Seth Megginson: Conference realignment chaos
The anarchy that is college football realignment seems to be back at our door with the news that Texas and Oklahoma have reached out to the SEC about joining the conference, which in turn would form the first super conference of what will likely be three or four super conferences in the future.
Now, I love the traditions of college football. I want Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to be in the same conference. However I would be lying if I said I do not love conference realignment talk. Yes, some schools join conferences where it doesn’t make geological sense. I mean, why the hell is West Virginia in the Big 12? And Missouri is about as Southeast as Ohio State, so why not send Ohio State an invite too?
I remember in college when I would play the new NCAA football games, and I would just for fun switch up the conferences now and again. How about Virginia Tech and NC State in the SEC? Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all playing in the PAC 12? Notre Dame finally picking a conference, whether it was the ACC or the more natural fit of the Big 10? See what I mean about loving conference realignment? The possibilities are endless.
With Texas and Oklahoma both seemingly wanting to jump ship to the SEC, it leaves a lot of their fellow Big 12 schools in the dark. It will be most certainly the end of the Big 12 (at least as a major conference), and it also puts pressure on conferences like the ACC, Big Ten and PAC 12 to expand. So if we are on our way to a Big Four, what might those conferences look like? Who might be on the move, and what schools could be left out to dry?
Let’s start with the conference that we most likely know who the 16 teams are going to be. With the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC will have to think about how to divide the divisions with two teams that will now be farther west than any other two SEC schools.
Personally, I would like conferences to do away with divisions all together or at the very least do away with cross-division rivals. Have the teams in the conference all play nine conference games and the teams with the best two records meet in the title game, but for the sake of argument, let’s stay with the idea that the SEC will try and keep divisions and cross division rivals.
Here is what the divisions could look like:
|Ole Miss||South Carolina|
If the SEC goes with option A, it puts Texas and Oklahoma in spot that makes more geographical sense for both teams. Auburn would be the team that would be moved, and would likely benefit a school such as Tennessee because Auburn would become Alabama’s cross-division rival. Oklahoma would likely have Missouri, Tennessee or Georgia as a cross-division rival. Missouri makes a lot of sense based on history, but Georgia and Tennessee would need a cross-division rival since Auburn and Alabama would be matched up. Texas would depend on who Oklahoma would be given as a cross-division rival as it would probably come down to Georgia or Tennessee. For this option, I am going to say that the SEC would go to Missouri vs. Oklahoma, Georgia vs. Texas and Arkansas vs. Tennessee, with all other cross-division rivals remaining the same.
|Ole Miss||South Carolina|
This option I feel would really balance out the conference and may even swing the power of the conference to the East, somewhere it has not been in a long time. Oklahoma and Texas again would be put in the division that makes the most geographical sense, along with Missouri, who probably should have been put in the West to begin with. Alabama and Auburn would both find themselves in the East, something I am sure Florida and Georgia would not be overly thrilled about, but it makes sense again geographically.
Cross-division rivals would be interesting here, however, you would think the SEC would keep Alabama vs. LSU as an annual matchup, so let us say that was a given, that leaves Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all needing cross-division rivals from the West and Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas all needed rivals from the East.
This is where it could get a little messy. Kentucky is currently a cross-division rival with Mississippi State, but that does not feel like a true rivalry, why not put Kentucky and Missouri against each other as cross-division rivals as it makes a lot of sense because the two states border each other?
In this scenario I think the SEC would likely go to Alabama vs. LSU, Arkansas vs. Tennessee, Auburn vs. Mississippi State, Florida vs. Texas, Georgia vs. Oklahoma and Kentucky vs. Missouri as cross-0division rivals with the other school’s rivals staying the same.
|Ole Miss||South Carolina|
Option C would be interesting. I mean, the SEC put Missouri in the East, so it’s not crazy to rule out them putting Oklahoma in the East as well. The reason why this makes sense is because it would be less of a headache for the SEC to redo the cross-division rivals and you can just make Oklahoma and Texas cross-division rivals, and you have opportunity to one day have the two teams in the SEC title game. This option is simple, but it just sounds weird saying that Oklahoma is an Eastern division team when they clearly should be in the West.
Here is where everything gets a little more interesting. If the SEC does end up with 16 teams the Big Ten, I would believe would be the conference most likely to pursue doing the same. There are a ton of schools that would make sense for the Big Ten to go after geographically: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, UConn (yes, I said it, UConn) and West Virginia all pass the geography test, and those school all could be in the market for a new conference to call home.
