Sixteen possible expansion scenarios (cont.)
9. The Big Ten goes to 16, adds Rutgers, Syracuse (and maybe Pittsburgh).
We've long assumed the Big Ten wants to get into the New York City area. If it does so solely by plucking Rutgers, the Big East will be fine. (Heck -- maybe it can upgrade by adding Kansas.) Were it to lose two or more teams, however, the sport's smallest BCS conference would have to once again reinvent itself.
Possible replacements could include Conference USA schools UCF and Memphis, which last year hired ex-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese as a consultant.
10. The ACC sticks one last knife in the Big East
ACC commissioner John Swofford stabbed Tranghese in the back seven years ago with his secretive purge of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. If Delany does pick off multiple Big East teams, it's possible Swofford would come back to finish the job. Peeved that the Big East has surpassed the ACC as the nation's preeminent hoops conference, he might welcome Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Or...
11. A new conference is born.
For a brief, glorious four-year run in the early '90s, Nick Van Exel (Cincinnati), Penny Hardaway (Memphis) and Tom Kleinschmidt (DePaul) wreaked havoc in the short-lived Great Midwest. Why not bring it back -- only with a different lineup and a football edition?
I hereby propose the following consortium of teams plucked from the potential wreckage of the Big 12 and Big East: Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, West Virginia, USF, Connecticut, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. With a couple of strong years, who's to say this league wouldn't qualify for BCS status?
12. The SEC goes on the offensive.
To date, the nation's proudest football conference has stayed out of the expansion melee, and with good reason: It's got no need to expand. The Big Ten is expanding in part because of shifting population away from its states -- to the South. The Pac-10 needs 16 teams just to get in the same ballpark financially as the 12-team SEC.
There were signs the SEC might pursue Texas and/or Texas A&M, but it appears those schools will stick together either in the Big 12 or Pac-16. The SEC can afford to stand pat, but if it decides to become proactive...
13. The SEC annexes Florida State and Miami.
Sure, the conference already has the Sunshine State's flagship school, Florida, but it couldn't hurt to gain a stranglehold in the nation's most fertile state for elite football prospects. The ACC would survive, but its existing television arrangements would not -- despite their recent struggles, FSU and Miami are by far the two most nationally renowned brands in that conference.
Admittedly, Florida might singlehandedly put the kibosh on this one -- but if not...
14. The SEC goes to 16, adding FSU and Miami plus Clemson and Virginia Tech.
Now the SEC -- which loves to boast about its "speed" -- would officially enter "ludicrous speed" territory. The league's members would boast more combined national championships and BCS title-game appearances than all other conferences combined. (That's an exaggeration -- I think.)
The remaining ACC teams would have no choice but to join forces with the Big East (or what's left of it) to remain a viable football conference.
15. The remaining BCS conferences apt for symmetry, form four 16-team quadrants.
If they do, hopefully they cut a royalty check to Andy Staples, who first coined the Collegiate Athletic Select Hegemony (CASH) -- including a hypothetical "Pac-16" -- back in February. (Sadly, poor Iowa State got left out in his scenario, too.) The 64-team format could logically lead to fans' long-desired playoff: Four league championship games (between division winners) would serve as de facto quarterfinals, feeding into a "Final Four" that could be played at existing bowl sites.
Of course, under this scenario, Utah/Boise State/BYU et. al., would be left on the outs yet again, leading to even more threats of Congressional hearings and antitrust lawsuits. Unless...
16. The four super-conferences lift off into outer space ... er, abandon the NCAA.
The concept has existed since at least the early '90s: The sport's football megapowers -- tired of sharing (or being pressured to share more of) their hard-earned revenues with the Ball States of the world -- will simply break off and form their own autonomous governing body. No more AQs and non-AQs. No more Boise State-TCU Fiesta Bowls. No more "FBS" period.
Personally, I don't think things will ever get this far. Football may be king, but it's just one of 20-plus sports offered by major conferences, none of which will want to deal with all the bureaucratic hassles that currently fall to the NCAA. University presidents also find comfort in the antiquated notion that the NCAA preserves a sense of "amateurism" in what has unavoidably become as cut-throat a business as any for-profit endeavor.
Then again, less than a week ago I never would have predicted that Pac-10 presidents would sign off on expanding into Norman, Okla., and Lubbock, Texas. By this time next week, anything and everything could be possible.
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