The college football landscape is in the process of undergoing one of the most radical shifts of power ever.
With the latest news that the University of Nebraska and the University of Colorado are both set to bolt the Big 12, Nebraska for the Big 10 and Colorado for the Pac-10, it appears that the Big 12 will not survive.
Most sources inside the Big 12 had reportedly called Nebraska the key, and if they left then the conference could not be saved. Texas, Texas A & M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State appear to be poised to move on to the Pac 10 as well. The Pac 10 has said it is just a matter of who signs next. That would leave the remnants of the Big 12, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, and Missouri to find new homes.
Many believe this shift in power will force the hands of other conferences, like the SEC (Southeastern Conference), Big 10, and ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) to also greatly expand. A sixteen-team powerhouse Pac 10 could signal a shift to a mega conference model in college football.
The other conferences could not afford to stand idly by and watch a greater portion of the TV money go out west. Yes, this entire situation is driven by money; schools want to put themselves in the position of taking the greatest portion of TV money. Football is the biggest revenue sport and it is clear that it dominates the other sports, how else would you explain one of the most storied college basketball teams the Kansas Jayhawks being left out in the cold.
How would the college football landscape change as a result of a migration to mega conferences?
The Big 10 would probably hold the first domino. Assuming Nebraska comes that would leave them with twelve teams, and would have to add four more to match the sixteen of the new Pac 10. Missouri and Notre Dame are two schools that make the most sense academically, geographically, and competitively. However, Notre Dame has been resilient in its stance to remain a football independent.
If the Big 10 were to poach even just one Big East team it would set in motion the collapse of the conference. The Big 10 appears poised to move into the New York TV market by taking either a Syracuse or Rutgers from the Big East, also Pittsburgh appears to be on the Big 10’s radar. The Big 10 is also interested in the University of Maryland from the ACC. If two of those teams were to bolt for the Big 10 the ACC would have to respond and they would appear to target many Big East schools, collapsing the conference that Notre Dame plays in for all other sports and forcing the Irish to join the Big 10.
If the Big East were to collapse the SEC and ACC would sweep in and collect the leftovers. The SEC could come in and steal the best remnants of the Big East and poach some attractive ACC schools. ACC schools Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia Tech would all be on the SEC wish list along with possibly West Virginia and Louisville from the Big East.
The ACC would look to take the best of the rest from the Big East, the University of Connecticut, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and South Florida could all find homes in a new ACC.
The only other conference that could conceivably keep up and morph into a mega conference appears to be the Mountain West, which already has solid teams in BYU, Utah, and TCU. Adding the leftovers from the Big 12, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Baylor and poaching Boise State and Nevada,from the WAC (Western Athletic Conference), and possibly even Houston from Conference USA would turn the Mountain West into a solid conference.
What would all this mean for UCF?
It’s unclear at this point. In this scenario, the best shot for UCF to move would be a jump to a new ACC. If the ACC loses three to four teams to the SEC, that would leave them with seven to eight vacancies to get to sixteen teams. Adding the remnants of the Big East would fill half of those slots. The ACC would then have the choice of the most attractive schools still left.
Could UCF be one of those schools?
Possibly. UCF is attractive in that it brings tremendous facilities, the large Orlando TV Market, the third largest student body – and a school that has incredible potential.
However, UCF would probably not be first on the list or even second.
Memphis, East Carolina, UAB, and Navy could all be ahead of UCF for various reasons. Memphis has a balanced athletic program and would expand the ACC TV viewership into a traditional SEC state. The same could be said for UAB, although they have a relatively average program in football and basketball, but they have a huge stadium.
Navy could be a dark horse option for a few conferences due to their solid academics and athletic program. If Maryland leaves for the Big 10 look for the ACC to somehow maintain a share of the Maryland TV market, which Navy is a part of.
The ACC is traditionally a basketball conference, and although football is driving this entire process, look for the ACC to try to take balanced schools with solid programs in both sports. If UCF is unable to gain admission into any of the new super conferences, it could be a long time before the Knights get a chance to dance with the big boys.
The college sports landscape is going to change.
It appears imminent for radical shifts in conferences and power is about to take place. It is a historic moment in collegiate sports.
Many say it’s a shame that some conferences won’t survive, but in this day and age college sports are driven by money, and the mega conference model appears to be the best way to make the most of it.
No matter what happens in the next few weeks, they could turn out to be some of the most exciting few weeks in NCAA history.