However, the Big Ten would likely look outside of their historical geography especially if Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech are still available. Also do not rule out UCF and South Florida as a possible destination that the Big Ten turns to. There could be a chance the Big Ten tries to poach teams from the ACC; when the Big Ten expanded in 2013 it was rumored that they were interested in other ACC teams like Georgia Tech, UNC and UVA.
Could the Big Ten possibly steal away an ACC team? Also, Notre Dame is always a factor to join the Big Ten. My whole life it has felt to me that Notre Dame is really a Big Ten school even after they joined the ACC for all sports but football. Getting Notre Dame, however, seems like a long shot for the Big Ten since Notre Dame and the ACC seem to have a strong relationship.
A school like Cincinnati probably would not get the invite from the Big Ten because Ohio State would not allow that happen. West Virginia and UConn are intriguing options for pretty much opposite reasons. WVU has dedicated fan base and is respectable in football and basketball, but when it comes to market value and how the school is perceived it comes up a little bit short. UConn on the other hand is a train wreck in football and that is putting it lightly but perhaps the basketball program and its market would intrigue the Big Ten who would then have Rutgers and UConn as their New York City market teams.
Option A: Take schools from Big 12
*Take any two Big 12 teams for this article I went with Iowa State and Kansas. If the Big Ten did decide to go with WVU they would be placed in the east and Purdue would remain in the west.
Option B: Take schools from the ACC
*Take any two teams from the ACC in this scenario I went with Georgia Tech and UVA. If the Big Ten was to take Notre Dame they would likely be put in the West (Michigan be their cross-division rival) and Indiana and Purdue would be moved to the East.
PAC 12 (PAC 16)
If there is another conference who needs to do whatever it can to avoid the same fate the Big 12 is facing it is the PAC 12. A lot of people seem to be speculating that if Texas and Oklahoma do join the SEC that Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech will go west and be a part of the PAC 12.
This makes sense for several reasons, like I mentioned before the PAC 12 will need to expand just so they won’t get left in the dust by the other conferences, and having a presence in the state of Texas would help bolster the PAC 12. If the PAC 12 does want to expand, they will need to react fast, though, because the BIG Ten and ACC both might come after those Texas schools and Oklahoma State left in the Big 12.
I could see the PAC 12 going after Kansas if they really wanted to focus on basketball and the Kansas City market, but that feels like a long shot if all the Texas schools are still available. Usually when the PAC 12 talks about expansion, a school like Boise State pops up, but it feels like if the PAC 12 really wanted the Broncos, they would have grabbed years ago at the peak of Boise’s dominance.
Maybe the PAC 12 just does not try to expand and believes that it can survive at 12 teams, but logically I think the PAC 12 grabs four of the eight schools left behind by Oklahoma and Texas. Also keep an eye out for schools like Houston or SMU to be dark horses in joining the PAC 12 because of their television markets, and if the Big Ten grabs some Big 12 Texas schools, this could be the PAC 12 next best option. Lastly there is always the option that maybe the PAC 12 and Big 12 merge into won mega conference, though that would be strange have West Virginia in the PAC 12, but hey, I guess strange things are bound to happen when it comes to conference realignment.
|Oregon State||*Oklahoma State|
In this scenario put all the new PAC 12 teams into the South and in return more Colorado and Utah to the North. It looks well-balanced, and Colorado and Utah are not traveling much farther than they were already to play games.
|Division A||Division B|
This scenario would see all the new PAC 12 teams in one division, but UCLA and USC being moved to another. You could call the divisions Pacific and Midwest. These divisions, however, do no look well balanced to me, as the teams on the West Coast have a much stronger division than the other.
|Division A||Division B||Division C||Division D|
|Stanford||Oregon State||Arizona State||*Oklahoma State|
|USC||Washington State||Utah||*Texas Tech|
When Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech flirted going to the PAC 12 a decade ago the rumor was this was how the PAC 12 was going to line up. Personally, I love this and think if conferences go to 16 teams, they should all find a way to work out their divisions like this. You will have four divisions of four teams each, and at the end of the season you will have four division champions, and they will compete in a mini-conference tournament to see who wins the conference title. The problem with this option, though, is it may be tough to get the schools on board for it as it might require having to play an extra game or taking away a conference game in the regular season.
