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August 13, 2011

While it looks near certain that Texas A&M will bolt if the SEC decides that they want to take the Aggies, the unknown is who the SEC would tab if they went to 14 or even 16. The names are obvious and have been bandied about: Mizzou, Oklahoma, FSU, Clemson, VT and/or UNC.

Forget the denials that have emanated from other programs. I think we all know that this is like a coach search. No one has been “contacted” but everyone is in touch. So, if you want to say, but FSU has denied any contact or VT has said they have no interest in leaving the ACC. Or that Mizzou is pretending to be content in the Big XII — it means nothing.

The aspect I’m trying to look at in this post is the impact/survival/attractiveness of the Big XII vs. the Big East.

The key for most conference stability is that there is a strong core. Not just attractive/strong/national programs, but programs that are intertwined with the conference to such a level that it is impossible to imagine them elsewhere — and they don’t want to be anywhere else. Ohio State and Michigan in the Big 10; Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia in the SEC; UNC and Duke in the ACC; USC, UCLA, Washington in the Pac-12.

In the Big East there is no such core. There is no program that fits that description. Syracuse, Pitt, UConn, WVU and Rutgers have all looked wistfully at the ACC or Big 10 in recent years.

The Big XII still has that mash-up quality of the Big 8 and the Southwest Conference. While there should be a strong core, with Texas and Oklahoma — the old conference divisions coupled with the fundamental inequity of revenue distribution — it instead feels held together by fear and arrogance. Texas, holds the conference together, it also holds the power over the conference. Essentially with the ability to decide when it wants to kill the conference — go independent or even bolt to another conference. Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, K-State, Mizzou and Iowa State hang in there because they have no where else to go.

In some ways, the Big East and Big XII represent the extremes of the spectrum. The core of the Big XII is too strong, too powerful and too in control of the fate and direction of the conference. The Big East is without even one program that really makes the conference. The SEC represents the best balance of the BCS conferences with so many programs that can be considered core programs. The Pac-12 and Big 10 are somewhere in the 2-3 position. Both with multiple core programs. The ACC is closer to the Big East in that what teams could constitute its core programs either lack the heft for football (Maryland, UNC and Duke) or are so recent to the conference (FSU, VT and Miami) that they still don’t seem quite right.

The rumors are that the Big XII (i.e., Texas) feels that the Big XII is fine if it loses A&M. It can go on with 9 members. Or it could consider picking one to three new teams to join. Obviously the Big XII could look to Houston, Boise St., or perhaps even BYU. Louisville also has been mentioned as a possibility.

Louisville to the Big XII makes limited sense. Yes, the Big XII media deals are richer right now, but the Cards would be trading one type of conference instability for another. They would go from a conference that has instability from conflicting goals (basketball schools vs. football schools) and a lack of a strong core to one that exists at this point solely because the core team wants it to for now. Subject to the desires and needs of Texas only.

The Texas and Big XII situation fascinates me, because the Big East almost ended up in that situation when it tried to keep Miami in 2003. The Big East offered Miami more revenue and essentially more control over the Big East to stay. Miami would have had the hammer over the Big East with the ongoing threat of leaving any time. It would have bred the resentment you see from Missouri and other Big XII schools with Texas. Needing them, but hating how they are not treated as equals.

The issue that matters to both the Big XII and the Big East is not whether Texas A&M leaves for the SEC — since that appears to be a forgone conclusion — it’s where does the SEC get their 14th team?

A loss of, say Mizzou, would be a back-breaker to the Big XII, because then the conference would be looking at reduced media deals with the loss of both the Houston and St. Louis media markets (and a blow to the KC market). They would be looking at Big East level pu-pu platter options to replace and get up to 9 or 10. It might be the thing that makes Texas, shrug and decide on independence.

That scenario would be the best case for the Big East. They would be in a position to take Kansas and Kansas State (presuming they have to be a package deal). Then it would be a decision with UCF, Villanova, Baylor and Houston to get the twelfth football team. Big East football, while not a powerhouse, suddenly has a sense of stability with twelve teams for football. It could also be the situation that splits the basketball and football schools at long last — which would improve stability as programs would no longer have conflicting agendas.

The other direction is that the SEC pulls a team from the ACC. The ACC obviously calls up a team from the Big East. UConn, Syracuse, Pitt and Rutgers would probably fall over each other for that move. Each has advantages and disadvantages for the ACC, so I would not be quick to assume one over the other in that situation. A move that hurts the Big East and all that positioning for the big media deal is suddenly shaky.

