For anyone living under a rock the ACC ambushed the Big East, again! While moves in the Big 12 and SEC torture fans with long drawn out agreements, lawsuits (or the threat of law suits), drama, and odd state pride campaigns the ACC's skill in smacking around the Big East is somewhat refreshing.
Pitt, who was no fan of ACC raids back in 2003, woke up with a rose on its pillow this morning, as did Syracuse. Now the ACC is at 14 teams. The only questions this time around is how long will the breakup with teh Big East take?
College Football - Syracuse and Pittsburgh Join A.C.C. - NYTimes.com
"I think the situation is rising to a level where getting Congress engaged may be unavoidable," An anonymous Congressman said. He added: "Congress has the nexus to engage. These are tax-exempt organizations now making billions off of unpaid athletes. When it’s a regional league, it seems to make sense. When you’re taking schools practically from coast to coast and putting them in big-profit revenue leagues, we may be at a point where the N.C.A.A. has lost its ability to create a fair system for all to play in."
While most teams outside of the Big Six are powerless some, like Notre Dame and Texas, may try to provide some counter balance to the perceived move to 16.
Realignment, Superconferences and Notre Dame - One Foot Down
Further conspiracy theorists have taken the notion a step further and discussed the possibility that not only might Texas be setting themselves up for football independence but Notre Dame and Texas might be on the brink of leading other 'haves" to follow suit. This could ultimately lead to the formation of an alliance of independents or conference of independents for lack of a better way to put it.
Outside the small circle of people who see the scenario above as an option most seem to be theorizing that we are strictly heading towards four superconferences of 16 teams each. Once formed those four conferences will absolutely hold all the cards in shaping the future of the football post season, and more specifically morphing the BCS into a playoff format where they hold the vast majority, if not all of the automatic qualification slots. These four conferences could also theoretically break off from the FBS and form their own new superior subdivision.
Personally I think when things are said and done (in a year or two) not that much will have changed. There is still nothing more than speculation about the PAC 12 going to 16 teams and if they don't do it I think 14 will be the magic number, here is why.
Reason 1: There are only so many weeks in a year
You have a 12 game schedule with eight or more conference games. That simply does not leave room on the schedule for two eight team divisions. If you run nine conference games then you have just three out of conference, if you run eight than you get just one divisional cross over per year.
As much as the big boys like to avoid hard out of conference games (lest their rankings get bumped) there are still some out of conference games that have to happen. Florida will still want yo play Florida State, Texas will still want A&M (or Oklahoma).That leaves little room for 'soft weeks' on the schedule. Alabama want's to get its Kent on and Cincinnati really wants to be able to play Akron.
Unless the NCAA ups the football season to 13 or 14 games the logistics of 16 team conferences make the cross over relationships very hard to maintain. Playing a conference member in the opposing division just once every decade is not really helpful to conference cohesion.
And this does not even begin to address cross divisional rivals.
Reason 2: The Pie can only be cut so many ways
At some point during this expansion palooza someone is going to run out of pie. Pitt and Syracuse will add money to the ACC's next contract but how much would Rutgers add? Especially considering you already have Syracuse who has a good hand in the NY television market.
Eventually conferences get to a point where the only candidates left will take more of the revenue than they bring in to the conference. Money makes realignment go around so when that happens expansion stops.
Many a school will point at its TV market but the guys who sit across the table at conference negations are not fools. Does Temple being in a top five market population wise matter if almost nobody in Philly watches college sports? Is UConn any different?
Reason 3: Beware lawmakers looking for a cause
When undefeated Utah was left out of the BCS championship game, and then proceeded to beat Alabama like a drum, Utah's delegation in Washington nearly marched to the NCAAs doorstep with torches and pitchforks. If a "16 team super conferences" scenario occurred then there would be a mob of congress critters looking for press. Despite the "look at me" nature of the inquiry some important questions would be asked.
Should these super conference be considered tax exempt non profits? There are huge advantages to that classification. Losing it would affect everything about the way the institutions work and that could be very distasteful to the folks who have to balance the books and keep the lights on.
There is also the issue of the NFL draft. If these are, indeed, for profit ventures should the NFL stop requiring that potential draftees go through a college program. Baseball and Hockey have no such requirements so why should football?
Were these conference to get branded 'for profit' they might find themselves competing with a junior NFL league that pays the players more than the colleges, even the rich ones, could afford.
Reason 4: 16 Team Conference is not need to own the world
Look at the NCAA Hoops tournament. There are more than 300 teams and outside of a few pesky mid majors the big six own. Football has it's Boise State and Hoops has its Butler.
Many among the folks wearing 'the end is neigh' signs assume this is all about a playoff of sorts among the five super conference which will freeze out the mid majors. But really how much of a danger are the mid Majors? In the entire time that the BCS has existed there have been one, maybe two, mid major busters who would not have gotten destroyed in the championship.
More to the point what have the big six commissioners ever done to give any indication, at all, that they want a playoff. Quite frankly they are thrilled at the existing confri-tocracy. Five or six 14 team conference will control things just as well as 5 sixteen team conferences.
What about Texas:
Nobody is going to touch Texas. The unequal revenue distribution they want, and the Long Horn Network make them toxic. They along with BYU, Notre Dame, and the Service academies make for a solid group of schools with a national following who can exist as independents. They have the money and can use the pool to fill out their schedule.
The race to 16 might happen, and one or two might get there but once eight more big market teams are sucked up by just two conference whats left that is worth expanding your base? Think the ACC is chomping at the bit for Rutgers?
The Big east might take Baylor or Iowa state, and that shows how shallow the pool is getting. Even with TCU in the Big East Baylor is still a bone head move, but it's the only one the Big East has. Same with Iowa State!
The Big 12 is down to nine, subtract Missouri and it's down to eight, if Oklahoma and or OSU leave they are down to six. The Big East is down to seven. At this point nobody is at 16!
Basically there are about 14 football schools between the Big East and Big 12. That's an interesting number right?
Where does this leave the mid majors:
Because of the scheduling, the non revenue sports, that tax exempt status, and the umbrella of protection that the NCAA offers it's doubtful the power conference commissioners really want to form a new college athletics board. The NCAA is not going anywhere and it's they that make the division classifications. Mid Majors provide one and done home games and the cover or amateurism.
More than likely you will see the mids try to match at 14 which for the MAC and Conference USA will be rather trivial ventures. The MAC is already there and Conference USA can pick off two from the Sun Belt with relative ease. The Belt might have to go the way of the WAC and start mass inviting any school that has, or wants football but they are in the south, they will be fine.
The NCAA bent over backwards for the WAC when BYU and the MWC blew them up, I suspect that they will be allowed to limp along with their depleted membership or that they will be gobbled up by the the Mountain West (who reportedly wanted Utah State).
The more things change the more they stay the same.