Conference realignment. Again!
About a year ago speculation was rampant that major college athletic conferences were exploring their options to expand. During that time rumors ruled the day. Some rumors had Pitt and Rutgers leaving the Big East for the Big 10. The Pac 10 was eying schools like Texas and Colorado.
There were rumblings that the SEC and ACC were looking around.
When the dust settled Nebraska became the 12th team in the Big 10, Colorado and Utah became the 11th and 12th teams in the Pac 10 and everyone else stayed put. Fast-forward a year and the conference realignment issue is front and center again. While the facts of the current moves are few, there is enough information out there to have rumors and speculation running at flood stage.
What we are pretty sure of is that Texas A&M and the SEC have a very real interest in each other. Most sports news outlets have reported it for over a week that a deal between A&M and the SEC was imminent. An ESPN talking head tweeted on Saturday that it was a done deal and that ACC schools Florida State and Clemson and Big 12’s Missouri were expected to join as well.
Since then it has become clear that the tweeter may have jumped the gun a little. While the A&M situation remains likely, the reports of the other schools moving appear to be premature. Even the Texas A&M situation has taken a few turns of uncertainty.
Over the weekend the SEC presidents voted to remain at 12 schools. As that vote was being reported, and it was assumed, that meant that the A&M deals was a no go. Turns out that was more of a formality so the SEC can avoid possible legal issues for tampering. The SEC said that a prospective school would have to apply before an invitation could be extended. As of Monday evening it appears both parties are going to use the revised process and A&M will indeed end up in the SEC.
If you are a fan of West Virginia University athletics this matters to you, because this move will likely trigger several more that will almost certainly affect the WVU athletic program and that’s where all the speculation and rumors gain our interest. The SEC is not likely to just take one team. Many in the business think college football is headed for four 16 team mega conferences. Whether this is the trigger for that remains to be seen, but the SEC is almost certainly going to add another team to make 14 in the short term.
Clemson and FSU are possible candidates, but there is supposedly some sort of agreement among member schools not to add schools from their own state, so in this case Florida and South Carolina would try to stop the addition of Clemson and FSU.
The bottom line is that the ACC will likely want to make a few moves to either replace defected teams or add two or four to position themselves for the future. The ACC is where WVU’s name appears the most as a possible member. Interestingly, should the SEC bypass ACC schools WVU would move up the list for a possible invite, though by all accounts that is a long shot.
The ACC is a more realistic place for WVU, but that is by no means a sure thing. When, and if, the ACC makes a move their targets will almost certainly include other Big East schools and it is not clear just where the Mountaineers would fall in the pecking order. Popular theories have WVU in a good position if ESPN is more involved and a weaker position if several of the member schools are wielding their influence.
ESPN likes our traveling fans and good TV numbers. They reportedly would like to package WVU and Pitt to the ACC to create another strong rivalry.
UCONN, Syracuse and Rutgers are getting mention as well. No one is certain how long this will take to play out. Could be weeks or months. The outcome of the SEC – Texas A&M scenario could be known this week. That’s when the other dominoes begin to fall. Stay tuned.