Big 12 football: What does Big Ten expansion mean?
Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big Ten. That should solve the Big Ten’s football problems.
But seriously, what does the latest shift in conference realignment mean, especially to the Big 12? Here are a few thoughts.
* Louisville’s options just improved. The Cardinals have been the odd school out. The best football school, along with Brigham Young and Boise State, not in one of the power conferences. Suddenly, there’s an opening in the ACC, and various reports point to Louisville or Connecticut as the prime ACC targets.
That means if the Big 12 was ever serious about Louisville — and some in the Big 12 absolutely were serious about Louisville — the Big 12 might be motivated to act. OU, in particular, was interested in Louisville. Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione has expressed a desire to keep Louisville on the forefront of Big 12 discussions, as much for a bridge to new member West Virginia as anything else.
* It might be time for the Big 12 to add Louisville and go to 11 schools. With the advent of a four-team playoff beginning in 2014, the Big 12 does not have a desire for a championship game. Big 12 members believe the league would best be served without the weight of an extra game, that a title game under the four-team format would more often knock a team out of, rather than lift a team into, the championship game.
With 12 members, a title game is almost mandatory. But with 11, the Big 12 would have options. It could continue the round robin scheduling — 10 conference games; now that’s a powerhouse conference — or go back to eight conference games. That would not be preferable, and the television partners might squawk, because that’s fewer marquee games.
But there’s no reason an 11-team league could not work — the Big Ten was at 11 teams for 20 years, after Penn State joined and before Nebraska signed on.
* I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this somehow makes the ACC shaky. Florida State and Clemson are the usual suspects, but look at it this way. In the last 13-14 months, the ACC has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh and partially Notre Dame, and all it lost was Maryland. That’s a heck of a trade up, if you ask me. So I don’t see why the ACC would be in any kind of trouble.
The Big 12 I’m sure has an open-door offer into Florida State and Clemson, but I don’t see the ‘Noles or Tigers jumping.
* The Big 12 could expand to 12 and not have a championship game, but that opens the possibility of an unclear champion — the Big Ten had a few of those fiascos — which is bad for business. If the Big 12 wants to go past Louisville, I think BYU and Cincinnati are the primary options.
Cincy is not where it needs to be from a football resources standpoint, but the Bearcats are competitive. And if given increased financial clout, Cincinnati might be able to grow into waht the Big 12 wants. UC is a terrific academic institution, which is important to some, and plays big-time basketball.
BYU, I’m sure you know all about. Geographically, it’s a tough sell, since the Big 12 moved East. Norman is five miles closer to Provo, Utah, than Norman is to Morgantown, W.Va. and Stillwater is 32 miles closer to Morgantown than Stillwater is to Provo. In other words, it’s a long way from Morgantown to Provo. Plus, BYU has independence issues; even when the Brighams aren’t an independent, they don’t have a good reputation for playing nice with others in their conference.
* Did Missouri and West Virginia jump too soon?
West Virginia is in the Big 12, having left the Big East at the end of last school year. The Mountaineers replaced Missouri, which jumped to the Southeastern Conference.
Missouri, clearly, preferred the Big Ten and left the Big 12 for stability reasons, not because it was particularly enthralled with the SEC. West Virginia has been nothing but ecstatic over joining the Big 12, but clearly WVU fits better geographically with the ACC than it does with the Big 12.
The Big Ten wasn’t ready to expand past 12 this time last year, primarily because it was hoping to entice Notre Dame. That didn’t happen — the Irish joined the ACC in all sports but football and even made a football schedule alliance with the ACC. That’s when the Big Ten got serious about expanding to 14. It settled on Maryland and Rutgers, which bring excellent academic reputations and big markets, but not necessarily a lot of eyeballs to television sets and certainly not good football. It’s not crazy to think that the Big Ten would have courted Missouri over Maryland or Rutgers.
West Virginia’s academic reputation has kept it from being a prime ACC target — the ACC can be a little boorish on the academic side, same as the Pac-12 and Big Ten — but when leagues start losing members, its standards change. West Virginia would have been a completely sensible solution to the current ACC void.
But with the Big 12′s granting of rights policy — the members signed away their television rights to the Big 12, through the current television contract — there seems little avenue for any school to get out of the Big 12 anytime soon.
* Nebraska is not unhappy with its move to the Big Ten, but the Cornhuskers’ landscape just worsened. Got easier, which is good for the won-loss ledger, but the Huskers’ future schedules took a hit. Maryland and Rutgers are headed for what we really need to just call the East division. They will join the Leaders Division, which includes Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin. Illinois had been in that division, but Illinois will move to the Legends Division (West), which will consist of Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern.
That means annual games with Illinois, at a cost of fewer games against Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. That’s what’s known as a bad tradeoff.
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