The smoke surrounding the impending exit from the Big 12 of the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners is now a billowing inferno with the two schools reportedly officially set for a move to the Southeastern Conference.
If the Longhorns and Sooners do indeed move on as those reports have suggested, where would the Big 12 from here?
To be blunt, likely into the grave.
Texas and Oklahoma are (were?) the lifeblood and biggest attraction of the Big 12 Conference.
Not just in football, but right alongside the Kansas Jayhawks in men's basketball.
As Chip Brown of 247 Sports indicated in his initial report, the Longhorns and Sooners, are prepared to wait until the current grant of rights agreement expires in 2025
Should the two schools elect to move earlier, they would be forced to forgo their remaining Big 12 television revenue of $160 million.
However, that does not mean the move will not happen sooner.
Whenever the two schools inevitably leave for greener pastures, the conference will be forced to pivot into a fight-or-flight mode, where they will have to move quickly to either add new members and convince the remaining schools to stick around.
The problem is that there isn't much left for the conference to absorb.
Without the Sooners and the Longhorns, the remaining eight schools will struggle to maintain an identity.
The best option for survival at that point would likely be to attempt to move the conference back to 12 teams, by absorbing schools from Group of 5 conferences and creating two divisions once again.
Those schools would likely be chosen from the likes of Houston, UCF, SMU, Cincinnatti, or Memphis from the AAC, Boise State and BYU from the Mountain West, or Lousiana from the Sun Belt
Houston, UCF, Boise State, and BYU seem like no-brainers in that endeavor, with the potential of adding SMU and Cincinnati to that list, also making geographic sense.
Should the Big 12 be successful in absorbing those teams, the AAC would likely crumble, with the remaining teams dispersing amongst the remainder of the Group of 5.
The structure of the Big 12 would also dramatically change, with the two-division structure being re-implement.
In that event, the conference could structure its 'South' division with Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Houston, and UCF, while the North Division would consist of Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia, BYU, and Boise State.
All of this assumes, however, that the Big 12 is able to land its desired candidates, which is far from a guarantee.
For example, the ACC is also likely to try and aggressively expand itself, which could attract UCF to them, as well as remaining Big 12 schools such as West Virginia or TCU who could be looking for a clean break.
There is also a scenario in which the conference aims to add just those two schools and remain with a structure of 10.
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So what happens if the Big 12 is unable to add schools and piece the conference back together? Well, things could get really interesting.
The most likely scenario, is a complete collapse of the conference, with the remaining eight schools scrambling to find new homes In order to stay at the Power 5 level.
For most of the schools, that shouldn't be a problem, with the other major conferences likely also scrambling to keep up with the SEC and strengthen their positions as best they can.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, for example, would likely be candidates to join the Pac 12 out west, taking the conference to 14 teams, and reuniting them with former Big 12 member, Colorado.
Iowa State and Kansas also have a sensical destination in the Big 10, with the Cyclones having the natural rivalry with Iowa, and Kansas making geographic sense and holding the leverage of their basketball program.
Kansas is also already moving on that front, and has reportedly been in contact with the Big 10.
West Virginia also could easily join the ACC or the Big 10 as well, with the ACC being the more logical landing spot thanks to their geographic footprint.
Obviously, the next question to be asked after that is: What about TCU, Kansas State, and the reigning NCAA Basketball Champions, the Baylor Bears?
Those answers are not so simple.
TCU would be a hot commodity, and could also be a candidate to join any of the other three Power 5 conferences. Though given the power of the Big 10, and their desire to keep pace with the SEC, TCU will likely be pursued hard there.
Kansas State and Baylor, are the likeliest of the remaining schools to be affected negatively by the move.
Baylor, while a national champion, does not hold the same gravitas on the football field as the majority of the other schools in the Big 12.
That said, there is the chance that they could be a candidate to join Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and potentially TCU in a move to the Pac 12, which if successful, could move the conference to 16 teams, and equal the numbers of the new SEC.
That is their best-case scenario.
The worst-case, and potentially the most likely option, would be a religation of sorts, in which the Big 12 does indeed crumble, and they are forced to join SMU and Houston in the AAC.
Kansas State sits in a similar boat, albeit, one with less options.
Should the Big 10 not come calling, the Wildcats are the likeliest of the remaining schools to face that same kind of relegation, with a potential move to the Mountain West, the MAC, or the Sun Belt, a distinct possibility.
One way or another, the decisions of the Texas Longhorns will once again cause a seismic shift in the college football landscape
CONTINUE READING: Texas and Oklahoma Reportedly Skip Big 12 Conference Call
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