Well it seems crazy to be saying this, but it looks as if the Big 12 might not be expanding after all. Some will say this makes them look like fools. And it does. But I think you have to look at the bigger picture here and realize the Big 12 as a power conference is done. And conference members are beginning to see that.
Let’s face it, with a four team playoff there just isn’t room for five power conferences. And the Big 12 is the worst off of all the power conferences by far. This year is especially bad.
So rather than rehash their expansion possibilities, I’m going to operate under the assumption that they choose not to expand. And I’m going to assume this is driven by the desire of Oklahoma to bolt the conference, as that seems to be the case.
How will everything go down? There are a lot of factors and variables to consider of course. But the key date is 2023, when the Big Ten negotiation rights open up again. They will want to be as impressive as they can when selling their rights. Then there is 2025 when the Big 12 members are essentially free to leave the league without a penalty. I would imagine any changes are going to happen in 2023 but not go into effect until 2025.
But who goes where? It seems to me that as Texas football continues to struggle, we are going to see big changes at the top. This will result in perhaps a little less ego and Texas accepting a seat at the table the same size as everyone else’s. Hard to imagine, I know. But I think the new leadership will accept this.
For this reason, I think the first big move of the next round of expansion will be the Pac-12 adding Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech. This is obviously a play for the Sooners and Longhorns, but I suspect the other two would be part of a package deal. This would make the Pac-16, the first 16 team super conference.
How do they set up for football? I would assume four pods of four teams:
EAST- Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
SOUTH- Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State
WEST- USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford
NORTH- Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State
How does that schedule work? You play the other three teams in your pod every year. You play two teams from each of the other pods, one home, one away, on an alternating basis so that every few years you play everyone in the conference. This gives you 9 conference games. The conference championship pits the two best teams from the pool of four pod champions. Winner of that game is the conference champion.
For basketball you can combine east and south pods and north and west pods to make two divisions. You play everyone in your division both home and away. You play everyone in one pod of the other division just once an alternate pods each year. That gives you 18 conference games. It can be worked out.
Ok, so now that the Pac-16 is the first super league and the remnants of the old Big 12 are screwed over, what happens next?
I think the next most likely move is for the Big Ten to snatch up Kansas and Kansas State. I don’t think they would want Kansas State in all honesty, but they would come with Kansas. The Jayhawks would be a purely basketball move as well as academic. It also opens up a whole new market in the entire state for the conference. This moves them up to 16 teams. They can create four pods as well and follow the same format.
At this point the ACC will probably move to add two teams, and they would most likely be Uconn, again for basketball primarily, and I would think West Virginia, Cincinnati, Memphis, USF or UCF. They each have their own benefits and drawbacks, but I think they move to make 16 to keep up and West Virginia seems most likely.
Last but not least is the SEC. I’ll be honest, I don’t think they bother expanding. They have a good thing going. Sure basketball isn’t as strong as the other conferences, but I think they are ok with that. They are solid and my bet is they stay put.
But that still leaves Baylor, TCU, Iowa State and possibly West Virginia without a home. Hello American Athletic Conference! Oddly enough this would make the AAC a 16 team league as well, although it wouldn’t compete in football at nearly the same level as the power conferences. They would however have Houston, Baylor, TCU, USF, Cincy, Memphis and others that wouldn’t be half bad. They would basically be competing each with year Boise State, BYU and Notre Dame for that “other” spot in a New Year’s Bowl.
When the dust settles there is no more Big 12. Instead there are four super leagues that control the power in college football and whose champions are most likely the annual participants in the College Football Playoff. I for one would welcome this new arrangement. I am sure the networks would welcome this new arrangement. The schools and conferences would welcome this new arrangement. It basically takes all the money in the Big 12 and spreads it around, mostly to the new Pac-16. Who doesn’t want more money?
It would take a miracle hail mary to pull something like this off, but we saw pretty strange things the last go around. If it is true the Big 12 isn’t going to end up expanding right now, you had better believe it’s because OU, Texas or both are going to bail. And if they do there is no telling what chaos would ensue.