Thursday, June 10, 2010

Husker Do?

How was it left to me to write the post on the imminent college football conference expansion/realignment?

Today's news is that Nebraska will, in fact, jump ship to the Big Ten and become its 12th member. Math professors everywhere are crying into their pocket protectors, and the rest of the college football world is left reeling...and scrambling.

The next domino to fall appears to be the addition of six teams from the Big 12 to the Pac 10 - Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. The major consequence of this move is the death of the Big 12.

From there, you'll find rampant speculation about the SEC adding teams in order to prevent the Pac 10 from becoming the dominant football conference and about further Big 10 expansion, and eventually the downfall of either the ACC or Big East and the consolidation into four "mega-conferences". Nobody's explaining exactly how one of those conferences will implode, though - which makes me think that it's just puffery by columnists who need to find something to write about, so they make it up.

The better questions, to me at least, are as follows (in no particular order):

1. Is it really in the best interest of the Texas Six to move to the Pac 10? That's a long way to travel for all of those schools [other than Colorado]. Further, if their goal is to ensure that they're part of a major/BCS conference, it would seem that they could just as easily stick it out with the other five Big 12 members (Mizzou, Baylor, Iowa State, KU, and Kansas State) and then add a few teams...perhaps Utah, BYU, TCU, and the like. Now I understand that the Pac 10 schools are sexier than these possible additions to a still-existing Big 12...but I find it curious that nobody seems to be seriously considering such an option (or even writing about it).

2. Assuming the Texas Six bolts...what happens to the Missouri Five? There's all sorts of consternation at these schools - especially at KU - about having their big-time programs being left in the lurch. This should be particularly concerning to KU, KSU, ISU and Baylor, because Missouri, at least, has been rumored as a possible Big 10 expansion candidate, and because these four don't have a natural geographic home among the other major conferences. I say: why doesn't the Mountain West snap these up? The MWC is already considered the next-best conference after the BCS, and geographically the addition makes sense. The MWC might even be able to make a play to replace the Big 12 as the 6th BCS conference.

3. If the Missouri Five don't latch onto the remaining BCS conferences or the MWC - what the hell happens to them?


Mighty Mike said...

Just to show that I/we haven't ignored expansion ....I wrote a little piece yesterday

It was just hidden by the Blackhawks victory. I even quoted Yeats. That has to count for something :)

My understanding of the idea of the Big East/ACC demise/combination is from rumors that the Big 10 might raid Big East/ACC schools (Rutgers, 'Cuse, Pitt, Maryland) and the SEC raid the ACC (Miami, FSU, G-Tech, V-Tech)which in turn causes the crumbling. I have no idea about the exact chances of that but I don't think the chances are insignificant or at least after this week what isn't possible?

Ultimately the Big 12 can survive if Texas wants it to but the Pac 10 just offers far more money now that Nebraska is gone. If it had just been Mizzou or Colorado I think your right on adding TCU and such but Nebraska was the deal breaker. Stewart Mandel has a nice piece talking about why

As to Missouri 5 it's a good question. And I'm not sure. I think it's everyone for themselves. Nobody will want Baylor (maybe the Sun Conference?). ISU/KSU go to the MWC. The question tho is KU. Is the MWC a good enough basketball conference? Maybe beg their way into the Big East? I dunno. There doesn't seem to be a fit for KU. Your thoughts?

Hitman said...

I hadn't seen your column yesterday. Indeed, Lord Stanley's Cup and Gutsy's column got in the way.

Insofar as the Big East is concerned, I don't see any major shakeups unless, as you noted yesterday, Notre Dame bolts for the Big 10. In that scenario, the Big 10 will need at least 1 more team to get to an even 14, and of the legitimate candidates, Rutgers is the big draw because of the NYC market. That would leave only 7 football teams in the Big East, which then leaves a scramble for those squads.

One interesting possibility, which just occurred to me, is a link-up between those Big East 7 and the Missouri 5. That'd be a 12-team conference. It would easily be the worst among the major conferences, and some miserable geographic distances (from Waco to Storrs? Ames to Morgantown? Yuck), but all 12 teams could preserve some semblance of dignity.

The Mandel column is excellent. As he notes, there are a few schools with very small TV markets that are really in trouble if their conferences implode - notably, Baylor, West Virginia, and even Syracuse. Syracuse has the benefit of strong rivalry ties to Big East basketball, which may save them from obscurity. But some of these schools could be abandoned very quickly if the Big 10/SEC/ACC try to raid them.

SEC expansion is a little tricky because a lot of the available schools play in markets already occupied in part by the SEC. Miami, FSU, GaTech and VaTech don't bring a whole lot to the SEC. From a marketing perspective, their better bets are two or more of the NC schools (won't happen; UNC/Duke/Wake/NC State aren't being split, and I doubt the SEC could entice all four); Pittsburgh; BC; or Cincinnati. I doubt BC bolts unless the ACC already breaks up, and Cincy/Pitt are not good geographically. Essentially, in my opinion, the SEC only expands out of a sense of necessity, i.e. it doesn't want to be too small. If the Big 10 goes to 14-16, the SEC might, too, just to say it did.

A more interesting scenario is ACC expansion. If the Big East blows up, schools like Pitt and Syracuse might be enticed, both because there's enough decent football in the ACC and because of the appeal of rivalries with the basketball giants. If that happened...who knows what would be left of the former Big East teams that don't get swallowed.

Which brings me back to my earlier point - there are some schools that have quite literally everything to lose. To me, their fate is the most interesting. And of those...yeah, KU, I dunno. You're right, there really isn't a fit for them. Their closest geographic fits are the Big 10 - which would have offered them a spot by now if the Jayhawks were in demand - and the MWC, which as you note may not be sexy enough. But Kansas simply might not have any other options.

Mighty Mike said...

I think you are exactly right on the SEC - with one caveat. There are stories that Texas A&M is talking to the SEC and considering going East. Obviously the SEC would leap at expanding it's market to Texas. Coincidentally the current A&M regent is Gene Stalling (who was Alabama's football coach.) It doesn't seem likely but A&M is a big caveat.

Hmm. Interesting idea on Missouri 5 and the Big East. Geography aside, can the Big East basketball conference take on more schools?

Which leads to a similar issue that Hitman raises (schools that could lose everything)...if the Big East implodes what happens to the basketball only schools of Georgetown, Marquette, Depaul, etc? Scatter to 4 winds? Form their own A-10 like conference? Georgetown homeless seems as sad/insane as KU.

Finally, in the spirit of questions, what is going to happen to the Big 12's automatic BCS bid? Go to the MWC? Follow Texas/OU to the Pac 16? Up for grabs? Can't imagine that'll be a pretty fight...

Mighty Mike said...

Here was the A&M/SEC piece. I should probably start sourcing given how insane some of these ideas are

Gutsy Goldberg said...

Use this link:
Scroll down to "standards for future BCS auto qualification."
the standards are:
1) ranking of highest-rannked team in final BCS standings;
2) final regular-season rankings of all conference tams in the COMPUTERS
3) number of teams in the top 25 of final BCS standings.

This contract for the BCS is in place until 2013... without amending it, I assume there are only 4 auto bids, and then anyone else still has to qualify under the stated criteria.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

I'd imagine after football is done, that Georgetown and Kansas will be sought after heavily by the other conferences. I'm assuming none of the conferences want to have 17 or more teams during b-ball season. So... Georgetown and Marquette and Kansas will be sought after by conferences like the A-10, and Mountain West respectively.