Conference set ups: Look back to the future

Much has been written and said and much will be written and said about the current state of big time college athletics and the massive moves of conference reconfiguration which are still occurring.

When did this start, and who is responsible?

Three major moves jump out.

1. The Big East decision NOT include Penn State in the mix when the Nittany Lions were conference shopping 25 years ago. Of all the missteps made by Big East officials, this one remains the biggest.

2 The ACC’s move to expand 10 years ago when it raided the Big East and took Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College.

There was NO need for this move. The ACC was not threatened by ANYONE.  It was a good, solid league in football and a premier league in basketball.

But once the move was made, it started a series of tremors which continue to rock college athletics.

3. The third move was not so much a move, but a decision. The Presidents decided they needed more involvement. Nice theory. Horrible performance. The Presidents have been horrendous. Moved by greed and naivety they have made and approved moves that boggle the mind.

With that as a backdrop, I decided to project what the landscape might have looked like if the Big East had taken Penn State.

Some moves, such as Notre Dame, eventually aligning with a conference are just wild guesses.

And then I project what the landscape will look like in five years under the current structure, with more moves still very likely.

Both set ups include a 5 or 6 Super Conference alignment of the major BCS football schools.

1.  If Big East had taken Penn  State.


Big East (12 teams)

Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Syracuse, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Massachusetts, Central Florida, and South Florida.

A good Eastern block conference, with good rivals, all in the Eastern time zone. Throw in a basketball element of the Catholic schools and you could have a super 18 team conference in basketball as well, if you eliminate DePaul

ACC (12 teams)

1. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, East Carolina, Louisville and Cincinnati.

A solid 12 team league in football, all in one time zone, with good rivals and very good basketball.

SEC (12 teams)

1. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Kentucky.

Great league in football and basketball, with a true geographic SE core and great rivals.

Big 12 (12 teams)

Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU.

Again, a compact league with great rivals, all in one time zone, a true mesh of the Big 8 and SWC.

Big Ten (12 teams)

Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Notre Dame, Nebraska

Great league in football, great league in basketball, great rivals, tradition. etc.

Pac 12 (12 teams)

1. Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Colorado, Utah.

Perfect West Coast mix of schools with tradition and rivalries.

The way it could be in 2020


Big Ten (16 teams)

Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, North Carolina

The Big Ten raid into the ACC continues with an invitation to Georgia Tech and a move Tinto the Big 12 where Kansas is targeted to join Maryland and Rutgers. The Big Ten television footprint is in the Midwest, the East and the  South. Commissioner Jim Delany can retire with a Super conference which could pay as much as 40 million per team each year.

The 50 million exit fees of ACC teams? The Big Ten right now could write Maryland and the others a check for the amount and simply tell the Terps that for the first 10 years, you will only receive a check of 37 million each year, which is still more than double what they would be paid by the ACC.

The Big 12 (12 teams)

Tulsa, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West  Virginia, Texas, TCU, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor,  Clemson and Florida State.

League expands footprint into the South, with two big time draws in FSU and Clemson. It also gets into the fertile Florida recruiting area and has enough teams to host a conference championship game.

SEC (14 teams)

Missouri, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU. South Carolina, Tennessee.

Status quo. Great league, No reason to change.

ACC (12 teams)

Louisville, Connecticut, Boston College,  Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Losing North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia Tech will  be more than offset by the addition of Notre Dame which breaks down and joins as full member. Covers Atlantic seaboard from New England to Miami and into the Midwest. Not great, but very healthy.

Big East (12 teams

 Memphis, UCF, USF, East Carolina, Tulane, SMU, Houston, UMass, Temple, Navy, Cincinnati and Army

More Conference USA than anything else (in fact, the Big East should sell the name to the Catholic 7 group with this scenario), but a fairly competitive and compact league.

There you have it, what might have been and what probably (for the most part) will be. You make the call, which was better–for everyone.

© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.

  14 comments for “Conference set ups: Look back to the future

  1. May 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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  2. vp19
    February 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Why would the Big 12 take Tulsa when it already covers the state with Oklahoma and Okie State?

