Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Conference realignment isn't over, its just on pause

If you follow the right people on twitter, than the last four or five days have been wild.

With every article that is published, every source that is quoted, and every theory that is floated comes a wave of speculation, analysis, and rumor-mongering. And its non-stop. Expansionocalypse is moving so quickly that in a matter of hours, the entire landscape changes. Trying to keep up to date is utterly exhausting.

The good news, however, is that late on Tuesday night, it looks like we've reached a resting point. For starters, the Pac-12 announced that they would not be expanding.

"After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality* that we are committed to preserve. With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us."

(*Culture of equality, huh? Was that a cheap shot at Texas and the Longhorn Network? Methinks that's a yes.)

There's more. The Big East's seven football schools met and made a commitment to the conference while deciding to actively pursue replacements for the departed Pitt and Syracuse.

"Our membership met this evening," the Big East said in a statement, "and we are committed as a conference to recruit top level BCS caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions. We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the Big East Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football."

The reason I call this a resting point as opposed to a stopping point is that there are still decisions to be made. First and foremost, the SEC needs a 14th. As of Tuesday afternoon, most believed that Missouri was the SEC's top target after West Virginia had their application denied. But Missouri still wants the Big 12 to work out, so with the Pac-12's decision to stay at 12 teams, Missouri is forced into a holding pattern. They don't want to be responsible for the downfall of the conference and they want a piece of Texas A&M's exit fee while avoiding having to pay the fee themselves.

Second of all, both the Big 12 and the Big East have to find some level of stability. Its no secret that UConn wants out, and that notion was reinforced on Tuesday when a source informed the AP that the Huskies still want to follow Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC. Rutgers may also accept an invite from the ACC if the league wants to go to 16 schools, while Notre Dame to the ACC was also floated today. And even if the league somehow manages to keep all seven football playing members on board, they will still need to add at least one football-playing member to retain FBS status.

What does the Big 12 do to promote stability? Can Texas and Oklahoma ever learn to get along? With schools like Baylor and Iowa State be ok with the money Texas brings in from the Longhorn Network and unequal revenue sharing? Will the conference add BYU? What about snagging TCU from the Big East? Will anyone actually want to submit themselves to this kind of squabbling, in-fighting and sibling rivalry?

This is far from over.

And even if we reach a stale-mate this fall, where the team's shifting leagues are forced into a holding pattern, will that last? Is there enough trust between league presidents and conference commissioners to prevent another round expansionocalypse next year? Or next month? Or tomorrow?

I doubt it.

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