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Are we (finally) seeing the end of the Big XII?

It has seemed inevitable since last year that the major NCAA conferences would expand, but nobody saw the Atlantic Coast Conference being the first conference to do so.  With Pitt and Syracuse having officially applied and likely to be accepted on Monday, the ACC will be the first conference to expand to 14 teams, but it will not be the last expansion we see.  Texas A&M has been dancing around officially joining the SEC, but it has seemed inevitable, and even more so now.  Oklahoma has been making inquiries into joining the PAC-12, and sibling school Oklahoma State is likely to follow.  The SEC will likely move to add a 14th team after A&M as well, if not this year than next.

The two conferences being left behind are the Big XII and the Big East, but the Big XII seems to be in a lot more trouble.  The Big East certainly has troubles, but if (or when) Oklahoma leaves, then you will most likely see a mad dash of many of the other universities.  Iowa State and Baylor have explicitly expressed their interest to the Big East if the Big XII fails, and Kansas and Kansas State having sent out feelers last season.  Missouri has seemed confident that they would be the 14th team in the SEC, and if not the Big East would be happy to have them.  In short, this season may be the swan song of the Big XII.

The school that is in a real predicament is Texas.  The Longhorns milked a great deal out of the Big XII to stay last year, and held the conference together almost single-handedly.  Now they’re on the outside looking in.  I’m sure that Texas in the long run will be fine.  It’s one of the biggest football schools and also one of the biggest sports universities period.  Both the Pac-12 and the SEC will express interest simply because it is such a cash cow (pun intended), or the school could simply go independent for a few seasons, but in the short term they will have a bit of egg on their face and will have a lot less leverage in deciding where they end up.

As for the ACC, this move does not make them a much better football conference.  Pitt is respectable and occasionally breaks the top 25, but it’s not a dominant program, and Syracuse hasn’t been a great football university in a long time.  Both schools open up big new markets, however.  The best consolation, however, is that both schools are ridiculously good basketball programs, and combining them with Duke and UNC (and hopefully a resurgent Maryland under Coach Turgeon) will make the ACC the best NCAA basketball conference once again, and will lead to more nationally-televised games (and more revenue).

One final interesting question is what effect this will have on the BCS and other conferences.  The possible dissolving of the Big XII will lead to one less guaranteed BCS spot.  Does this become an at-large spot, or will the other conferences be in a position to demand a second spot?  How will this effect the roles of schools like new Mountain-West Conference member Boise State (who must be regretting that move) and newly independent BYU?  How will conferences like the MWC and West Coast Conference try and stay relevant, if they even can?

We’re on the verge of a complete revamping of the college football, and indeed college athletics scene.  Seeing schools move over the next few months will be interesting, but how it plays out over the next few years may be even more so.

 

UPDATE: The ACC has accepted the applications of Pitt and Syracuse.  We officially have our first 14-team conference.  I expect to see more by 2012, 2013 at the latest.

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