Just when we thought college athletics’ game of musical chairs was finally over, Rutgers and Maryland started the music again.
In a week’s time, the Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland, which prompted the ACC to add Louisville to replace the Terps, which meant the Big East had to add East Carolina and Tulane to replace Rutgers and Louisville.
If you’ve lost count by now (who could blame you?), the Big Ten and SEC stand at 14, the ACC is back to 14, plus non-football member Notre Dame, the Big East is on track for 13 members by 2015, the Pac-12 remains at 12. All the while, the Big 12 still sits at 10. What should the Big 12 do about this?
As long as there’s nothing threatening the Big 12’s status as an elite conference, there’s no reason to expand. And here’s the thing: there’s nothing out there endangering the Big 12’s spot at the big kid table.
The TV contracts are signed. The Big 12’s place in the new playoff is safely secured. As long as the Big Ten and the SEC see the Big 12 as a peer, and clearly they do considering the SEC and BIg 12 will send their non-playoff champions to the Sugar Bowl starting in 2014, there’s no reason to move.
Especially with Louisville now off the table, there are no available candidates that would constitute anything more than another mouth to feed. Cincinnati, Connecticut and the rest just aren’t worth the trouble.
If a doomsday scenario somehow explodes in the ACC and the southern schools somehow fall into the Big 12’s lap, that would be a conversation worth having. But for now, there’s a $50 million barrier between Florida State and Clemson and the Big 12.
Even members of the ACC did become available, the Big 12 should be careful of exactly how much of that bone it chooses to chew off.
The most discussed option would be to add Florida State and Clemson to get back to 12 schools. Two six-team divisions certainly worked for this league before, why not again? But that raises the question of how the divisions would split? FSU and Clemson would undoubtedly want to play a good chunk of their games in Texas, but then again, so does everybody else in this league, so a North-South alignment wouldn’t work.
What about East-West? Then you’d split up Texas and Texas Tech, Kansas and Kansas State and maybe even Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That won’t work. The only option left is to gerrymander its divisional alignment like the ACC and Big Ten. Can anyone firmly name the members of the Big Ten’s Leaders Division? How about a run down of the ACC Atlantic?
And that doesn’t even address the question of whether Florida State and Clemson really want to come on their own as the southeastern outliers in a midwestern league in the first place.
So now maybe the Big 12 adds Miami and Georgia Tech to get to 14 teams. Now you have a scheduling mess that the SEC hasn’t begun to solve two years in. Ok, so now you try to grab Pittsburgh (after all, the ACC is a mess by now so why not exhume the Backyard Brawl?) and Connecticut to break into the Northeast. All of a sudden you have a 16 team conglomerate of varied interests, cultures and geography.
The Big Ten is more than 100 years old. The SEC is celebrating its 80th birthday and the ACC just turned 60. Those leagues have decades of history and an established identity.