The college football landscape as we’ve known it for about a year is on the verge of shifting again.
A year after both the Big Ten and Pac-10 expanded to 12 schools and steadied the foundation of major college football, it is moving again. This time around, one of the major conferences could be no more, as a result.
The Big 12 is facing extinction with Texas A&M’s inevitable move to the powerhouse Southeastern Conference , while Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are sizing up a move to what is now the Pac-12. Both Oklahoma and Texas’ Board of Regents gave their respective presidents permission Monday to explore moving to another conference.
It appears we are heading in the direction of 16-member super conferences with the Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference leading the way. The ACC moved to 14 members this past weekend when it extended invitations to both Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The recently expanded Pac-12 would also jump to a once-unthinkable sixteen members if all four Big 12 schools join as some have predicted.
But there are still some moves to be made or not made before we know exactly what we are looking at. Texas doesn’t really want to leave the Big 12 because of the big-baller status it holds with its own ESPN-backed Longhorn Network; the flagship school feels it will have no choice but to leave if Oklahoma jumps first.
Remember, it was Texas’ decision to remain in the Big 12 last summer that saved the league when it backed out of an offer to join the Pac-10.
The Sooners, meanwhile, also don’t want to leave but the team is demanding concessions such as restrictions on Texas’ lucrative Longhorn Network and the removal of commissioner Dan Beebe in order to remain, according to the Oklahoman. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are simply along for the ride and will settle where the flagship schools in their respective states decide to go.
That still leaves some maneuvering by both the SEC and ACC to be made. Once Texas A&M comes aboard as a full member soon, the SEC will be at 13 members, with uneven divisions. That means the SEC will look to expand by at least one school and possible a more workable three to get to 16 schools because it’s much easier to schedule in football with two eight-team divisions.
The ACC also isn’t likely to stand at 14 with UConn and Rutger, both hoping to get an invite and leave the Big East even more crippled.
What has been interesting is that, as schools jockey for position and conferences attempt to become richer through expansion with billion dollar television deals, there seems to be little concern about what is best for the student-athlete. The expansion to 16 teams in a conference like the Pac-12 would be detrimental to the student-athletes in that league. The Big 12 would encompass schools in three different time zones, which would make scheduling and travel, especially in basketball and the other non-revenue sports, a nightmare. Talk about the class time that will be missed or the kids who are too tired from travel to make it to class or pay attention once they get there.
But as much as we’ve learned in the past year, that expansion has little to do with basketball powers, it has even less to do with what is best for the student athletes. And that’s unfortunate.
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