In that scenario, maybe Louisville does listen to Big XII overtures out of fear that the Big East is even weaker than before. Stability and money would be in shambles. Where the Big East was looking for one more team to get to 10 in football, they would be forced to find three. Villanova obviously reverts back to a no-brainer to admit. UCF finally gets in, and then I suppose it would be Houston.

In other words, the Big East looks as weak as it did after 2004.

One way or another the Big East has to prepare for a big change sooner than it imagined.

Excellent article Chas, very well written. About sums it all up!

Comment by Dan 08.13.11 @ 3:46 pm

What are you hoping for?

Comment by Pedro Salgado 08.13.11 @ 3:48 pm

Sporting news said louisville is at top of list for SEC. also been said big 12 looking at louisville. if they go we are screwed once more. I think this shows that if we can keep big east in one piece that we need to go to 12 teams as soon as we can and stop messing around and sign a tv deal be fore we have nothing to offer get it done.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.11 @ 3:58 pm

While medium term issues (TV market size, history, expected strength, and geographics) of a team will drive core decisions, it could be that if the Big East crumbles that Pitt Football is building a competitive advantage for itself, right now in the conference reshuffle saga.

If it is a “toss up” between Pitt and another program for a spot in a conference, then it could be that Pitt’s hopefully EXCITING TEAM (aka HIGH OCTANE) and additional FAN SUPPORT (aka attendance) DUE TO THAT EXCITING TEAM, might just tip a tremendously important decision in Pitt’s favor. Yes it is short term stuff, but this decision ws hypothetically a toss-up, so something smaller has to make the difference.

Overall … It should not be underestimated how important the changes that Coach Graham is driving could be for the program in a lot of ways. This is especially the case with the Pitt programs 20 yrs of mediocrity in a time of so much conference uncertainty.


Comment by kpcski 08.13.11 @ 4:29 pm

I think we should offer ND the kind of deal texas has in the big 12 the deal they all most gave miami it will give us achance to sign a big tv deal and to bring a team like maryland from the ACC it would also help keep louisville. then bring in houston . it woud be years before the discontent started we would have made are base solid in the hear and now we could do lt now before we are riped apart and we would all get richer worry abought later later.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.11 @ 4:30 pm

Screw ND! Let the ACC and Big East dissolve and form a new conference. ESPN has a deal with the ACC not an east coast conference of half ACC and half BE. So, let’s (in the event this really starts happening as speculated) have Nordy (a shrewd guy) lead the way to get a dual football/basketball conference of the upper tier of the ACC and BE and let the SEC and Big XII suck up the rest. Be (I hate this word) proactive.

Comment by jim 08.13.11 @ 5:34 pm

What about the scenario where the SEC poaches the Big 12 AND the ACC? I’m talking a truly apocalyptic set of moves, with the SEC moving to 16 or even 18 members. Say they invite Missouri, Florida State, and Clemson, or that group plus two more? I think under that kind of shakeup the Big East would have to immediately reach out to Kansas and to its prior members in the ACC (and possibly Virginia as well to entice V-Tech). There would need to be some basketball-school subtraction, but then the Big East would be up to 14 schools and actually in pretty good shape. For that to work though, the SEC has to poach the ACC to the degree that it looks less viable than the Big East.

Comment by Ben 08.13.11 @ 5:43 pm

Don’t forget the role that ESPN has played in all of this. By aligning with the Longhorn network, the entertainment & sports giant has created ill-will across the Big 12. The SEC will look at the East for its 14th team. The ACC and the Big East will both be affected unless the ACC is content to stay with 11 teams if Florida State or Clemson goes to the SEC. Some are mentioning West Virginia as the SEC’s 14th team.

Comment by TonyinHouston 08.13.11 @ 5:46 pm

What s Kentucky’s view of Louisville joining the SEC? While the SEC is of course primarily an FB conference, I would still think its opinion would matter.

too many sceanrios right now to fret over …. but maybe as early as next next week, there will be some real concerns

Comment by wbb 08.13.11 @ 6:48 pm

How does this sound? Big East/ACC Merger…14 squads…WVA,PITT,N CAR,MD,BC,Miami,VA,VA Tech,Syracuse,L-Ville,Duke,TCU?,NC State,Ga Tech

Comment by Tony M 08.13.11 @ 7:19 pm

The only way a BE school(not counting TCU) gets purloined is if it pulls away from the pack in fb.

The fb pack right now is middlin’ at best.

