Super Conference Alignments: How Teams Land and the Consequences
Expansionpalooza is upon us. It’s a love story of sorts, a love of money and power. Texas A&M has officially left the Big-12 for greener pastures in the SEC. A dark horse title contender in a top five conference in the nation is now an outside shot division challenger in the best conference in the country. All to get back at, Texas, the life partner that the Aggies no longer want to see anymore.
Now there are three parties holding cards. An Oklahoma departure means that the Big-12 will dissolve or cease to be relevant. Oklahoma was invited to the PAC-12 last year but declined, and Larry Scott is not going to invite Oklahoma without the Sooners putting in all the work to get in to the PAC-12.
The second team involved is Texas. The Longhorns have made their own network and would like to keep the Big-12 alive because it is a cash cow, which Texas doesn’t have to take care of. The money just flows in to Austin. Now they are at a crossroads if Oklahoma leaves the Big-12 for the PAC-12. They can either go independent or join the PAC-12. The era of the super-conferences is happening, and Texas cannot stay an independent for long with the direction college football is headed.
A forming of four super-conferences will create a perfect setting for a four to eight team playoff. You have two divisions in each super conference with their own representative for the conference championship game, the conference winner of that goes to a four-team playoff. The first semi-final will be the PAC-12 against the Big-10 and the other semi-final will be the ACC against the SEC.
So who holds the most cards in this musical chair game? Larry Scott. He runs the PAC-12, a conference that will probably be around as long as college football is and the owner of the richest college football television contract. He’s making the Big-12 schools that want to crossover to put in all the work this time and then Larry Scott will let them in. Larry Scott’s a boss. He could turn the Longhorn Network in to a regional network and not allow the revenue to just go to Texas. If Oklahoma and Texas join the PAC-12, it then becomes a land grab across all the other conferences in order to give themselves the best toys when the super-conferences finally begin.
The additions to the PAC-12 are Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech. My understanding so far is that Texas Tech wants to make the jump. Missouri most likely wants to keep a recruiting path to Texas and would be okay with joining the PAC-12, but my best guess is Texas Tech will make the jump with the Oklahoma schools and Texas. This could be a zipper system or region system. For the zipper pair each team up regionally (Oregon-Oregon State, Cal-Stanford, Texas-Texas Tech) and then put each pair in an opposite group. The regional system you just put the PAC-8 teams in one division and all the teams added later in the other division.
The SEC has added Texas A&M and I think would look to spread to other states by adding Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. I picked these three because they are SEC like in their fan fervor, tradition, they have been successful, and are just an overall good fit. The SEC in this case would most likely just split regionally, putting the eight eastern most teams in one division and the eight more western teams in the west division.
ACC would absorb part of the Big East and have to fill spots vacated by Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. They would add South Florida, Louisville, Rutgers, TCU, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Houston. Houston is the one that sticks out with TCU. I think Houston could be added because they are a good football team with a good athletic department and are in the 10th largest media market. It also spreads the ACC to another part of Texas. Houston is the team I’m most unsure about. This conference could break in to a north or south division.
The Big-10 will get first pick after the SEC. Some teams are poised to go to the PAC-12 already and the SEC is going to get who they want but the Big-10 are going to get the next batch. The Big-10 will most likely add Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Missouri. Missouri fits the Big-10 conference well, like Nebraska does. Pittsburgh helps get all of Pennsylvania, get a new state in West Virginia, and add Cincinnati so that Ohio State has to play an Ohio team outside of Ohio University and Youngstown State. I have no idea how the Big-10 will break out their divisions after that Legends and Leaders crap they pulled last year.
Teams that got left out are Boise State who are in a tiny media market and doesn’t match up with the other schools, Nevada who has a weaker athletic department and small media market, BYU, and Notre Dame.
These four super-conferences will ultimately lead to a playoff. Each division has a representative to play for a conference title, the conference champion plays another conference champion, and those two winners play each other for the championship. The PAC-12 and Big-10 can play each other in a semifinal in the Rose Bowl and the ACC and SEC could play each other in the Orange Bowl. This playoff basically forces Notre Dame to join a conference, or get left behind. BYU will also be independent and those teams will just be a traveling show (and possibly have pay-per-view home games?).
This is my best guess at how super-conferences could shake up. Some teams get left out (and I am the biggest supporter of a relegation system like the EPL has), it forms a playoff, and makes every conference permanently viable and strong. Every conference could have an argument they are the best. People may not want it to happen, including Larry Scott, but it is happening, and you want to make sure that you are in the best situation when this process is over.