I was going to do the same thing I did last year around this time: a post about how I would change things in college football as a whole. You can read it HERE if you like. And if you will so kindly notice, none of the changes I put forward happened. Not a single solitary one. Fine. Be that way NCAA. See if I care. To be honest, I will still watch and you know it. Dirty bastards. Anyway…
Realignment is not as hot a topic as it once was. Other than UAB coming back in 2017 and Coastal Carolina jumping to FBS, I don’t see any realignment for the near future. That could all change though thanks to one conference: the Big XII. The Big XII currently has ten teams which seems to piss everyone off except Texas. They don’t have a conference championship game which I don’t totally care about but I would prefer if all conferences went by the same method to determine their conference champions: you know, do something that’s never really be done in college football before and have consistency across the board.
There is pressure from a few schools within the Big XII, most notably Oklahoma, to expand at least by two teams (if not four) so they can start a conference championship game. The other issue involved here is the creation of a Big XII Network, kind of like what the SEC and Big Ten have (or even the ACC and Pac-12 despite the fact those networks aren’t in the same league as BTN or the SEC Network). Texas, because of the Longhorn Network, is, for the most part, steadfastly against most of this. I can understand their point. Expansion and a creation of a conference network will eat into their share of the conference pie. Problem is, part of the reason this conference is in trouble in the first place is Texas and them not wanting to share the sandbox with any more kids.
Saying all this, let’s look at a few different scenarios of what will probably happen, either for 2016 or (most likely) 2017:
Scenario 1 – Big XII adds two teams
This seems to be the most likely scenario as it adds the requisite number of schools to have divisions. They could have a conference championship with ten teams but the title game would be a repeat of a regular season game and the conference wants to avoid that as much as possible (or at least avoid it being a guarantee). The list of schools on the supposed shortlist are as follows:
USF and UCF would be paired together if they were the two taken.
My best guess is that Cincinnati is almost a shoo-in here. They would be a travel partner for West Virginia so they don’t feel like they are a complete outlier in their own conference (honestly it would have been better if they were in the ACC but that’s another conversation for another day).
The other team will probably be BYU. BYU is a true national brand. Yes they have their issues but they are a strong football and basketball program that would elevate the Big XII in the two most important sports.
So since BYU is an independent they wouldn’t have to be replaced. Cincinnati would leave the AAC and probably be replaced by Charlotte since the American would want that market more than any other out there. I don’t believe that’s the right call (I would personally take Louisiana Tech but with Tulane already in the conference that might not make much sense) but I’m sure that’s what they would do. In turn, C-USA would probably take either UL-Lafayette or, most likely, Arkansas State. The Sun Belt would then, in turn, make sure that New Mexico State and Idaho stayed on as football-only members at least through 2017.
Scenario 2 – Big XII adds four teams with two of the newcomers from Florida
I’m sure this is what Oklahoma wants. This would add enough teams that, if for some reason, Texas left to become an independent, there would be enough teams to keep Power Five status. Setting up divisions may be tricky (think of how the ACC has their divisions set up) but it can be done. The teams would end up being Cincinnati and BYU. In this scenario, UCF would be chosen and then USF would be brought in as a travel partner with UCF. It gets the Big XII into Florida with two rather large schools and makes it so no teams are outliers geographically.
Just like before, BYU needs no replacement as an independent. BYUTV would be used much like many Big XII members use their local stations for early season non-conference games (at least one of them). I’m sure they could give BYUTV a conference game as well to sweeten the pot.
The AAC would lose three members. More than likely they are replaced with Charlotte (like before), along with FIU and Florida Atlantic to replace the two Florida schools. Again, it isn’t about the best schools, it’s about conference footprints and shit like that.
This means that C-USA will replace with UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State, and one of South Alabama, Georgia Southern, or Georgia State. The Sun Belt gets put in a tough spot. They then have to keep New Mexico State and Idaho and probably add James Madison as soon as possible (sooner than they would want I am sure).
Scenario #3 – Big XII adds four teams with none of the newcomers from Florida
Same thing as above except instead of USF and UCF, the Big XII adds Connecticut (because fuck geography and travel costs) and Boise State. Many would say Houston or Rice but the Big XII doesn’t need another Texas team. Plus Houston, who I would consider before Rice, is still a ways off from the rest of the Texas Big XII contingent. So BYU and Boise State become travel partners and who knows what the hell they do with Connecticut but hey, UConn basketball right?
