Conference Expansions Are Pretty Much A Certainty And Nobody Is Safe

June 04, 2010 |

Hey everybody it’s been a while since my last post because normally I like to just stick to UMBC sports, but this one is just too good to pass up.

A few months ago the Big Ten explored the idea of expanding to 12 teams in order to reach the minimum for a conference championship game that would make their football more relevant at the end of the season. While they were likely going to steal away one Big East team, conversations have heated up across the entire world of college sports. With the Big Ten network guarantying any school in the conference a lot of money, the conference has the ability to get just about anybody they want to get and they are using that to their advantage to make more money. The one additional team turned into five additional teams to tap into big media markets and make more money. Now it is all but official that the Big Ten is going to expand to 16 teams with the additions of Syracuse and Rutgers (both give them the New York Market) and Pittsburgh (The entire Pennsylvania market with Penn State already in the conference) from the Big East and Nebraska (entire state of Nebraska market) and Missouri (Kansas City and St. Louis Markets).

But that’s not all. With the Big Ten likely to expand to 16 teams the Pac-10 has already invited Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. This would put Arizona and Arizona State in a division with the six Big 12 schools helping to make a mega conference not only athletically but media wise. This would give the Pac-10 media markets in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, all of Oklahoma, and all of Texas.

With Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State now homeless the contingency plan is to have the Mountain West Conference merge with the four schools, and to add Boise State to make a 14 team conference consisting of both football and basketball teams.

But again, that isn’t all. In order to compete with these media market juggernauts the SEC has thrown their name in the mix of a conference that would expand to 16 teams. While their top four choices of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are off the board, the SEC is going to have to look at other options, which means raiding the ACC for four teams. That would mean Miami, Florida, Georgia Tech, and Clemson are all likely headed out of the ACC and to the Pac-10.

While this expansion does not really make any sense since the four teams they will likely add bring no new media markets at all as they are all already in SEC territory, the SEC does not seem content with just sitting back and letting the Big Ten and Pac 10 expand to athletic and financial Goliath’s.

So what options does this leave the now eight team ACC? Another raid of the already diminished Big East. With the Big East left with just five football schools left they could either just extend their inevitable collapse by adding teams that make no sense, or teams could look the way of the ACC. Connecticut would add to the northern market with Boston College while adding a team like South Florida would keep the ACC still tapped into the Florida Market. By adding a teams like Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia the ACC taps inside the east coast into new media markets. That would make for a 13 team conference but the possibility of three more is still high. Memphis and East Carolina have been looking to move up since the last conference realignment when the Big East raided Conference USA, but both were left behind and now could be a good opportunity for them to move up. Also, Temple could be headed to the ACC, giving the conference the Philly market and the school a chance to move their powerhouse basketball team and up and coming football team into better situations. There have not really been many reports of the ACC expanding, but assuming the SEC decides to lure some ACC schools away, the conference’s only hope of getting their football back on track would be another raid of the Big East, which they could just not survive.

The Big East would not be no more though, they would still have eight basketball only affiliates left. While the conference would still be severely diminished on that end as well they could expand too. The most logical option for them would be to get back in touch with their origin as a conference of Private Catholic Schools in urban area. This option would lead to a complete raid of the eight Catholic schools in the Atlantic-10 (Dusquesne, St. Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis, St. Bonaventure, La Salle, and Fordham) to get back to a 16 team basketball conference, or a a more likely approach of just taking St. Joseph’s, Xavier, Dayton, and Saint Louis to get back into markets in St. Louis and Ohio while restrengthening their Philly Market.  But hey either one is possible in this mess we’re going to see.

Now it gets to the trickle down effect. The expansion of all of the top conference can’t lead the Atlantic 10 empty. Boston University of the America East and Old Dominion, Northeastern, VCU, and Hofstra of the CAA have been attempting to join the Atlantic-10 for years and now they have an open opportunity to move their athletic departments up and getting the Atlantic 10 back to 14 teams. Also, these moves would effect other Maryland schools such as UMBC (America East) and Towson (CAA). While the trickle down effect probably won’t end with the Atlantic 10 regrouping, for those counting there would have already been 40 teams in different conferences with the possibility of more.

If appears to be immanent that the football conferences realign themselves this summer making it likely that their will be even more. While the extend of the realignment could only be speculated, one thing can be for sure, the 2005 realignment is going to look like a little blip compared to what fans can expect in the upcoming weeks.