The Big East added the teams it needed to remain a viable conference worthy of keeping its automatic qualifying status, and more than that, it just became more interesting on a national scale.
Maybe the addition of Boise State and San Diego State — for football only — Houston, SMU, UCF, and potentially Navy, won’t move the needle too much compared to the other BCS leagues, but geographically, the conference has expanded its reach in a huge way while making future TV packages far more attractive.
The conference almost reaches the four corners of the country from San Diego to Orlando and Tampa, up to Connecticut and New Jersey and back west to Idaho. It’ll be a bear for air travel. Forget about traveling fan bases, but it’s a great move for the conference to stay alive after the number of big defections.
So now what do the conferences look like, and what’s next in the constantly changing world of realignment?
ACC What We Know: Pitt and Syracuse will join in two years. Already in are Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: The ACC will likely stick with 14 teams for the next year while keeping its options open to react to what the SEC does. If the SEC goes after Florida State, Virginia Tech and/or Clemson, the ACC will quickly poach from the Big East or Conference USA. The Big East might have grown bigger and better, but even with the larger exit fee and the stronger team base, schools like Connecticut and Louisville are still in play. The ACC might be interested in Memphis for basketball and will take football along for the ride. East Carolina is always on the table – at least geographically.
Big 12 What We Know: Texas A&M is going to the SEC next year and TCU will take its place. Missouri is also gone to the SEC, while West Virginia will step in … eventually. The Mountaineers are in a legal battle with the Big East to get out, but there’s a chance that might not happen until 2013. At the moment, the league still has Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech to go along with TCU and West Virginia.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: By letting Boise State, Houston, and SMU go to the Big East, the Big 12 — who wants to get back to being a 12-team league — is almost certainly going to go after BYU as the 11th team. And the 12th? Nevada might be in the equation and UNLV could be an interesting choice, just because of the city. Tulsa is too small and UTEP isn’t really needed unless Texas Tech wants a playmate. Southern Miss might be intriguing, but the Big 12 wants bigger. Again, even with all the moves, Big East teams will still be in play making Louisville and Cincinnati possible targets to go along with West Virginia. Louisville has openly lobbied to move to the Big 12, and it could eventually happen if the dollars work out.
Big East What We Know: Pitt and Syracuse are gone to the ACC in a few years, and West Virginia is taking off for the Big 12 once all the legal problems are hammered out. In a huge move, the conference will add Boise State and San Diego State for football only, and Houston, UCF and SMU for everything. Navy is also all but in, meaning the 2014 conference will be – at least for now — Boise State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU, UCF and USF with Navy on the verge of making it an 11-team conference with more room to expand.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: The Big East isn’t done. Louisville has openly said it wants out and Rutgers is prime for the taking whenever the Big Ten decides to pull the trigger. BYU rejected the idea of joining the Big East, or vice versa depending on whose version you want to believe, but either way, that’s not going to happen. Navy is most likely the next to come aboard with Army possibly to follow. Temple could be coming back to its old conference, but rumors about a move from the MAC have quieted after this latest grab of programs.
Big Ten What We Know: Commissioner Jim Delany, who got the ball rolling in the first place, has been dead-silent on any and all expansion talk. It was curious that the conference let Missouri go to the SEC after it had seemed destined to join the Big Ten, and early rumors about Rutgers, Connecticut and Maryland are gone. The conference seems fine for the time being and it doesn’t appear eager to do too much more after a successful season in the new format. For now, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin are in the Leaders Division; Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern form the Legends Division. It appears that’s how things are going to stay for a while.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: There are only so many big programs to possibly go after. Notre Dame is always in the speculation, but there’s nothing there right now between the two. Texas, the team the Big Ten gabbed about to fuel the realignment discussions, is always in the background of a mega-deal, but that’s not going to happen now that the Big 12 has become powerful again.
A lot might depend on what happens with Penn State. If the NCAA blows the program out of the water, suddenly, the Leaders becomes squishy-soft and the conference will need a bigger East Coast presence. Rutgers could turn out to be the perfect fit. Kansas would seem like a natural because of the basketball program, but the Big Ten hasn’t shown any interest whatsoever.
