Conference realignment talk is back, for better or worse. A report surfaced earlier this week that Oklahoma and Texas approached the SEC about leaving the Big-12 and joining the conference. Such a move would have a tremendous impact on collegiate athletics, including a potential for a ripple effect that impacts Syracuse and the ACC.
First, it is important to point out that it is entirely possible this report goes nowhere. That Oklahoma and Texas both stay with the Big-12. No massive shift. Everything stays as is. As Pat Forde notes, both have flirted before.
"Texas and Oklahoma have been known to find their way to the brink before backing down," Forde writes. "The Pac-12 almost had them back in 2011, and they also batted their eyes in all other Power 5 directions."
That said, what if the report turns out to be true? What if Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big-12 for the SEC? It could be the start of the oft discussed four power conferences with 16 teams each, or even a potential breakaway from the NCAA.
"If you’re looking for the lever that could flip college athletics irrevocably in the direction of a new model and new shape, this would qualify," Forde writes. "Everything could be on the table, from the long-theorized four Super Leagues to a power-conference breakaway from the NCAA. This could massively alter the entire enterprise, at a time when upheaval already is underway and the NCAA has never had less authority."
In the scenario with four Super Leagues, what does that mean for the ACC? For Syracuse? There are currently five power conferences, so one would have to go. The SEC holds the most power, especially with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma. It is not going anywhere. Neither is the Big-10. That leaves the ACC, Big-12 and PAC-12 for two spots.
The most likely scenario is the Big-12 folds with schools from that conference going to the other conferences to fill up the Super Leagues. The loss of Texas and Oklahoma would significantly weaken the Big-12's influence. That means the ACC would potentially add some new schools, but Syracuse would stay put within its conference.
Of course nothing is guaranteed, but that does appear to be the most logical scenario. If the ACC were to be the conference to dissolve, however, it would leave Syracuse in a precarious situation. Would Syracuse be best suited for the Big-10? Big-12? The Orange would have to scramble to guarantee a home, but it would find one. The Syracuse brand still carries weight, especially due to do the strength of the basketball program. The chances that Syracuse ends up in a non power conference are extremely low.
The ACC could also be proactive and look to add teams in the near future in order to help ensure its survival.
So what is the likelihood that Texas and Oklahoma make the move? Forde outlines an interesting consideration regarding in-state rivalries being a potential barrier.
“'We want to be the only SEC team from the state of Texas,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told my colleague Ross Dellenger in Hoover, Ala., at SEC media days. “There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12—to stand alone and have our own identity. That’s our feeling.'
"Could A&M alone block a Texas-Oklahoma move to the SEC? It seems unlikely. The league bylaws state that “a vote of at least three-fourths of the members is required to extend an invitation for membership.” That means 11 of the 14 current members would have to vote yes to add a new member. So A&M would either need to find a few allies or create such a furor that unanimity—always prized in conference politics—would be impossible and discourage others from going forward.
"Perhaps the support to nix expansion could come from SEC East schools that have traditionally stiff-armed the premise of adding their in-state rivals from the ACC. If Florida doesn’t want Florida State, Georgia doesn’t want Georgia Tech, South Carolina doesn’t want Clemson and Kentucky doesn’t want Louisville, are they sympathetic to A&M wanting no part of Texas?"
Either way, one thing is for certain. Conference realignment is back on the minds of powerful collegiate programs, and this discussion is not likely to go away any time soon.