May 11

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC  Tags:

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Conference shake-ups are coming. In the last couple of weeks, rumors have been swirling rampantly about the conferences of major college sports being realigned and/or expanded. The latest talks, which include actual invitations to four major universities from a major conference, have the discussions to a heated boil. There is certainly no guarantee that anything will happen. But usually when there is this much smoke, there is bound to be a fire.

A few weeks ago, the SEC was rumored to have been in the middle of talks to take the conference from 12 to 16 teams. Before that, the Pac-10 (never officially) had been wondering about expanding to include teams such as Boise State and Utah. And now, just today, it has been confirmed that the Big Ten has sent out formal invitations to Nebraska, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Missouri in an attempt to become the first "super conference."

I do not have many facts to deliver here as of yet, but I get a very strong feeling that this is going to turn into something. At the heart of it all - for sure - is money. In the SEC, an astronomical TV deal was reached with ESPN not long ago ($2.25 billion over 15 years), and they are on the spot to deliver prime programing to meet their end of the contract ratings-wise. And everyone and their nephew knows that Notre Dame's TV value is very high, like the Irish or not.

With all of the past focus on the SEC Network (an ESPN idea), though, the fuel behind all of this latest talk is the Big Ten Network. They want Rutgers for the Northeast market, Nebraska and Missouri for a grip in the Midwest, and Notre Dame speaks for itself, as well as the Chicago market it would bring (yeah, I know, Northwestern is near Chicago already).

So as all of this goes down, let's remember as fans that the conference matchups that we want as fans aren't the concern of these talks. In the end, it's money.

But it is still very interesting where all of this may head. If one conference, or one group of teams move, then the effect will begin to trickle across the country. Conferences will begin scrambling to fill holes, and conferences will be raided right and left.

Ultimately, I wish it would lead to some kind of playoff. If conference realignment took place on a scale in which the BCS would no longer hold its water, then it could be a major step towards a playoff. That would make me happy.

So what may happen? Logically, at least to me, the most obvious move would be the Pac Ten adding Boise State and Utah to get to 12 teams. That would make sense, but I may be way out of reality there for whatever reason. And with leagues trying to get to 16 teams, then the Pac Ten best do this. It just seems to make sense for many reasons - especially football...

Next, the Big Ten would indeed see the four teams they ask to join, actually join. This would create the first 16-team league, and all hell would break loose. The Big Ten would suddenly be the biggest conference with the most money coming in. The SEC, wanting a backseat to nobody, would raid the ACC and the Big 12.

Texas would hold strong in the Big 12, and TCU would certainly be one team likely to fill a gap left by Mizzou and Nebraska. Who else for the Big 12 now? Maybe LSU or Arkansas or .....

And the SEC, while surely not wanting to lose LSU and/or Arkansas, would also be going hard after ACC teams such as Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Clemson and North Carolina to get to whatever number was making sense at the time (I'm guessing they would be shooting for 16 teams).

For the smaller conferences, who knows what may happen!

I am totally throwing out speculation and ideas at this point, and have no clue what is going to happen. But I do know that money will be the deciding factor in it all, and this is definitely a story to keep your eye on as the days go by....

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