In the last several months, Oklahoma and Texas announced they were joining the SEC. Now, UCLA and USC are set to join the Big Ten. That leaves the question: What’s Next for Conference Realignment?
Big 12/Pac-12 are Scrambling
As things currently sit, the Big 12 and Pac-12 are scrambling to find teams to fill their leagues, as both are having members leave. The Big 12 has four teams coming in during the 2023 season, but has to make sure none of their teams join the Pac-12. On the other side, the Pac-12 is looking to add new members and a possible merger between the conferences may happen.
Notre Dame to join the Big Ten?
Notre Dame has a great history and is one of the more recognizable brands in college football. They also have been able to use this to stay independent in college football. Right now, it appears things will stay that way, but with the way the sport is headed, they may join a conference soon. Reports say the Big Ten is waiting on a decision from the school to join the conference.
What could the next step look like?
The immediate next step could be four conferences with 18 teams each.
Here is what it could look like (Note * indicates new team to the conference who has not already been confirmed as a member/future member):
|ACC||Big Ten||SEC||Big 12/Pac12|
|Georgia Tech||Michigan State||Kentucky||California|
|NC State||Notre Dame*||Oklahoma||Kansas|
|North Carolina||Ohio State||Oklahoma State*||Kansas State|
|Pittsburgh||Oregon*||Ole Miss||Oregon State|
|Syracuse||Penn State||South Carolina||SMU*|
|Wake Forest||USC||Texas A&M||Washington|
|West Virginia*||Wisconsin||Vanderbilt||Washington State|
Who would be left out in this scenario? Not many notable programs. Fresno State, San Diego State and some other notable Mountain West schools may be the biggest snubs.
Why did Oregon join the Big Ten alone after pitching a bid with Washington? Oregon is a bigger brand and gets the nod with Notre Dame joining to give the Big Ten an even number of 18 teams.
Would West Virginia, Cincinnati, UCF and Memphis jump ship to join the ACC? Maybe TV money talks. Memphis would jump at the chance to leave the AAC with the other teams that have left the conference.
Why would the SEC add Oklahoma State and TCU? They have moved west and would give them some more teams that are both successful and could join some of the other teams from the west.
How long would this iteration of conference realignment last? Maybe 10 years? College Football has proven to be a power vacuum and it might not be too far off from two major conferences: The Big Ten and SEC.
Imagine the Big Ten getting the North, Midwest and Western schools, while the SEC likely takes more of the teams from the Southeast and Southwest (kind of like they are currently doing). That is likely coming, but it could also be totally random with geography with the conferences acting like the AFC and NFC do for the NFL.
Bowl tie-ins would be a lot easier: Big Ten vs. SEC in every bowl game! If and when the playoff expands, it would have more of an NFL format, which drives a lot of college football fanatics insane.
The conference moves have all been generated by television networks and conference money. If that trend continues, expect the College Football Playoff to expand, maybe even to a point where it matches the NCAA Tournament in basketball (obviously with shorter regular seasons). More teams are being called up to the FBS division every few years, which would give more teams to select from.
What is being lost?
Regional rivalries are already being thrown out the window. The thing that makes college football different is that teams wanting to win the National Championships can only have one (or sometimes none) slip up in the regular season. With more of an NFL format, fans may become indifferent to more regular-season games. The only thing that can change the current course that the sport is on is the viewers, as they are what is driving the television money that is currently changing the landscape.
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