Monday, September 05, 2011

Projecting what's next for college athletics...

...is something for which good odds should not be placed. About the only thing that seems certain is that what follows here is based on logic. And that's something that hasn't been on display of late in college athletics.

The following also is based on two presumptions: Texas A&M will join the SEC; and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech will join the Pac-12.

Here we go:
1. The Pac-12 increases to 16 schools and becomes the first super conference. For at least football, there will be two divisions; teams will play the other seven teams in their division, two from the other division and three non-conference games. Here's a guess as to how those two divisions might be constructed.

2. The SEC moves to 13 with the addition of Texas A&M, and an odd number is not workable. Adding one team might actually be more complicated than adding three. The guess here is that Clemson, Florida State and Miami are the initial three schools that are considered, though the uncertainty surrounding Miami and the impending NCAA investigation might eliminate the Hurricanes from consideration. If Miami is left at the side of the road, Georgia Tech becomes a possibility because of its location. West Virginia also shouldn't be overlooked, but with the SEC also attempting to upgrade its academic profile, the addition of a school such as Georgia Tech takes on added weight.

If my projection is accurate, then the two-divisional alignment could look like this:

WEST
Alabama
Arkansas
Auburn
LSU
Mississippi
Mississippi State
Texas A&M
Vanderbilt (based on geography, this is the most logical school to switch)

EAST
Clemson
Florida
Florida State
Georgia
Kentucky
Miami
South Carolina
Tennessee

3. At this point, all eyes turn to the Big East, which will be raided by at least the ACC and possibly the Big 10. The Big East is a 9-team football conference, with at least 6 of those schools guaranteed to be of interest to the two major conferences that surround the Big East. The guess here is that those 6 -- Cincinnati, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia -- are gone. (I'll have more to say about Louisville, South Florida and TCU later.)

4. The Big 10 needs four schools to get to the magic number 16, so the aforementioned six schools will wait to see what this conference does before acting on anything the ACC might be interested in. The guess here is that the Big 10 will want Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse, leaving one spot open. And you know which school the Big 10 would like to be No. 16. However, I don't think Notre Dame makes the leap, allowing Connecticut to join the conference. The potential fly in the ointment here is whether enough political pressure can be put on the conference from among Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin to get Iowa State added. However, the absence of a strong athletics history and a small television market likely dooms the Cyclones.

5. The ACC would be down to 9 teams (presuming three ACC teams jump to the SEC), so it will find it hard to get to the 16 figure needed to be a super conference. Unless, of course, it is willing to alter its strong academic structure, which it is not likely. Would it be interested in the Big East leftovers? The guess here is that the conference leaders swallow hard and look the other way as they invite Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia into the conference.

Whether the conference realigns or simply inserts the potential new schools where the former schools were will not be considered here.

6. Several programs are now left in the lurch. The shell of the Big 12 -- Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri -- and Texas Christian could join together with (perhaps) Houston, Memphis, SMU and Southern Mississippi to form a second-tier conference akin to the Mountain West. The other possibility is that the Mountain West makes a play to get to 16 teams.

So, now we wait for the next "we'll make the first move" decision that either begins to support or completely blow up what was discussed here.

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