So, instead of three teams, the AAC loses two. Replacements would be Charlotte and probably UMass (although Buffalo has been mentioned as well). The Mountain West loses BSU and replaces with UTEP who probably wants to be in the Mountain West anyways despite Conference USA’s best efforts to add Texas schools left and right. Conference USA now loses two teams so UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State are probably the nods there. The Sun Belt keeps NMSU and Idaho on as football-only. They may add James Madison as well as a precautionary measure but who knows.
I think the only issue in all of this may be what the Sun Belt does with New Mexico State and Idaho. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sun Belt pressure New Mexico State to put all sports in the Sun Belt. That would be a coup for Sun Belt basketball as the Aggies have a great basketball program. If NMSU goes for this, then Idaho is probably gone to the Big Sky with football (and out of FBS). What the SBC does after that is anyone’s guess but Idaho feels like a bit of a noose around the conference’s neck for many reasons.
Scenario #4 – No teams are added over the next couple years
This is an interesting scenario. It could end up actually strengthening the Big XII as they can wait for other programs to step up even more and invest in their own programs before gaining entrance into the conference. Or it may just be the death sentence (eventually) for the Big XII.
If no team is added for 2016 or 2017 my guess is one of the following things will, chances are, happen:
- Texas leaves as an independent. This may not be a bad thing for the Big XII if, shortly afterwards, they were able to invite some good programs in and hold on to their P5 status. Texas wants to keep the Longhorn Network so let them. They will be better than BYU has been as an independent but not as good as Notre Dame has it as an independent. The smaller schools in the conference (Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU) wouldn’t be averse to this.
- Oklahoma and Kansas get picked up by the Big Ten. This would be an absolute coup for the B1G and solidify them as either #2 (or #1B) to the SEC’s #1 (or #1A). Texas would probably end up as an independent anyway and the rest of the Big XII’s teams would have to fight for other conference spots.
- Oklahoma and possibly Missouri go to the Big Ten. This creates even more chaos as now the SEC would be involved. Not that Mizzou is doing bad in the SEC but I believe they will always think of themselves as an outlier, more so than Texas A&M is. The SEC will find another school not named Texas and keep on keeping on. Texas goes independent and yada, yada, yada.
- Oklahoma goes to the SEC with either Oklahoma State or another school of the SEC’s choosing. This would make Missouri a bit more happy in their current state. If OSU goes with the Sooners it’s huge for them. Plus they have the money to put into their program if need be. Same as above, Texas is an indy and the rest of the conference is kind of fucked.
- Oklahoma goes to the SEC, Missouri and Kansas go to the Big Ten. Same as above really.
- Larry Scott finally stops screwing around and invites the Texahoma 4 (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) to the Pac-12 and obliterates the Big XII in the process. This would be the ultimate screw you to the Big XII and ending of the conference for sure. It would cause a trickle-down effect for sure as the AAC and Mountain West would be watching VERY closely as to who doesn’t get picked up. Those two conferences would be light years ahead of the rest of the Group of Five and quite a bit behind the new Power Four.
So really, this is the last thing most of the Big XII wants. Texas probably doesn’t care since they could easily thrive in the Pac-12 or as an independent. Oklahoma (and to a lesser extent Kansas and Oklahoma State) have some clout to go to another Power Five conference. The rest (except for the Longhorn tag-along to the Pac-12) would no longer be a big-time conference team. This would be realignment insanity never seen before. In the end though, it may end up being good for college football. I’m trying to stay positive here.
In the end, the Big XII has a big decision to make. If it weren’t for the Longhorn Network (and ESPN helping Texas with it), this would have been done long ago. The Big XII would be back to twelve teams for 2016 and no one would have batted an eye. Instead we have this shitshow. It’s like the Southwest Conference never died; they just morphed into this new conference with the same kind of idiocy and ridiculousness that you probably wouldn’t find in any other conference (which is basically the truth). Could be an interesting month or two coming up. Stay tuned.
I am assuming sometime in the next two weeks I will put out a second version of my mock draft. With the combine starting this Friday, a lot will change in the draft rankings. Other than that we are into the dark time of the college football season unless something major happens like what I mentioned in this post. I will be putting out a college basketball conference tournament schedule at some point for you college basketball fans out there. Again, expect that in the next week or so with updates up until Selection Sunday.