Conference USA What We Know: The league is merging forces with the Mountain West for just football. At the moment, East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, UTEP, Tulane and Tulsa are members with Houston, SMU and UCF taking off for the Big East.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: Conference USA hopes there’s strength in numbers with the tie-ins to the Mountain West. With Houston, UCF and SMU gone, three of the league’s power players — maybe not SMU — are out, leaving East Carolina, Southern Miss, and Tulsa as the only programs with any recent success. Picking off some Sun Belt teams like Arkansas State, FIU or Western Kentucky could bring more live bodies into the equation. Adding Louisiana Tech from the WAC makes too much sense not to have happened yesterday, but for now, the conference appears to be looking to simply weather the storm and hope ECU and Southern Miss aren’t taken.
Independent What We Know: Army, BYU, Navy and Notre Dame are the four independents — for now.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: Navy is almost certainly going to be in the Big East. Army will likely end up being asked to join at some point. BYU will likely end up in the Big 12. Notre Dame will be on the radar of the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 as long as it remains an independent.
MAC What We Know: At the moment, it’s Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami, Ohio and Temple in the East Division. The West consists of Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan. Massachusetts is joining next year to round out the league to 14 teams.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: Temple is being talked about as a possible Big East team, but that’s it for now. Conference USA could come calling soon for Northern Illinois, Toledo or Western Michigan, but that’s pure speculation.
Mountain West What We Know: Just when it seemed like the conference was building to be something great, all the stars are gone. The dream was a league with Boise State, BYU, TCU, and Utah as the stars, but they’re all off to bigger and better things, while San Diego State is joining Boise State in a move to the Big East. The league is still looking to merge forces with Conference USA in a strength-in-numbers situation, and it’ll hope that a raid on the WAC will help the cause with Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada joining next year to go along with Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: It’s going to be tough to get up in the morning, considering the league was this close to being special. Now it’s the land of misfit teams that are too small or too mediocre to get calls from bigger conferences. Nevada might not be around for long and Colorado State could be Big 12-bound if the football program could show any sign of life whatsoever. Getting Idaho and Utah State from the WAC would make sense, but for now, hooking up with Conference USA might be enough to get by.
Pac-12 What We Know: It’s Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State in the North Division, while the South consists of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, USC and Utah.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: The hopes of landing any of the Big 12’s big boys appear to be fading by the day. The Big 12 is coming off a terrific season and all the talk of Texas and Oklahoma making a grand move has gone away. The league doesn’t want BYU, while Big East-bound Boise State and San Diego State weren’t on the table. Kansas would make sense for basketball, but the league appears to be happy as is for the time being.
SEC What We Know: Texas A&M will join Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the West Division. Missouri will join Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: The SEC is going to let the 14-team league breathe for a while. The $3 billion TV package will be upgraded with the addition of two new teams. Adding two more – like Virginia Tech, Florida State or Clemson – doesn’t appear likely for now. Everything is going too well for the conference at the moment to try to expand more. While rumors and speculation won’t slow down, the league will almost certainly stick with the 14-team format for at least the next two seasons. Any new members wouldn’t be able to join until at least 2014.
Sun Belt What We Know: South Alabama will be the newest member next season, joining Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, FIU, La.-Lafayette, La.-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Troy and Western Kentucky.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: Conference USA could soon come calling for FIU and Western Kentucky, while North Texas and Arkansas State are attractive options that could make a jump soon.
WAC What We Know: The WAC is trying to rebuild with Texas State and UT San Antonio joining next year, but that won’t do much to cushion the blow of losing Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada to the MWC. At the moment, to go along with the two new members, the league next year will have Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.
What’s Probably Going To Happen Next: There’s not a whole bunch the conference can do if it doesn’t keep plucking programs from the lower level. Louisiana Tech is destined to move to Conference USA at some point, and Idaho and Utah State are primed to get plucked by the Mountain West. Outside of trying to join forces with the Sun Belt, the WAC will be hanging on for dear life if it can’t make some sort of a deal to join the new Conference USA-Mountain West alliance.