Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Crystal Ball for Conference Realignment

Colorado is headed to the Pac-10 a year early after posting bail. Nebraska paid its own ransom to be released from the Big 12. BYU has declared independence. The WAC is suing Nevada and Fresno State like a jilted lover.

And the fun is only beginning.

The 2011 season is going to look a lot different from the 2010 season. But take this to the bank: The 2013 season is going to look a lot different from the 2011 season. More teams will move. More BCS berths will be negotiated.

The lynchpin of all this movement will be the Big Ten. Should it decide that adding Nebraska achieved its goals, fine. But should it decide it must have Notre Dame (and three other teams), then look out.

The domino effect will hit the Big 12 and Big East hard. But even if the Big Ten stands pat, the Big 12 might have another play up its sleeve anyway. And that's going to help blowing up the Mountain West, or meld it back with the WAC.

Is your head spinning yet? Good. The Guru will now break it all down.

Let's review the 11 I-A conferences and the independents. What they look like now, what they will look like next year, and what they might look like even before the current BCS contract runs out:

2011 Season-

SEC, ACC, Big East, C-USA, MAC and Sun Belt - unchanged from 2010.

Pac-10 - Adds Colorado and Utah in 2011. Two divisions (Washington and Oregon schools plus Colorado and Utah in the North; California and Arizona schools in the South), with the winners meeting in the Pac-12 title game.

Big Ten - Adds Nebraska in 2011. Two division winners meeting in the Big Ten title game.

Big 12 - Loses Nebraska and Colorado in 2011. Conference championship game eliminated.

Mountain West - Loses Utah and BYU and adds Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada (the latter two pending a lawsuit by the WAC).

WAC - Loses Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada. Only six teams remain in the conference.

Independents - BYU joins Notre Dame, Army and Navy.

2013 Season (Scenario 1: Big Ten does nothing)-

Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC, ACC, Sun Belt and Independents - unchanged from 2011.

Big 12 - Adds TCU and Houston. Both added to the South Division with four Texas schools while the North Division has six non-Texas schools. Restores conference title game.

Big East - Adds Villanova (moving up from I-AA).

Conference USA - Loses Houston and adds Temple.

MAC - Loses Temple.

Mountain West* - Loses TCU.

WAC* - Adds Montana (moving up from I-AA).

* The MWC and WAC may decide to merge if, a) Montana stays in I-AA, b) San Jose State drops football or moves down to I-AA, c) Louisiana Tech leaves for the Sun Belt, d) Hawaii becomes independent in football and joins the Big West or WCC in other sports. Should at least two of those scenarios materialize, then a 12- or 14-team new conference is a possibility.

2013 Season (Scenario 2: Big Ten goes for it)-

Pac-10, SEC, ACC and Sun Belt - unchanged from 2011.

MWC, WAC, C-USA and MAC - unchanged from Scenario 1.

Big Ten - Adds Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Kansas. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh join the North Division with Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. Missouri and Kansas join the South Division with Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.

Big 12 - Loses Missouri and Kansas. Adds TCU and Houston. Remains a 10-team conference.

Big East - Loses Pittsburgh and adds Villanova (moving up from I-AA).

Independents - Loses Notre Dame. Army, Navy, BYU and maybe Hawaii remain.

Yes, this is a little hard to digest. But all this maneuvering should make life easier for the BCS. A weakened MWC, without Utah, BYU and also TCU, has no chance of landing an automatic BCS bid. Even a MWC-WAC merger, with no marquee school other than Boise State still in it, should not be enough to produce an AQ-worthy conference.

So as they say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Bet you didn't know the BCS was invented by the French.


Kurt Sahr said...

Do you really think that, if the Big 12 were to expand, they would add TCU and Houston? While it makes sense geographically and competetively, in this media-driven era, a key component to adding new schools to a conference is market size, and adding two additional Texas schools to a conference already full of them wouldn't really expand their marketing footprint.

I would think BYU, New Mexico, Memphis and even Louisville would do a better job of expanding the Big 12 brand into new markets than TCU and Houston.

The Guru said...

I think Houston and TCU are favored in this scenario because the Big 12 and the public schools in Texas are getting pressure from Texas legislators to include two Texas schools if the Big 12 decides to expand.

