Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conference Expansion Craziness

Sorry I have not posted a real article or anything for such a long time. Thank you to those who still frequented the site and have been participating in the opinion polls.

We are in the middle of what is supposed to be the quiet time for college football. Letter of Intent day is long passed and the spring football practice sessions wrapped up weeks ago. Classes are out and the coaches can't have contact with the players. Yet, the conference expansion craze is generating enough headlines and discussion to make this as busy as the regular season. Let's quickly run down the popular possibilities for each conference in expansion.

Big 10
We will start with the one that is responsible for this mess.
Plan A is to add Notre Dame to reach 12 and hold a championship game.
Plan B seems to be to take teams from the Big 12 and Big East to reach 14. Top candidates include the Big 12's Nebraska and Missouri and the Big East's Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pitt.

Plan A is to change the rule for championship games to conferences with 10 teams, as opposed to the current minimum of 12.
Plan A-1 emerged just last weekend to add six Big 12 schools that would include Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and either Colorado or Baylor.
Plan B Add Colorado and Utah to reach 12 and get a championship game to leverage a better TV deal and start a Pac-12 Network.

Big 12
Plan A is to weather the storm by keeping the nucleus of Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. They would prefer not to lose any team, but if Missouri goes they will survive.
Plan B add BYU, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Arkansas, or another team NOT IN THE CURRENT BIG 12 FOOTPRINT to replace Missouri.

Plan A is to wait and see what happens knowing most likely they won't have to do anything.
Plan B is to expand to 16 teams by attacking the ACC and/or Big 12. Popular candidates include Texas, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.

Big East
Plan A is to give Notre Dame an ultimatum to join the conference for football or lose membership for its other sports. This is viewed as the best hope for survival, regardless of Notre Dame's response. The idea is to stop radical changes by forcing Notre Dame to join the Big 10 or, in their dreams, to stabilize the Big East by having Notre Dame as a football school.
Plan B die.
Plan C reach into the mid-majors again and repopulate the conference after the dust settles.

Plan A is to wait and see. The Mountain West Conference (MWC) made this clear yesterday in a press conference announcing that Boise State would not be added. The ACC will only add teams if it loses teams or 16 becomes the new 12. The rest of the mid-majors won't expand unless one of the major conferences disbands and they feel they can capitalize with one of the once privileged "BCS schools."

With all these options on the table, which make the most sense and are the most likely?
Big 10 Plan A. Probably not going to happen. Notre Dame is being very vocal about wanting to stay independent, which means that is probably the message the boosters are sending. Notre Dame will listen to its boosters more than the Big 10.
Big 10 Plan B. Rumors are that Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10 is immenent and could be annouced very soon. I think this has a high probability of happening, but not this month. Expansion is as big of a decision for these conferences as marraige is to an individual. The conferences will take the time that they need. These two teams would bring the total to 13 for the Big 10, which means one Big East team needs to come along. Pitt has the best football program, but offers the least new market. Rutgers has shown promise and the head coach is committed to the school, but how much market do the Scarlet Knights really bring? Syracuse has been putrid in football, but is great in basketball. However, the Orangemen seem to have the potential of delivering the most TV sets. I would rank the likelihood of these teams joining the Big 10 as 1-Rutgers, 2-Pitt, 3-Syracuse.
Pac-10 Plan A and A-1. Until the news broke about the 6 Big 12 schools I thought changing the championship game rule was going to happen and the Pac-10 would not change. If the numbers add up for Texas, I think the six Big 12 teams will end up joining the Pac. I have no expertise in projecting TV revenues, but I think there is a good chance that Texas would stand to profit with this arrangement with the Pac-10. If not, I think this opens a new can of worms for the top teams from the Pac and the top teams from the Big 12 to form a new 12-16 team conference hand picking the teams that would make the $$$ numbers work.
Pac-10 Plan B. What was once the most likely and reasonable scenario is as good as dead, I think. If this was such a great idea, the Pac-10 would not be bending over backwards to try and make other scenarios work.
Big 12 Plan A. Your guess is as good as mine about keeping the Big 12 nucleus together. It is hard to imagine that the Big 12 could cease to exist, but at this point we have to accept that it just might.
Big 12 Plan B. If Missouri is the only school to replace you can rule out Arkansas and Memphis as candidates. It won't happen. Cincinnati is very unlikely as well. I think it will come down to Louisville or BYU. Anyone who knows me will know that BYU would be my preference, but my gut feeling tells me that the Big 12 would prefer to expand east, not west. A presence east of the Mississippi could be very valuable.
SEC Plan A. This is the plan I envision the SEC following. Even if conferences expand to 16 teams now, the SEC is in a position to wait and see if these expansions really work. If they do, the SEC is strong enough to rip teams away from almost anyone.
Big East Plan A. I don't see the ultimatum happening. I really think the Big East will go down (Plan B) without much of a fight if two or more teams are taken. Raiding other conferences will prove fruitless because the Big East will be so weakened that BCS automatic qualifying status will be lost.

To summarize, the biggest players in the conference expansion game are: Notre Dame, Texas, and the NCAA rule for minimum teams required for a championship game. Notre Dame is capable of keeping the structure of eastern college football largely in tact by joining the Big East. Texas is capable of exploding the structure of college football nationwide by breaking up the Big 12. An NCAA rule change could keep everything status quo. Not only would it satisfy the Pac 10, it could satisfy the Big 10, or keep the Big 12 from expanding if one or two teams leave.

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