Conference meetings adding more speculation to expansion

For those of you following the expansion rumors out there, chalk up a few more. This weekend both the Big 12 and Pac 10 leadership were gathered together for their meetings. Two very interesting things happened at these meetings. First, the Big 12 gave an ultimatum to Nebraska and Missouri, forcing them to commit to staying in the Big 12 by Friday. Then, the Pac 10 commissioner laid out a few expansion scenarios that put expansion speculators into a frenzy. Let’s look at the ramifications of both.

First, the Big 12 can obviously read the writing on the wall. The conference is finished, plain and simple. Their last ditch efforts of desperation are painfully obvious. Why would you need to send your member schools an ultimatum? What a ridiculous thing to do. And then what, they sign a contract disallowing them from joining a different conference forever? Give me a break, Nebraska and Missouri are making around $8 million in the Big 12 right now. Members of the Big Ten are making $22 million. You tell me if they have any interest in agreeing to this ultimatum.

As Chris mentioned in his latest post, there is something called the Association of American Universities (oddly with two Canadian members). This is essentially a fraternity of academically elite universities, including Yale, Harvard, Duke and Stanford. Something very interesting about the Big Ten- all members are in the AAU. So, when looking to expand, who would be included? Well, these teams are all in the AAU: Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Syracuse, Rutgers and Pitt. That’s right, no Notre Dame. Plus, Notre Dame seems hell bent on staying independent. So, we have to assume the Big Ten chooses from this pool of candidates.

However they choose, it looks like the Big 12 will be a loser in this scenario. I would say Missouri is at the top of their list. Pretty good academics, pretty good athletics and the only university in the state, so you get the whole St. Louis and most of Kansas City market for television. Very attractive candidate. This would get the Big Ten to the 12 team minimum required for a championship game, which is what they really want anyway.

However, there is also the Pac-10 scenario to worry about. Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-10, laid out some scenarios this weekend. One was to add Colorado and Utah to get to 12. First off, anyone from the state of Utah like me knows this will never happen. Utah and BYU is a package deal. Neither one will go where the other doesn’t. Plus if you think you’re getting the Utah market with just Utah you are dead wrong. BYU fans outnumber Utah fans at least 2:! in the state. You would need both just to get one, and the Pac-10 members are never going to let BYU into the conference, so that’s just not happening.

The larger scenario though is to add Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado to the conference. This makes the Pac-16 and two divisions of 8 teams- the new 6 plus the Arizona schools as the east division and everyone else as the west division. I can’t stress enough how likely I think this scenario is because of one reason: money. Think of the huge TV contract you could secure when you span 3 timezones and have 16 teams, most all of which are prestigious, in your conference. It’s all about the money, this is a business after all. You might as well consider this a done deal.

So where would that leave us? We now have the Pac-16, the Big Ten is now a 12 member conference, and Nebraksa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor are all conference-less. Remaining Big 12 teams, meet the MWC. The MWC knows it needs to compete for those TV dollars and needs to become a BCS conference. I can’t think of a better way than adding those 5 to get to 14. But hey, the Pac-10 when to 16, so why not add two more and get there? The MWC would add Boise State and Fresno State. Reno is the 102nd biggest market and Fresno is the 55th, so that one is a no brainer. Plus the MWC already has UNLV and a presence in the state.

Well, now seeing this, the Big Ten needs to make some more moves to get to their 16 team super conference. Who are those 4 going to be? Maryland, Syracuse, Rutgers and Pitt, the only ones left in the AAU that are available. Of course this decimates the Big East, who is now forced to merge with the ACC, which adds West Virginia, Cincinnati, Uconn, South Florida and Louisville to their 11 remaining schools to make 16. This just leaves us with the SEC. Always self-considered to be the best conference ever, they won’t know what to do. There will be 4 mega conferences and them. Who to add? Are there 4 teams that could be a good fit?

They may be able to convince some of these guys: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL) or Florida State. Memphis has been dying to get to a BCS conference too. However it shakes out, they are going to get to 16 to be competitive. C-USA will fill in the holes in the SEC and ACC. That would leave us with 5 mega conferences and 4 mid majors, with the WAC in question. After these latest rumors, here’s how I think things shake out:

Pac 16 east: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State
Pac 16 west: USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State

Big Ten east: Maryland, Syracuse, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State
Big Ten west: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa

MWC east: Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU, Baylor, New Mexico, Colorado State
MWC west: BYU, Utah, Boise State, Wyoming, Air Force, UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno State

ACC north: Boston College, Uconn, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia, Marshall
ACC south: South Florida, Miami (FL), East Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Central Florida

SEC east: Florida, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Florida State
SEC west: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Memphis, Vanderbilt

As for the other conferences, the WAC, CUSA and Sun Belt would figure something out, but no one really cares. The five mega conferences would pretty much control everything in college sports. So what about the BCS? Those five have automatic bids obviously to the conference champion. So ten teams will play for their conference championship. Five will win. They go to a BCS bowl. The other five at large spots are decided the same way they are now. I’m sure that’s how things will adapt.

So what do you think?