Conference realignment possibilities (cont.)
The first is Memphis, which would make a fine Big East basketball citizen provided the NCAA doesn't crush the program for the Derrick Rose/SAT scandal. Admission to the Big East also would give Memphis football an immediate boost. Memphis produces more prospects than any other area of Tennessee, but those players rarely consider their hometown school because it plays in Conference USA. Put the Tigers in a BCS conference, though, and the scales would tip. Suddenly, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee would have to fight to pull players from Memphis.
The other option is Central Florida, which sits in the middle of the most fertile recruiting state in America and opened a beautiful on-campus stadium in 2007. Nielsen ranked the Orlando-Melbourne-Daytona Beach TV market No. 20 in 2004, and it likely will keep growing. Also, UCF would provide a natural rival for current Big East member South Florida. Fan bases at both schools would love to see "The War on I-4" played with a BCS bowl berth on the line.
The Ultimate Playoff Buster Scenario
If BCS supporters want to shut up fans, Congress, the Utah attorney general and anyone else who keeps screaming for a playoff, they need to buy off squeaky-wheel schools with big-conference bucks. Using a potential 12th Big Ten team as a jumping off point, here's a conference alignment that would minimize the griping.
The Big Ten could follow the suggestion of ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg, who made an interesting case for adding Missouri as the 12th team. Though Mizzou is a former Big 8 school, the Tigers would be an excellent geographic fit for the Big Ten. The Tigers regularly fight Illinois for recruits, so they would enter the league with a built-in conference rival. And without having to deal with Texas or Oklahoma, Missouri would immediately compete for the conference title.
Missouri's exit would allow the Big 12 to welcome Texas Christian. TCU has played outstanding football for the better part of two decades, and the Horned Frogs would compete right away. After an infusion of Big 12 cash, TCU could rise to elite status. The Big 12 boasts plenty of fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, but not a school in the area. Adding TCU would change that. It also would put a dent in the Mountain West's quest to break the BCS.
To truly silence the BCS bashers, the Pac-10 would have to jump into the fray. The league reported only $88.78 million in gross receipts for the 2007 fiscal year, putting it far behind the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. That's partly due to the nation's worst TV deal, but Pac-10 officials also are passing up on the championship game gravy train. Since Pac-10 coaches want to discontinue round-robin scheduling anyway, the next-best way to crown a conference champion would be the one that would make the most money.
The league could solve this problem by adding Boise State and Utah. By inviting the two biggest thorns in the BCS' side to sit at the big table, the Pac-10 could protect the BCS and its precious Rose Bowl matchup with the Big Ten. More than likely, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff would drop any talk of an antitrust lawsuit if the Utes jumped ship. After such a shift, only BYU, which probably also deserves a spot in a BCS conference, would have reason to complain.
The Pac-12 -- thankfully, the former Pac-8 isn't married to round numbers -- could break into divisions easily thanks to its convenient geographic rivalries (The Civil War, the Apple Cup, The Big Game, Arizona-Arizona State and UCLA-USC). Utah and Boise State, two of the best programs this decade, would make fine conference rivals. Utah-BYU would join Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech as a premier in-state, out-of-conference rivalry.
Though this alignment would seem to make life tougher for USC, it might give the Trojans a better shot at making the BCS title game. Last season, the Trojans stood virtually no chance at making the title game despite a regular-season record identical to Florida and Oklahoma. To make matters worse, USC's loss at Oregon State came the same week eventual champ Florida lost to Ole Miss. There's no way voters would have so quickly dismissed the Trojans if they'd gone 12-1 against a schedule that included matchups with Boise State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State and Utah and a conference title game.
Of course, none of this will happen. Conference members won't want to split the pie any more than they already do -- even if realignment produced a bigger pie for everyone. But the Big Ten and Pac-10 have a golden opportunity to shut up the playoff pushers. All they need do is make like the universe and expand.
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