Let’s talk conference realignment, shall we?
By now most of you reading this are likely aware of USC and UCLA’s decision to flip the college football world upside down by leaving the Pac 12 for the Big 10 starting in 2024. For the last few weeks, fans and media personalities alike have been theorizing and/or suggesting potential solutions as to what the future of the sport might look like.
Some say the SEC and Big 10 are taking over the college football landscape in a dictator-like fashion, hoarding all the major brands, blue-chip recruits, and most importantly in modern-day football: money.
While this of course is the extreme option, others are still optimistic that the Pac 12 won’t cease to exist, and they’ll end up adding group of 5 schools to bolster their roster.
At this point, it seems like neither extreme is a likely outcome, though anything is possible. After the southern California schools dropped the bomb they’d be moving conferences, it seemed like chaos was soon to ensue.
Three weeks later and we’ve got nothing but rumors to asses. Although the Big 12 media days pointed us in a direction, there are no guarantees as to what’s about to transpire. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular scenarios circulating around the country:
Big 12 to add 4-6 schools from the Pac 12
At this point, the most likely outcome regardless of what exactly happens is that the Pac 12 is finished. Nearly every Pac 12 university other than Oregon, who’s a sure thing to find a landing spot sooner or later, is on its toes right now. The future of their conference, their funding, and their national TV coverage; all of this is at stake if they don’t act soon.
If ANY major conference comes knocking with an invitation, the programs are going to do what’s best for the security and longevity of their program, regardless of what it means for the Pac 12.
With that being said, in this scenario, the Big 12 would be adding Arizona, Arizona St., Colorado, and Utah first and foremost while also reaching to snag Oregon and Washington before the Big 10 gets involved.
Personally, I like to think this is the most likely scenario, as I believe it benefits all parties involved. The Big 12 would solidify its position as an upper echelon conference moving forward and the schools mentioned would maintain the funding, recruiting, and media coverage they have enjoyed for decades.
This move would also be incredibly exciting from a fan’s perspective. Colorado has history in the conference, Arizona and Arizona State actually make sense geographically (which doesn’t seem to matter anymore), and bringing Utah in would restore the Holy War with BYU as well as bring back a former Mountain West matchup against the Horned Frogs.
Everything mentioned is without the inclusion of Oregon and Washington. It’s certainly a reach, mostly geographically, but adding these two would without a doubt guarantee the Big 12 a seat at the table with the Big 10 and SEC.
Although football is the primary focus in conference realignment, imagine Big 12 basketball after adding this bunch! Especially considering BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are on the way, that would be one TOUGH hoops schedule.
The Big 12 splits up
Based on new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark’s comments at Big 12 media days, it seems like the conference is in a good spot and likely acting as an aggressor in realignment discussions.
BUT, and this is a big but, that doesn’t mean Big 12 teams can’t get swooped up by the SEC and/or Big 10 at any time.
Nothing major has come of these rumors, but there has been talk of the Big 10 looking to add Kansas as well as the SEC finishing their quest on the Big 12 by swiping a group of schools from the Irate 8.
The chances of TCU getting one of these offers is slim but certainly greater than zero.
I pray this theory never comes to fruition, but in the grand scheme of things I can see why any Big 12 program may jump the gun at a Big 10 or SEC offer.
Think of it this way: if TCU gets an offer to the SEC alongside say Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech, would the Frogs consider it? They almost have to. If there is a possibility of any other schools leaving, that could crumble the future of the conference, so why wouldn’t the Frogs take a guaranteed spot in the top conference in the country?
I know it seems outlandish to follow in the footsteps of Texas and Oklahoma, but this is a dog-eat-dog world. If the Frogs can guarantee a promising future for their entire athletics department, why shouldn’t they?
Now if this were to happen and the Frogs didn’t receive an offer… that would be a nightmare I don’t even want to consider.
Could Notre Dame be the first domino to fall?
Ah yes, the stubborn, lonesome, independent Fighting Irish. What are we going to do with them?
Well, considering Notre Dame’s football program has refused to be a part of any conference for as long as I can remember, who knows what they’ll do.
Notre Dame is one of just four independent schools remaining after BYU agreed to join the Big 12 alongside New Mexico State, Army, and UMass. Notice anything odd between that bunch of four? Maybe the fact that Notre Dame’s athletic program is likely 10x larger and more profitable than all the other schools combined?
Schools like UMass benefit from being independent as they can constantly schedule themselves as cupcake opponents against top d1 programs that quite literally pay them a lump sum of cash to beat them down. The occasional TV coverage is a bonus.
Notre Dame on the other hand is easily one of the largest and most recognizable brands in college football and would thrive in a conference format. If the Big 10 is to land Notre Dame, they’ll also be acquiring one of the largest media rights deals in college sports
Rumors have it the Big 10 is showing heavy interest in adding the Fighting Irish to their roster, and to that, I say yes please. One, we don’t need an independent powerhouse in the future of college football. Two, this would likely increase the chances of the Big 12 landing Oregon.
A few weeks back it looked like USC and UCLA would be the first dominoes to fall on a slippery slope, but after a dormant couple of weeks, the future of college football appears to lie in Notre Dame’s hands.
As College Football analyst Paul Finebaum stated in an interview with RutgersWire, “This is now a Coke vs. Pepsi battle. Both [the SEC & Big 10] survive and profit handsomely. But there can only be one No. 1. Where Notre Dame ends up – assuming it makes a move – could very well determine that.”
All things considered
With all the rumors and hypotheticals listed above, it seems certain that a storm is brewing and chaos is soon to ensue in terms of realignment. The possibilities are endless, but right now TCU and the Big 12 seems to be in a good spot moving forward.
The addition of four group of 5 programs last year proved to be an even better move than originally thought as the conference is ready to move forward as is.
Moving forward and competing are two different things, of course, but the Big 12 has a great opportunity to compete with the two mega-conferences assuming they can pull off these Pac 12 additions.
Only time will tell, so strap in. We’re in for an exciting end to the offseason.
Let us know in the comments what your ideal realignment scenario would be, as well as what scenario scares you the most!