    I could see Georgia Tech leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, but can’t see North Carolina as its partner to 16 for several reasons: 1) UNC can’t leave the ACC unless N.C. State also has a landing spot (most likely the SEC). 2) Don’t see UNC leaving until it becomes apparent that the ACC is either on the verge of collapse or is ridiculously far behind other conferences in revenue, so much that it simply can’t compete. 3) Virginia makes a more logical partner for GT at #15-16; the influx of northern Virginians at UVa has made its administration at least consider the Big Ten — especially if it sees Maryland taking recruits and research revenue from it due to College Park’s presence in the Big Ten. If UVa can help Virginia Tech wind up in the SEC, it’s home free to join the Big Ten. UNC could join an 18-member Big Ten, whether its partner be Florida State (the ADs’ preference) or Duke (that of conference presidents).

    And Notre Dame won’t join a conference for football until playoff rules require it to do so…and I doubt that will ever happen.

    • Mark
      February 27, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      You make good points. Lots of guesses about what the Big Ten will do and you may be right about ND.

    • SJGMoney
      February 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      I’d say Maryland to the B1G negates the need or want for Virginia. The B1G wants big TV markets and is more likely to add the Boston market or South Florida Market as a partner for the Atlanta market. Virginian, NC, Duke? Nope.

  3. Tim
    February 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    If PSU had joined the Big East, as in the first scenario, why would VT be in the ACC? If PSU was there, no one would be jumping to leave, unless there was a mass exodus. Just wondering the logic why VT would be there when Miami, BC and Syracuse were the initial 3 teams the ACC wanted. Also, why would Maryland, an original ACC member, be in the Big East? If the ACC was strong enough to steal VT, as is in the example, why would Maryland leave a conference they started to go to a weaker league?

    • Tim
      March 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      I see you changed it based on my comments. You’re welcome

  4. CharD
    February 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Mark, I third the question about BC’s ommission and also was hoping you could revisit what happened in the Penn State/Big East scenario. Couldn’t agree more with your point about rivalries/time zones etc in the “What Could’ve Been.” For what it’s worth, I’ve been a broken record on that subject since the ACC raid…

  5. Pedman
    February 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    My recollection fades as I get older but I seem to remember that Paterno required a disproportionate sharing of revenues as a condition for joining the Big East.

    Also I think the ACC raid of the Big East was, in part, a reaction to FSU and the league not meeting the minimum requirements to keep their BCS standing, ie not have a team ranked high enough over the previous 3 years.

    Was it intentional or an oversight that BC was omitted from your 2020 scenarios?

  6. Greg
    February 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    No way that NC leaves the ACC. I’ll never drink that Kool-aid!

  7. Chris Columbo
    February 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I think the Big Ten’s next targets are Oklahoma and Kansas. Oklahoma renews rivalry with Nebraska. Kansas brings its pedigree in basketball plus the geographic link on the Western front of the conference. Western front would include Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin,Illinois , Northwestern. Eastern Division would be Michigan Michigan State Ohio State Indiana Purdue Penn State Rutgers and Maryland.

    • SJGMoney
      February 27, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      The B1G is interested in TV markets and cable rights fees, Oklahoma and Kansas do nothing for that. Mark has it right except UNC will not leave the ACC and the Carolina market is too small anyway. BC would be much more likely if they weren’t such pompous asses as the Boston market is key. So that leaves UMass to the B1G. Yep, that’s right UMass.

      • Chris Columbo
        February 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        Oklahoma is a big time program in football that attracts an audience far beyond it’s own market. That is a product any cable channel or conference would want to have. Remember with Oklahoma you are not only getting the renewal of the Oklahoma Nebraska rivalry which was memorable but also you pick up the Red River rivalry game with Texas plus a reliable contender for the national championship. Also there are two decent sized cities in Oklahoma, Tulsa and Oklahoma City and a lot of people follow Oklahoma who live in Dallas.

        Similarly Kansas is a team with a a national television following due to its long standing top 5 success and presence in basketball. It would be a huge addition to the conference.

        UNC will not leave the ACC they are way to snobbish about it. U Mass needs to have a D1 football program for a considerable period of time with success before they become attractive. They are making progress but it will take time.

  8. eswards
    February 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    BC in the super 66?

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