Thursday, June 10, 2010

What the SEC should do with conference expansion, Part Two

Yesterday, in Part One, I looked at the scenario of Notre Dame joining the Big10 and the implications of them doing so.  In that scenario, I believe the Big 12 survives in the current iteration, with the possibility of Colorado leaving the join the Pac-10, being replaced with TCU.  I consider that the most likely outcome of the conference expansion talk right now.  Today, in Part Two, I am looking at the second most likely scenario.
The second most likely scenario, which I grant is anywhere from 50-50 to 80-20, depending on what I have most recently read, is that Missouri and Nebraska (and perhaps Iowa State, if they get an invite to balance things) are invited and decide to join the Big10.  As has been noted, Notre Dame would not likely join a 14+ team conference and it is unlikely in my mind that they'd be the 14th team in a conference.  That is why I don't think Notre Dame would join the Big10 if Mizzu and Nebraska decide to join (or are invited to join). 

Farout Field, the newest stadium in the Big10?

At that point, there are two things that can happen.  One, Texas decides to take their balls and play in the Pac-1X OR they could do what they did in 1994 and create (or actually keep) the Big 12 molded in the image they want.  I'll look at the Big 12 remaining intact with the Texas schools first.

If the Big 12 stays intact, but loses teams to the Big10 only, they will look to add TCU, Utah, BYU, Houston and/or SMU (in that order, I would think).  In reality, I believe Colorado stays in the Big 12, due to the dynamics that will come to play allowing more equitable revenue sharing within the Big 12, even if Mizzu and/or Nebraska leaves.  The Pac-10 will be left with looking to Utah and BYU to get to 12 teams.  Regardless, the decisions facing the SEC are exactly the same: timing of the SEC Championship game and bowl tie-ins.

Now, if the Texas schools (and/or Colorado) leaves the Big 12, the remaining teams in the Big 12 are faced with a tough decision:  Try to save the brand with new schools or find a home.  Either way, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Baylor/Colorado are facing a tough decision.  Honestly, I think they look to create a new Big 12, inviting TCU, Utah, BYU, Boise State, Colorado State, The Air Force Academy and probably SMU to join them.  They will also look towards Houston, Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa or Rice for the 12th team.  If the Big 12 dies, those schools will look to join a conference with the likes of those schools. 

You may have noted, I have still not addressed the Big East, ACC or Notre Dame.  The ACC is as good as it will get, unless someone comes a calling and raids the former Big East members away.  I am not saying the ACC will make a play for any team, but it'd probably be Syracuse and Louisville if they do.  The interesting thing is how the Big East handles it, especially if Notre Dame is left out of expansion (or chooses to not join a 14 team Big10).  Notre Dame is currently a basketball member of the Big East and could be persuaded to join them, if they think they will be left out of the next round of BCS discussions.  In that regard, Notre Dame could make Texas envious of the deal they would be able to get by becoming a football member.  I'd look for the Big East to go after Navy and possibly try to get Boston College to come back.  In reality, they'd likely settle for inviting Temple back.  If this comes to fruition, look for Notre Dame to insist on a seven game conference schedule, so they can maintain some of their traditional rivalry games with non-Big East teams such as Southern Cal, Purdue and Boston College. The only problem with this is the possibility of not getting past ten teams, unless they can find another college that make sense for them to invite, something I am frankly stuggling to figure out, unless you count Army as a possibility, something I am willing to do as a matter of discussion.

If a new Big 12 and revamped Big East is the way this plays out, the SEC, along with the other conferences (and the television rights holder) in the BCS face a tough decision: Do we still have reasons to keep the Big 12 as a part of the BCS after the current contract expires (keeping in mind that the Big 12 will have an automatic bid contracturally through the 2013 season)?  The ancillary to that decision is how to handle the current two team limit in the BCS.  The conferences that grew (or didn't have to find schools that might drag the overall power rating of the conference down) could legitimately argue that the Big 12 is different enough that they should have to compete with the 'other' conferences, ala the proposal last year on the inclusion of other conferences in the BCS auto-qualifier status (keeping in mind, that contemplates the past performance of the membership of those conferences as of December 4, 2011, not historical membership performance).  I'm not saying it is a fair argument; I am saying there could be a valid argument made.  Remember, we are talking about money here, money that will now probably be divided up between 5-10 more schools overall.  While that problem really is about equitable distribution of revenue within conferences, since there will likely still be no more than six conferences competing year in and year out for those funds, in the conferences with 14 or 16 teams, the easiest way to make the pie bigger per capita is to make the pie available to fewer schools, via restricting BCS auto qualifiers, and to find ways to get more teams, including more than two, into those BCS bowl games.

My best guess as to the new conference alignments:

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