Analyzing Conference Expansion: Big East On the Way Out?

Over the weekend we learned that the Atlantic Coastal Conference added Syracuse and Pittsburgh, both from the Big East, to their ranks.

Apparently its a done deal, despite some hoops to jump through getting out of the Big East conference. Is it just me, or was there absolutely no fight put up by the Big East?

Compare that to Texas A&M who is being hassled left and right for trying to bail out of the Big 12.

With the Big 12 network contract, as well as Texas’ own Longhorn Network being created, the possibility of the Big 12 schools becoming incredibly rich is keeping them all intact.


Rumors that Texas is thinking of going independent would eventually crush the conference, Oklahoma and TAMU no doubt leaving and the rest of the schools fighting to join either the Big Ten, go independent (where very few would survive), or join a non-AQ conference.

TAMU leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC is a done deal according to TAMU officials, and the SEC has accepted their application, however its contingent on the fact that Oklahoma stays in the Big 12. The individual schools have yet to waive their right to sue for damages, so TAMU leaving the Big 12 is currently on hold.

If you ask me, its a matter of time. Oklahoma will most likely leave at that point, perhaps following in the footsteps of Nebraska to the Big Ten. That leaves the Big 12 with 8 teams, on the verge of being completely abandoned – especially of Texas decides to go independent where they would thrive, similar to Notre Dame.

Oklahoma could find a new home in the Big Ten or try and build back the membership of the Big 12 with the remaining eight schools (Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech).

Then there’s the ACC – Big East moves. The ACC picked up Pittsburgh and Syrcause from the Big East, leaving it with 6 remaining teams. If the ACC can get two more teams to join their conference, they would become the first “super conference” with 16 teams. That seems unlikely, as the new move proves one point – geography no longer matters.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse are not “coastal” teams. Right now the Big East is spread all over the place – South Florida, Cincinnati, Louisville, and various others mostly in the Midwest/ North East region.

Of course, that’s only schools with a football team. Eight other private/ Catholic associated schools are considered full time members. That includes Notre Dame, Villanova, and Georgetown who play football outside the Big East (Villanova and Georgetown are FCS football teams).

The Big East could cease to exist as a football conference if the SEC (in addition to gaining TAMU, making it an even 14 teams) adds South Florida from the Big East, which would make sense geographically.

Of course, financially, which is what conferences pay more attention to, the SEC wouldn’t ever extend an invitation to South Florida. Perhaps the ACC can invite South Florida, creating an instate rivalry with Florida State?

Its more likely the SEC invites Missouri, North Carolina (after their investigation is sorted out), West Virginia, Florida State, or Louisville. All have downsides, however, read about the likely possibilities here.

Should the SEC invite West Virginia or Louisville, the Big East would be dead as far as football is concerned. If the SEC went after North Carolina or Florida State, the ACC would easily survive having taken two Big East schools, maintaining 12 members.

Obviously any move would take years, waiving of rights to sue for damages, and this doesn’t factor in the three new FBS schools, being added in 2013.

The Pac-12’s commissioner, Larry Scott, has stated the conference does not plan to expand anytime soon, which makes sense, despite reports that Texas and Oklahoma are close to joining.

Certain schools make sense geographically such as Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State, but the Pac-12 is an academic/ research focused conference.

They won’t accept religious based schools, that’s just the way it is. No Baylor, TCU, or BYU, period. Which is really unfortunate because Brigham Young would be a good fit otherwise.

Hawaii actually puts more into research than Utah, provides a great counterbalance to the distance teams travel with Colorado in the conference, and they have a dedicated fanbase that have declared on every message boards I can find they would love joining the Pac 12. That’s opposite to Utah – remember the battle over why BYU couldn’t join, the claimed discrimination by the LDS Church? None of that exists with Hawaii.

The problem is their academic rating. They rank at 164th in the nation. Not exactly ideal, but then again, neither is Arizona (124), Utah (128), Arizona State (132) , or Oregon State (138). Its more about research, of which Hawaii spends about 300 million, higher than half of the conference. So why wouldn’t Hawaii work, exactly?

The WAC will be down to 7 teams (with the 2 FCS schools) in 2012, Hawaii, Fresno State, and Nevada moving to the MWC. The Mountain West and the WAC could merge, then becoming a BCS conference if all went well. Look for my article specifically about Pac-12/ west coast expansion in the coming days.

The bottom line is three things:

  1. The Big East being through with football is only a matter of time.
  2. The SEC/ ACC will be the first conferences with 16 teams, depending on who steals from who.
  3. Geographical alignment is not near as important as marketing/ financial opportunity.
My guess is that by 2013 college football will be changed forever, the conferences realigned, and hopefully the BCS picture won’t be the same either.
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