Sweet 16: Exploring scenarios for how expansion dominos may fall
Today is Monday, June 7, the first day of what could be the most earth-shattering week college athletics has seen in decades.
It's hard to believe that less than a week ago, hardly a soul outside of the parties involved had any inkling the Pac-10 might be on the verge of inviting Texas and five other teams. But with The Conference Realignment Texas Hold 'em Game suddenly moving at breakneck speed, we could be sitting here a week from now looking at a radically altered landscape. A series of impending, interconnected decisions currently being made in the offices and board rooms of a select few universities -- most notably Notre Dame, Nebraska and Texas -- could unleash a sweeping tidal wave that impacts nearly every Division I-A member.
Or, nothing could happen. Despite all the
Whatever the case, much will be decided over the coming week. Speculation runs the gamut as to where exactly things stand, but the general consensus can be summed up thusly: The Pac-10 is expected to
Still with me?
In honor of the proposed Pac-16, here are 16 scenarios for how the dominos from this week's decisions may fall, ascending from the most conservative to the most radically far-fetched.
It cannot be stated enough that Texas and its fellow reported South Division defectors would prefer to keep the current Big 12 intact. Sources say the league will command plenty of increased television revenue (albeit still not split equally) the next time it renegotiates its contracts. If Nebraska and Missouri officials decide it is either too risky to wait on a Big Ten invite (long assumed to be their preference) or plain have a change of heart, Texas and Co. stay put, too. We go back to waiting to see if the Pac-10 makes a more modest expansion (Colorado and Utah?) and/or the Big Ten turns its attention East (Rutgers? Syracuse?).
One immediate domino: The Mountain West -- currently waiting to see what happens with the Big 12 -- goes ahead and invites Boise State.
Great. The Big 12 plucks a team like TCU to replace the Tigers and life moves on. (And Missouri sits and prays it's not making a gigantic miscalculation as to the Big Ten's interest.)
Don't get me wrong -- this would be a gigantic development. It would probably cause riots on Notre Dame's campus, for one thing, and it would give the Big Ten a fourth national brand-name team to go with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. However, it would also likely put a kibosh on most other potential conference shakeups. Most believe the Big Ten would be content to end its expansion push with Notre Dame, which would in turn preserve the Big 12 and Big East.
Personally, I don't see this one happening. Notre Dame AD
There goes the conference. Nebraska AD/former coach
A Big 12 without one of its three marquee franchises will no longer be palatable to Texas. The 'Horns will accept their invite to the Pac-10, and the other five will follow. (The only question is whether Colorado or Baylor, the latter of which is politicking hard for inclusion, would get the sixth bid.) The remaining holdovers -- Kansas, K-State, Iowa State and the Colorado/Baylor loser -- begin scrambling for a new home.
Every remaining scenario from here includes this component as a starting point.
Seizing an opportunity, the Mountain West -- to this point facing an uphill climb to gain a BCS automatic berth -- would suddenly find itself in a position to reconfigure itself as a bona fide player. With the Big 12 out of the picture, the MWC could invite any or all of the following -- Colorado, Kansas, K-State, Iowa State and Boise State -- to move to 12 teams.
If not, a team like Iowa State could be left completely out in the cold. Conference USA, anyone?
One of the great mysteries amid the ongoing Pac-16 speculation is what will become of Kansas, which, while not necessarily a football power, has a huge alumni base, sits in a decent TV market and, most notably, boasts one of the nation's most prestigious basketball programs. It's seems hard to believe the Jayhawks will fade into the wilderness.
Kansas has pledged its loyalty to the Big 12, but if the league implodes, who's to say the Big Ten wouldn't couple KU with Missouri? For all we know,
We know from e-mails
Nebraska -- which for this to unfold would have to fail to commit to the Big 12 -- may be left out of the Big Ten, to boot (yet another kick in the stomach by Texas). Perhaps the Pac-10 would come calling for the Huskers and/or Colorado, or perhaps Nebraska would try to start a new league with Kansas, Kansas State, et. al.
Why is this more radical than Big Ten/Texas? Because of the ripple effect it would cause back East.
And as stated before, Notre Dame's sole motivation for joining a conference would be the imminent destruction of the league (the Big East) in which all of its other sports teams participate. With that in mind...
We've long assumed the Big Ten wants to get into the New York City area. If it does so solely by plucking Rutgers, the Big East will be fine. (Heck -- maybe it can upgrade by adding Kansas.) Were it to lose two or more teams, however, the sport's smallest BCS conference would have to once again reinvent itself.
Possible replacements could include Conference USA schools UCF and Memphis, which last year hired ex-Big East commissioner
For a brief, glorious four-year run in the early '90s,
I hereby propose the following consortium of teams plucked from the potential wreckage of the Big 12 and Big East: Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, West Virginia, USF, Connecticut, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. With a couple of strong years, who's to say this league wouldn't qualify for BCS status?
To date, the nation's proudest football conference has stayed out of the expansion melee, and with good reason: It's got no need to expand. The Big Ten is expanding in part because of shifting population away from its states -- to the South. The Pac-10 needs 16 teams just to get in the same ballpark financially as the 12-team SEC.
There were signs the SEC might pursue Texas and/or Texas A&M, but it appears those schools will stick together either in the Big 12 or Pac-16. The SEC can afford to stand pat, but if it decides to become proactive...
Sure, the conference already has the Sunshine State's flagship school, Florida, but it couldn't hurt to gain a stranglehold in the nation's most fertile state for elite football prospects. The ACC would survive, but its existing television arrangements would not -- despite their recent struggles, FSU and Miami are by far the two most nationally renowned brands in that conference.
Admittedly, Florida might singlehandedly put the kibosh on this one -- but if not...
Now the SEC -- which loves to boast about its "speed" -- would officially enter "ludicrous speed" territory. The league's members would boast more combined national championships and BCS title-game appearances than all other conferences combined. (That's an exaggeration -- I think.)
The remaining ACC teams would have no choice but to join forces with the Big East (or what's left of it) to remain a viable football conference.
If they do, hopefully they cut a royalty check to
Of course, under this scenario, Utah/Boise State/BYU et. al., would be left on the outs yet again, leading to even more threats of Congressional hearings and antitrust lawsuits. Unless...
The concept has existed
Personally, I don't think things will ever get this far. Football may be king, but it's just one of 20-plus sports offered by major conferences, none of which will want to deal with all the bureaucratic hassles that currently fall to the NCAA. University presidents also find comfort in the antiquated notion that the NCAA preserves a sense of "amateurism" in what has unavoidably become as cut-throat a business as any for-profit endeavor.
Then again, less than a week ago I never would have predicted that Pac-10 presidents would sign off on expanding into Norman, Okla., and Lubbock, Texas. By this time next week, anything and everything could be possible.