an independent realizes that in order to be relevant it needs to be in a conference and a conference it can dominate. Notre Dame’s lore and tradition are built on its football program. “Rudy” after all was not a movie about a basketball player.

Notre Dame has played numerous Big East programs in addition to the usual dose of Big-10 opponents the last three years and one could assume that it may be a calculated move that the athletic department was making to determine which conference the “Domer’s” will be able to dominate or at least make a run every 2-3 years. The Notre Dame brass also realizes that games in the northeast could be more like Notre Dame home games than games at East Lansing, Iowa City, and Happy Valley. The Big East from the beginning was a group of Catholic schools who inhabited cities in the northeast. Notre Dame is the Pope of Catholic schools and the push at that school has been to get back to its Catholic roots.

So let us assume that Notre Dame joins the Big East as a full member. The Big East then courts Boston College, with the help of fellow Catholic school chum Notre Dame leading the crusade. BC realizes that it has nothing in common with the ACC and is not even thought of as an ACC school. (Do this exercise in your head, start naming ACC schools; is BC in the top 8 schools that you mention?). So BC hops the freedom train heads north and rejoins the Big East. If Notre Dame joins the Big East would it make sense for Rutgers to leave?

The ACC needs another program to keep its championship game so it looks for a program that fits. The ACC is essentially a conference with strong hoops programs and strong academic tradition. The ACC fathers flipped when they admitted an institution like Florida State. The running joke on tobacco road has always been how easy it is to get into North Carolina State, so imagine how they felt about FSU. The conference wants a highly selective school academically and maybe a private school, hmmm how about Vanderbilt? We recognize that money-wise this does not make sense for the Commodores, but think if you put Vandy in the ACC are they competitive? It becomes a question of school pride or money with the Vandy brass. The Harvard of the South may opt for playing against schools with similar academic missions. Can you image the build up for the yearly tilts with Duke and Georgia Tech; “The SAT Bowl” or cheerleaders chanting, “we got 1450, yes we do, we got 1450 how about you!”

The ACC might even knock on South Florida’s door (which is a private school) and has some academic standards, to help them soften the blow if the talk of defection becomes real. The truth is though none of the schools mentioned; Florida St., Miami, and Clemson, wants to go to the SEC. Florida St. is a football school (they were thought of as going to the SEC when they were finishing in the top-5 yearly, but the folks in Tallahassee thought better of it.) Florida St. now does not regularly occupy the Top 5 but still puts out the illusion of being a great football power. Make no mistake though Florida St is a football school and wants to be thought of a s a football school. If it is finishing behind Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Florida on a regular basis, are you a football schools or even dominant? You become South Carolina with better DVD history.

Ask yourself what is Florida St without a dominant football program? Answer, a school in the northern Florida forests with a cool football helmet. FSU already plays the schools they want in the SEC (Florida) (very easily they could have developed geographic rivalries with Georgia, Alabama and Auburn if the SEC was something on the radar). Can you imagine the gauntlet FSU would have to run yearly; Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee in the SEC east, BRUTAL!
Miami has no business in the SEC, Miami is a private school and believe it or not has some pretty strict admission standards. Miami’s centerpiece program is the football program and has some rich donors that will donate if the program is doing well, how well could they do as a part of the SEC? See the gauntlet FSU would have to run and ask would the “U” do any better?

Clemson has SEC like facilities but……. Clemson regularly plays SEC programs (not named South Carolina) and gets drop kicked regularly, so why would Clemson, who would like to believe it is a football school, go into a conference where it could be regularly behind a basketball powerhouse like Kentucky every year in the football standings. The answer for Clemson is simple stay in the ACC. So the ACC could actually have 13 programs when it is all said and done.

The SEC is not angry because Vanderbilt is gone, but relieved. Vandy has long been the conscience of the SEC and probably has been the lone voice of reason in conference meetings. “Student athlete blah blah blah, academics blah, blah, blah, entrance requirements blah blah.” “The south shall rise again” they say stroking their collective Colonel Sanders-like beards and look to the west and see five programs that fit. Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma St.. Could you see an SEC west with Texas, Oklahoma, OSU, A&M, Tech, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss, that would be awesome. The Big-12 south members are used to playing a murderers row so the adjustment to the constant war on the field in the SEC west is not as great for these programs. The SEC keeps the championship game, expands to 16 teams, gets the TV markets of Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City, cha ching, WIN.

The Big-10 has already asked Missouri and Nebraska (both have been rumored for a long time being on the Big-10’s radar) but then they think why not 16 “if those fellows down south can have 16 why can’t we?” They then ask Kansas, Kansas St, and Iowa St to join, after being spurned by Rutgers. The schools make sense, geographically it makes sense and the fan bases are similar. The Big 12 north members get to be an equal part of conference after being held hostage by Texas.
The Big-12 is left with Baylor and Colorado. You can’t have a conference with two programs but Colorado seeing all of this has already been in touch with the Pac-10. The Pac-10 has already ridden up to Colorado’s front door and walked it outside to the limo and pinned a big football mum on its sweater. The Pac-10 picks up Utah on the way to sew up the two major media centers in the mountain time zone and has all of the major media centers in the west. The Pac-10 with the addition of Utah and Colorado makes it a 12 team league, which if you ask the Pac-10 brass is good enough for them.

Baylor is left holding the bag, in the Big 12. You can’t call yourself the Big 12 with one school, so maybe Baylor joins the Mountain West Conference. UTEP sees this and is tired of traveling to far flung locales like Huntington, WV; Greenville, NC, Orlando, FL and Hattiesburg, MS (UTEP left the WAC because of the travel and they do even more in C-USA and don’t get the benefit of an extra game when it goes to Hawaii) and asks to join. The MWC then asks Boise St and Fresno St to join, to make the MWC a 12 team league and making it “the new Big-12 or the Mountain 12” but more importantly giving it the flexibility to have a conference championship game.
It should be interesting for the next few weeks, it is funny that the 16 team model was first tried by the WAC and like the tower of Babel fell scattering 16 programs to the four winds or at least the MWC, C-USA, and WAC. So maybe the bigger conferences filled with more hubris believe that they have the fan bases and money to make this work, only time will tell.

Pac 10- UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington St., Orgeon, Oregon St, Cal, Stanford, ASU, Arizona, Utah, Colorado (12)

SEC- Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida Kentucky, Mississippi St., LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, A&M, Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. (16)

Big East- West Virginia, Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn, Notre Dame, Boston College (9)

ACC- North Carolina, North Carolina St., Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson, Florida St., Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, South Florida (13)

Big 10- Michigan, Ohio St., Penn St., Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan St., Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas St, Iowa St. (16)

Mountain 12- Baylor, UTEP, Boise St., Fresno St., Air Force, Colorado St., Wyoming, UNLV, SDSU, TCU, BYU, UNM (12)

WAC- Utah St., San Jose St., Nevada, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Portland St., Sacramento St., New Mexico St.

Southwest conference- Tulsa, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Rice, North Texas, Tulane, Southern Miss, Memphis