Posted: Wednesday September 21, 2011 1:10PM ; Updated: Wednesday September 21, 2011 5:59PM
Stewart Mandel

Big 12 realignment dust has yet to completely settle; more Mailbag

Story Highlights

The Big 12 needs to consider equal revenue sharing, merger with the Big East

Realignment madness has overshadowed Big 12's performance on the field

Plus: Moore's Heisman hopes, Neuheisel's future, Illinois' title chances, more

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What's next in realignment saga?
The Pac-12 has decided to remain at 12 members. Where does that leave the other players in the maddening realignment game? Stewart Mandel discusses whether we've really seen the end of the conference shuffle.

Last month, a Mailbag reader asked me why I don't seem to enjoy discussing realignment as much as some other writers. Well ... you're looking at it.

I turned in this week's edition of the Mailbag Tuesday night with a whole bunch of expansion-related questions and answers. All were rendered moot by the Pac-12's decision to stay put. Good thing I checked one last time before going to bed. For the past month, I've been proceeding with extreme caution, warning people that superconferences weren't as imminent as they seemed. But after the ACC's super-sleuth raid last weekend, and based on seemingly reliable sources, I had conceded by Monday that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were absolutely, positively going to the Pac-12.

So shame on me for briefly forgetting that absolutely no one knows definitively what's going on with realignment -- including the parties directly involved in it.

With instability a concern for conferences of 10 teams or fewer, Big East and Big 12 teams could still benefit from a merger.
With instability a concern for conferences of 10 teams or fewer, Big East and Big 12 teams could still benefit from a merger.
The Mandel Initiative
Holly Anderson joins the show to preview LSU-WVU. Stewart and Mallory discuss ACC expansion and Week 4 action and answer your listener mail.

More Mandel Initiative | Find on

Wow. No Pac-16. As a Buffs fan I'm elated to still be free from Texas. Now what? The Big 12 takes BYU, the SEC thinks about a 14th member, and the Big East ... does what?
-- Dan, Washington D.C.

Yeah, I don't know. Wish I could help.

Oh, is that not what you want to read?

The one thing I can affirm with absolute confidence is that the Pac-12's decision was a result both of Larry Scott's hard-line refusal to allow Texas to keep its network and/or horde any extra revenue and of too few league presidents signing off on taking only the Oklahoma schools. That created a gigantic ripple effect nationwide, with several players realizing they no longer had leverage and several others suddenly becoming empowered.

The immediate issue that will affect all others: What the heck will the Big 12 do now? The league has apparently been saved from the brink of extinction yet again, but it can't possibly continue in its current form. No one trusts anyone. Oklahoma apparently wants Dan Beebe's head. (And fake Dan Beebe is none too pleased about it.) It also wants the league to adopt equal revenue sharing, which it absolutely, desperately needs. Will Texas actually jump on board? Until that league stitches the pieces back together I can't imagine BYU or any other team of note being eager to sign on.

Meanwhile, talks of a potential Big East-Big 12 leftovers merger may now be on hold, which is bad for the Big East. That league could be down to five football members if UConn and Rutgers follow Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC. (Though they purportedly reaffirmed their commitment to the Big East on Tuesday night.) The Big East will now be looking to pick up scraps (Navy as a football-only member is apparently a real possibility) while hoping TCU doesn't get cold feet.

Personally, I would recommend the Big 12 and Big East still pursue some sort of merger. Neither league is stable in its present form, and a conference of 10 teams or fewer is always going to be in danger. TCU, Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia would fit in just fine in a league of mostly Midwest and Southwest schools (think the old Metro Conference). But I'm guessing Texas and Oklahoma wouldn't go for it -- and they're clearly still running the Big 12.

Is it possible that the SEC, which started this whole round of craziness by adding Texas A&M, doesn't pick up a 14th school that is a good fit for it? It seems that the ACC schools are all locked into their league, the SEC has no interest in any of the Big East schools, and Mizzou could always head toward the Big Ten if that league expands. What are the best options for the SEC?
-- Jonathan Davis, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Amazingly, the SEC is one of the parties that will lose leverage if the Big 12 now stays intact. The good news is it can finally rubber-stamp A&M's addition. The bad news is, it had clearly zeroed in on Missouri as the 14th team even though chancellor Brady Deaton had been working to keep the Big 12 together. With Tuesday night's news, I think Mizzou stays too. Really, did anyone ever think Mizzou was a logical fit for the SEC? The league has already turned down West Virginia. Its next best bets are Florida State and Virginia Tech, and the ACC brought in new schools last weekend because of that very threat. My sense is the Hokies weren't high on the SEC's list. Florida State would make more sense, but that would mean abandoning its previously held opposition to adding schools from its existing states.

Now, there is one grand-slam move the SEC could still make: luring Oklahoma. Now that David Boren's preferred landing spot out West has evaporated, the SEC may suddenly be more appealing. (Previously, the school was dead-set against it.) But taking OU requires taking Oklahoma State, too. That would leave the SEC needing a 16th team, presumably Missouri -- in which case Mike Slive becomes the guy who killed the Big 12. I don't think he wants that. So long story short: Don't be surprised if the SEC stays at 13 for now. The league know as well as anyone that we'll probably be going through this whole charade again a year from now.

I know we've been spending all of our time thinking about the possible demise of the Big 12, but has anyone noticed that the conference is 23-2 so far, including 5-2 over BCS-conference foes, plus a win against TCU?
-- Al Caniglia, Belmopan, Belize

I've noticed. I've also noticed that despite having only 10 teams, the Big 12 currently has the most AP Top 10 teams (three) of any conference and is tied with the SEC for the most Top 25 teams (five). Eight of its 10 teams sit in Jeff Sagarin's Top 50, a higher percentage than all but the SEC (10 out of 12). At the risk of suffering bodily harm on my trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend, I'll ask: Is it worth at least considering the possibility that the Big 12 might be this season's toughest conference?

To be clear, the SEC is still No. 1 in the computer ratings and boasts nearly identical numbers to those cited in Al's e-mail: 22-4 overall, 4-2 against BCS foes. But as of now, it appears the slimmed-down Big 12 only has one unquestionably bad team (Kansas), while the SEC has at least two (Ole Miss and Kentucky). Vanderbilt is off to a hot start, but realistically is no better than Kansas State or Iowa State. Auburn's defense is a mess, Tennessee is hurting and Florida and Georgia look a lot like Texas and Missouri: encouraging works in progress.

But the big difference between the two leagues is that Big 12 teams have to play everybody now. SEC teams don't. That can be both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, no school in either league will face a tougher path this season than LSU, which is about to face its third ranked foe in the month of September alone and still has Alabama, Arkansas and Florida ahead of it. But which of these two schools has the tougher slate: Oklahoma, which just beat top five Florida State and beginning this week will play a conference slate that consists of No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 17 Baylor, No. 19 Texas, Missouri, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State; or South Carolina, which plays just two currently ranked conference foes (No. 14 Arkansas and No. 15 Florida), along with Georgia, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee before finishing out of conference with No. 21 Clemson?

At best, it's a wash.

Great call on that upset of Texas, Stewart. You should become a weather forecaster.
-- Kevin, San Angelo, Texas

I'd consider it, but only if it were a studio job. I'd rather take flack for whiffing on an upset pick than report from the middle of a hurricane.
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