*Under all these options you can pretty much choose any four Big 12 schools but for the sake of the article I decided to go with Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.
PAC 12 Big 12 Mega Conference
|Oregon State||Kansas State|
|Washington State||West Virginia|
So, this is what a 20 team mega conference would like. Colorado and Utah would likely be moved in to the former Big 12 to even it out, and this is how I believe it would work. It pretty much would be two separate conferences under one name, everyone plays each other once in their division once (nine games total), and the two league winners would then meet in a championship game. This option would help keep the Big 12 intact, even if its not technically the Big 12 anymore, and helps boost the power of the PAC 12 that they desperately need.
The ACC’s first step into becoming a super conference seems obvious. Get Notre Dame to commit to being a full-time member of the conference in football. After that it would be interesting to see where the ACC would turn to when adding a 16th team.
The second step is to try to make sure none of the teams in your conference are going to get poached by the Big Ten and SEC. While I feel schools like Clemson and Florida State are happy with the ACC at the moment, I wouldn’t put it past the SEC to try to test the waters with those programs, and as I mentioned before the Big Ten had their eyes on other ACC teams before ultimately ending up with just Maryland in 2013.
If the ACC does lock down Notre Dame and keeps all their schools in the conference, West Virginia seems to be the name that is being thrown around the most as a school that the ACC should go after, but I am not entirely sure that the ACC would be interested. West Virginia makes sense from the standpoint of geography, and they have a history with Pitt, (bring back the Backyard Brawl, yes ,please) Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, Louisville and Miami from their Big East days, and you could set up an interesting rival with UVA as well.
Also the West Virginia football and basketball programs probably would have more to offer competition-wise. The problem is the ACC might not see the dollar signs with West Virginia since it has no television market value and a smaller fanbase.
As for the other Big 12 schools, I am sure the ACC would also like to get in the Texas game, so I feel like Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech are still in play along with Oklahoma State. Also do not sleep on Kansas being a target for the ACC.
With the ACC priding itself on its basketball history, Kansas might be too good of a situation for the ACC to feel the need to pass up. UConn is another school that the ACC might turn to for the same reasons as Kansas, plus it gives the ACC another school that has a larger following in the New York City market.
Cincinnati is another school that with their rise in football, a very strong history in basketball, and television market that the ACC could entertain the thought of bringing in and would be a natural rival to Pitt and Louisville.
Option A: Notre Dame and one more new member join
|NC State||Notre Dame|
|West Virginia*||Virginia Tech|
If the ACC does get Notre Dame for football, they are almost certainly going to be in the Coastal, and I’m sure the ACC will hope Notre Dame would dominate the division by keeping them away from Clemson. If the ACC took West Virginia, they would be put in the Atlantic even though most of their rivals are in the Coastal. Notre Dame and Boston College could become cross-division rivals, along with Pitt and West Virginia, making Virginia Tech and Syracuse cross-division rivals now. If the ACC took anyone else besides West Virginia, then that school would probably be giving Notre Dame or Virginia Tech as their cross-division rival.
*Take any new member, for this scenario I took West Virginia
Option B: Redo the divisions all together
|Notre Dame||Florida State|
|Virginia Tech||North Carolina|
|West Virginia||Wake Forest|
|ACC Classic||ACC New School|
|Georgia Tech||Notre Dame|
|Wake Forest||West Virginia|
The North, South ACC option would be intriguing, but I feel like it would look as if the ACC was just to make things as easy as possible for Notre Dame, because the North would be much weaker historically than the ACC South, but it does make sense to do it this way to try and keep rivalries intact. If the ACC wanted to be creative, you could switch Miami in the South with Virginia from the North and do a classic ACC division and a new ACC division. I personally like the old school vs. new school look. It is well-balanced and pretty much is old ACC vs. old Big East.
Oh, how I love the madness that is college football conference realignment, and the best part of it all is we have no real clue how any of this may work out. Maybe we have four 16-team super conferences, maybe the SEC becomes the NCAA and has one super mega conference with all the country’s top programs.
That’s the beauty of this chaos. We do not have any clue what is going to happen next, but all the possibilities you can think of might be a reality here in a few short months.
Buckle up, college football fans; we are just getting started.
Story by Seth Megginson