In Part I of the discussion, the Confidential noted some of the crazier rumors on the blogosphere regarding expansion. In Part II, the Confidential takes a look at what the more likely expansion scenarios are.
The Notre Dame Issue: Forcing the Big 10 and ACC to Maintain the Status Quo
First and foremost, the most significant expansion catalyst will be Notre Dame. It seems very unlikely that the Big 10 and ACC would expand without Notre Dame being part of the mix. As noted in Part I, Notre Dame is even on the wish list for the Big XII. In the meantime, Notre Dame has virtually no interest in having its football team part of a conference. So, while Notre Dame takes its time, the Big 10 and ACC are likely to remain with the status quo.
That being said, both conferences likely have a scenario mapped out for the possibility of Notre Dame being a willing partner. For the Big 10, adding Rutgers with Notre Dame seems liked a good fit. In Rutgers, Penn State would get its Eastern partner and the conference would add a state flagship school with academics. While Rutgers’ ability to deliver the New York City market is overstated, would bring the New Jersey market. While arguments for UConn could be made, the Confidential’s money would be on Rutgers.
The ACC similarly would take either Rutgers or UConn as part of a Notre Dame package. Whether Boston College would block UConn is unclear. For a conference that prides itself on good basketball, adding UConn makes a lot more sense than Rutgers. The UConn football history is a century shorter than the Rutgers’ football history, but already has one more BCS bowl appearance. All in all, UConn seems the better fit for the ACC with Notre Dame.
Either way, with Notre Dame’s situation not likely to change any time soon, the Big 10 and ACC will not be expanding soon.
With 12 teams and few western options, the Pac-12 seems fairly certain to have stopped expanding. Moreover, the scheduling agreement with the Big 10 will give the Pac-12 additional exposure. Nevertheless, if Texas and Oklahoma were to approach the Pac-12 with open arms and a willingness to accept the Pac-12′s desired revenue sharing concepts, it is possible that the Pac-12 could reopen discussions on a move to 16 teams. But barring a surprise–such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State heading to the SEC–it seems unlikely that Texas will want to give up the Longhorn Network and the Big XII for some time. Therefore, the Pac-12 seems to be done expanding for the time being.
The Big XII
The Big XII stands pat is less clear. With two additions, the Big XII would return to 12 teams and be able to hold a conference championship game. With twelve teams, there would be some margin for loss if Texas decides to take its talents independent or some other defection occurs.
The commentariat at Frank the Tank seems to think that Louisville and BYU make the most sense as additions to the Big XII. The Confidential agrees. Louisville provides an eastern partner for West Virginia, while BYU makes some geographic sense and adds a market for the Big XII. But if BYU remains adamant that it will not join a conference, then Cincinnati seems like a better fit than Rutgers to be the 12th team. Cincinnati and Louisville would give the Big XII two teams in the gap between West Virginia and the other schools. Of course, the Big XII could choose not to expand without getting Louisville and BYU. In that situation, the Big XII would just be waiting for BYU to come around to the Big XII idea. And with Utah, TCU, San Diego State, and Boise State all opting for conference affiliation, BYU could very well conclude soon that independence is too risky. So, all things considered, Louisville and BYU as additions right before the television contract renewal makes the most sense.
The SEC is a big question mark at 14 teams. There will always be discussions about moving to 16. Most people’s favorite speculation game is that Virginia Tech and North Carolina State would be perfect fits for the SEC. Neither school is about to supplant Duke and North Carolina in the power department. Both fit into a football-focused dynamic. The SEC would land two new markets. As noted in Part I, there are blogs already thinking about division and pod breakdowns. But there are political issues with such a move. Then there are Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Clemson. Each of those schools would make football sense. At the same time, neither school provides the SEC with a new market. So, while the football quality may increase, it is not clear that the $$$ would follow. And it’s not like the SEC is lacking in quality football schools. If anything, it would just increase the gauntlet for an SEC school to go undefeated. And which two of the three would be invited? All in all, the ACC schools may have their differences, but they still seem unified as an academic-athletic conference.
If the SEC were to suspend its football-first thinking, then a Kansas-Kansas State addition would allow the SEC to become more legitimate in basketball. Right now, the SEC is Kentucky, Florida, and not much else. Missouri will help. But Kansas would add one of the truly elite programs. If Kansas-Kansas State tried to start discussions, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State could figure it out and step in to steal the opportunity (see Missouri, Nebraska, and the Big 10). No other Big XII school seems likely to pursue an invitation. And no Big East school is worthy of addition.
So, in the end, it seems unlikely that the SEC will make moves in the short-term. If two ACC or Big XII schools came calling, perhaps the SEC would be interested. The question is–who would inquire? So, again, the status quo seems likely for several years.
The ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC are likely to remain the same for the near future. If the Big XII expands, Louisville and BYU make the most sense as the two additions. Such a move makes complete sense for all parties and is the only realistic expansion scenario in the near future.