It will come down to whom UT gets behind (shocking). Arkansas would be in the conversation, too, but I doubt the Hogs would leave the SEC for the Big 12.

Here's a link that sheds a little light on the political landscape -

PeteP said...

TCU will not get a Big 12 invite as long as the Longhorns are in the Big 12. Texas does not believe TCU adds anything to the conference (a mistake, given that TCU is the 3rd most popular team in the state according to a poll back in June).

The political pressure will not force in two extra Texas teams.

If the Big 12 expands, it will be to increase the marketplace --- grabbing Louisville and BYU seems like a more likely scenario -- especially given BYU's new strong relationship with Texas.

Ben Prather said...

What if the Texas Longhorn Network destabilizes the Big 12, and Oklahoma and Texas A&M head for the SEC? Texas could go independent, as no other league will have them with their own network.

The Guru said...

I think UT going independent is an entirely plausible scenario - for football. All their other sports still need a conference, though.

Anonymous said...

The Big Twelve is going to fail in its current form, it will not survive longterm. They will not add any other teams unless its Arkansas or LSU. And theres a zero chance of that. Oklahoma and Texas are against the CCG. Go ask Mack and Bob how they feel about that. Nevermind that it produced great football. So we will stay at ten for a while until expansion gets going again, which it will. TCU has supposedly been in talks with the BIG EAST. And I dont believe the PAC 10 or BIG TEN are done. But, thats just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

If you want to talk about which school has the most power among Texas politicos, that would be the Longhorns by far. And UT is already getting enough pressure from other Tech and Baylor alumni/friend/booster power players to ride Texas coat tails. Texas ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT allow yet 2 more teams to get in to the league thereby making for another pair of teams that will be like anchors when the Pac 10/12 comes calling again. Texas runs the Big 12 and Texas has the most power in Texas politics. They will block any move to have TCU and/or Houston forced on them. I live here in Texas. Take this to the bank.

Kevin Clark said...

If the Big Ten convinces Notre Dame to come aboard, then adds three more schools, they would never include Pitt or Kansas. The Pittsburgh market is already covered with Penn State, and Kansas doesn't add enough TV sets and dollar value. Missouri would bring the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, but I think the Big Ten would look east to UConn, Rutgers and Maryland. This would create a presence from NYC down to DC, and lead to a major expansion of the Big Ten Network. New markets and more dollars are crucial when revenue must be shared among more schools.

The Guru said...

Kevin- The reason I think the Big Ten would go after KU instead of Rutgers or UConn is that KU brings basketball, a rival for Mizzou and also the KC market. I don't believe the BT is convinced that these Big East schools (add Syracuse) to the mix, would really bring the NYC market. Adding ND would have more impact on that end than any of them.

tyamdaly said...

I think that the Big 10 might add 2 more teams in Pitt and Notre Dame. Kansas and Missouri would be more money in the pot. But they would not be a great fit in the Big 10. I guess the Big 10 really depends on Notre Dame? I would like to see Boise and TCU join the Big 12. This is all about BCS money so the other sports take a back seat. That will give Boise their only chance for a "well deserved" shot at the big game.

Anonymous said...

Guru, I have to agree with you on the Big 12 scenario. After 2 years of no CCG, the not having a 13th game will hurt the Big 12 when it comes to the BCS. They will also see how much money they will really lose not having that game.

So, Adding TCU and Houston, or TCU and Arkansas to the Big 12 COULD happen and add them to the South Division. Add OU and OSU to the north.

I know that puts OU and Texas in opposite divisions. The answer is they play their annual game in October. When the chips fall right, they play again in December at Jerry's world.

The amount of money they create from that scenario could more than make up for the losses of Nebraska and Colorado. The OU/Texas game is the cash cow of the Big 12 anyway. Why not do it twice?

Anonymous said...

The fly in the ointment regarding scenario 3 is that (1)if the Big 10+1+1 goes aggressive and adds 4 more teams (2) The SEC will respond by going to 16 teams also.

If this happens I see a couple of scenarios

1. Texas AM, and either Oklahoma or Missouri are added to the west and the 2 NC schools to the East.

2.Texas AM, Missouri and the two Oklahoma schools are added and moving AU and UA to the East.

TV markets will drive expansion and the SEC will make a strong play to enter the Texas market and the Kansas City market.

The SEC is so compact in size right now that adding this would not be a problem.