The potential of conference realignment is getting more realistic by the day, and along with that comes a healthy dose of chaos.
Rumors first started leaking out about Texas and Oklahoma potentially leaving the Big 12 on Wednesday. Friday morning, sources confirmed to The Athletic that the pair intends to inform the Big 12 they are moving to the SEC as soon as next week.
The Big 12 held a conference call Thursday night amid the drama, a call that Texas and Oklahoma were not a part of. The intent was reportedly to discuss contingencies for both the conference as a whole in addition to each of its member schools. The Athletic reported the eight remaining Big 12 schools pledged to make an effort to stay together once the Longhorns and Sooners leave, but that the schools are keeping all options open just in case.
One of the topics touched upon during that call, according to The Athletic, was a creative way for the eight schools to stay together and expand in one swift move. The Big 12 would reach out to the Pac-12 about a full-on merger, combining into one 20-team conference.
That theoretical conference would therefore include Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, California, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, TCU, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State and West Virginia.
The Big 12's alternative to staying alive would be poaching teams from the Mountain West and American Athletic Conference, but the mega conference Pac-12 merger is reportedly seen as the preferable option.
From the Pac-12's side of things, new commissioner George Kliavkoff seemed to not be open to the idea should the Big 12 officially propose it, considering comments he made to The Mercury News on Thursday.
“I consider the Pac-12 an exclusive club with a high barrier to entry,’’ Kliavkoff said. “I love the schools and the teams we have today."
On the other hand, Kliavkoff also said he would be "foolish" not to answer calls if certain schools start reaching out to them about joining.
This seems to set up a scenario wherein the Pac-12 is open to some level of expansion, but only on its own own terms and with schools it thinks bring the correct level of value to the table. The option of a 20-team super conference might not be attractive to Kliavkoff because he and other Pac-12 officials might believe some of those eight Big 12 holdovers – be it Iowa State, Kansas State or someone else – are not worth their time.
Some of the other current Big 12 schools might be, though. 247Sports' TCU insider Jeremy Clark reported Thursday night that TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech had already reached out to the Pac-12. Baylor's standing as a Baptist university may stall those talks, considering the Pac-12's past issues with BYU, but those same complications would exist in the 20-team mega conference scenario as well.
Either way, the conference realignment chaos has officially been unleashed and a 20-team merger might not end up being the craziest idea thrown out there at the end of the day.
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