Read an interesting article in the NYT a couple of days ago. It was about college sports … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz … Yes, ladies, I can see your attention wandering already. I understand, that’s why I try to stay away from sports here, at least as much as possible. But this one was kinda interesting. Trust.
Anyway, the article was about possible expansion of the Big 10 which, strangely enough, has 11 teams since Penn State joined up (they even worked the "11" into their logo). This has, sadly, left them one team short of the 12 necessary required by the NCAA to hold a season-ending football championship game. Games, I might add, bring in boatloads of cash to the conferences that currently have them (see Big 12, Southeaster Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference).
But it didn’t stop there. The article went on to a more interesting prospect: continued expansion of not just the Big 10 but also the SEC, Pacific 10 and ACC. Sports guys and gals will notice two big BCS exclusions from that list: The Big 12 (which actually does have 12 teams) and the Big East.
The reason for their exclusion from the list of conferences looking to expand is because, the article goes on to say, the other four conferences will probably be expanding at the Big 12 and Big East’s expense.
The article stated: “Eventually, said Jake Crouthamel, Syracuse’s former athletic director, he saw the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Pacific-10 forming four 16-team super-conferences and leaving the umbrella of the NCAA (Just imagine the fight between the SEC and the Pac-10 for Texas.) He said that those leagues would form their own basketball tournament to rival the NCAA tournament.”
Interesting. At least to me, because the most recent major conference expansion was at the singular expense of the Big East when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College joined the ACC. Apparently the Big East is the college sports equivalent of Milhouse Van Houten. This forced the Big East to raid Conference USA, adding Louisville, Cincinnati and the University of South Florida.
How might a future expansion go? Well, let’s take a look at how the conferences stand now. First the four “big” conferences:
That’s 45 teams, 19 short of the 64 teams needed for the four super-conferences. Now let’s see which schools are available for raiding…er, I mean expansion:
(*Note, these are just the schools that play football in the Big East. It has 16 member schools for men's basketball.)
That’s 20 teams to choose from, 21 if you count the eternal spinster-tease Notre Dame. Only 19 are needed to fill out the super-conferences so which two, assuming the Irish fling off their prom dress and finally get it on with a power conference, get left without a chair when the music stops?
It’s not as easy as you’d think. You can’t just draw some lines on the map and say these teams go here and these go there. There are other considerations like television markets and traditional rivalries. The three big rivalries that come to mind are Texas-Texas A&M, Texas-Oklahoma and Pitt-WVU. So, for any expansion let’s consider these teams joined at the hip. Wither one goest, so does the other.
The other question, TV markets, is a little tougher. Only few of these schools are in really big television markets, Rutgers in #1 NY-NJ market, Texas and Texas A&M (they have a couple to choose from, #s 5, 10, 37 and 48). Other choice prizes are, strangely, South Florida # 14, Colorado #16 Missouri #21 and Pittsburgh #23. Seven others, 10 if you count Baylor and Texas Tech in the same category as Texas and A&M, and Notre Dame because of its strange, national allure, fall in the to 50.
So, how does it work out? Which conferences get which schools? This is how I see it shaking out:
The Big 10 needs five so it will get Pitt, WVU, Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri. Probably not what it's looking for when it comes to TV markets, but it does add a great Pitt-Penn State rivalry to the mix.
The Pac 10’s six pick-ups are Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State. Again, not stellar gets, but not bad considering it gives the conference an in in the Texas-Oklahoma recruiting landscape.
The SEC wins the battle for the Lone Star State adding Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Cincinnati. The first three are huge additions to what is probably the premiere football conference in the country. Cincinnati is the lucky plain girl with hot friends.
The schools joining the ACC are Rutgers, South Florida, UConn and Syracuse. TV-wise, the ACC probably wins the biggest, digging itself in deeper than a deer tick in the lucrative East Coast media markets.
The school left out? Louisville. If Notre Dame drops its panties it'll probably go into the Big 10 bumping Iowa State to the Pac 10, thereby leaving Baylor also out in the cold looking for a date (there's always C-USA). The only really hard decision was splitting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State up. But I think they’ll get over it with the increased coin they see in their school’s coffers.
And all of this doesn’t take into consideration two things: One, Notre Dame getting drunk and jumping into bed with the Big 10 before any of this can happen; and, two, the four conferences swapping some of the other teams around to make for more compact geographical footprints. Say, original ACC member South Carolina rejoining the conference for South Florida going into the SEC.
What do you think of the possible future awaiting major college sports? Tell me in the comments.