Comment by steve 08.13.11 @ 8:02 pm

Get real men if SEC take one from ACC they will take one from big east and go on like nothing happed but if we lose one or two we are dead meat we ony have 9 now we would be back down to 8 or 7 we are weak we need to be procative or die we need to add teams now we need to do something bold or be choped up if not now next time we need to be biger we need to lose the bb only schools we need to act no more siting on the fence.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.11 @ 8:16 pm

When the dust setttles by year’s end, Pitt will be a member of the new ACC. The Big1X scoops up Ga Tech, MD, and two others to be named later. The SEC grabs Fl St and Clemson. This feeding frenzy expansion won’t stop until we have 4 mega conferences with 16 teams each. I pity the teams left out like Cincy, Baylor, K-State. Playoff system is soon to follow since the have-nots will not be pleased.

Comment by TX Panther 08.13.11 @ 8:45 pm

we might be one of the have nots we need to do something to make sure it is not us.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.13.11 @ 9:01 pm

Coach Graham’s love of Zach Brown is disquieting. He would’ve gotten only mop up duty at Wisconsin.

Will Ray Graham suffer simply because he hung on?

I hope not.

I hope not.

Comment by steve 08.13.11 @ 9:20 pm

Steve, I’m of the opinion that Graham prefers players who can go the distance. Zach will be useful in short yardage and within the 10 yard line.

Comment by wbb 08.13.11 @ 10:29 pm

Comment by wbb 08.13.11 @ 11:32 pm

Have seen some speculation that VA Tech might be a candidate to move from the ACC to the SEC. I am not sure that would be possible or likely given the Virginia Governor’s influence last time in forcing the ACC to take Tech instead of another BE school by threatening Univ of Virginia regarding state funds if they didn’t insist on letting VA Tech into the ACC. Assuming the same attitude prevails in Richmond (although there is a different Virginia Governor now) such a move could be blocked by a threat of cutting off state educational funds to Tech if they tried to move.

Comment by pitt1972 08.14.11 @ 8:48 am

The Big East which has been holding out for a bigger money TV deal may end up a loser big time in that regard if these re-alignment dominoes start falling. IMO, they might even wind up with less $$s in a new deal that that which was already turned down. Now, that’s a pretty scary thought!!

Comment by pitt1972 08.14.11 @ 8:54 am

If the SEC expands to 16 teams I don’t think the ACC will just replace Clemson and FSU to get back to 12. Eventually the Big 10/12 and Pac-12 will move to 16 to match the SEC so the ACC should do the same. If they move before the Big 10/12 and Pac-12 they will have their pick of the remaining teams from the Big XII and Big East.

Comment by Chet Masterson 08.14.11 @ 10:29 am

I guess we have run out of things to talk about when we are down to expansion, tight ends and coaches. Any report on the cheerleaders?

Comment by gc 08.14.11 @ 11:11 am

All together now say……….N..B..C !!
The Peacock Network now owned by Comcast is seeking away to get involved with college football. Enter Big East/ACC realignment. The big challenge is that the ACC is under contract with ESPN for umpteen years with a goofy deal that almost seems based on basketball instead of football.
The fallout from The Big XII and the SEC will be seismic enough to finally cause Nordy and others in the BIG EAST (UCONN, SYRACUSE, RUTGERS and WVU
if WVU is not taken by the SEC) to say goodbye to the Big East Basketball League and focus attention on football. I firmly believe that some combination of Big East/ACC schools will be the endgame with the Catholic Basketball League being cast aside to form their own destiny.
Pitt will never be asked to join The Big 10 because the Pittsburgh TV market is already covered by the Party School in State College.
Notre Dame will ALWAYS remain separate because they receive messages from G-D to be above the rest of human society. Sarcastic, yes, howver, NDU will always be an INDY as long as TV $$$$ money is thrown their way. N..B..C =s Big East/ACC realignment!!

Comment by isnore 08.14.11 @ 11:14 am

WVU practically begged for an invitation to the SEC during the last round of uncertainty; even though West Virginia is a poor state with no big city, I think WVU would be more attractive to the SEC than Louisville.

As for what the BigXII does, my fear about TCU was always that they were using the Big East as leverage with the BigXII – another BCS conference with a toe-hold in the Dallas/FtWorth market, perhaps a reason for some recruits to pass on Baylor, Tech and even A&M (before this SEC stuff happened)? It was almost daring the BigXII to not invite it to their conference. TCU could be a replacement for A&M, and they would jump at that chance.

Comment by Patrick 08.14.11 @ 2:43 pm

If they dont let A&M join the SEC do you think they would come to the big east we could bring in houston that would be 3 from texas is it a thought or not.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.14.11 @ 3:10 pm

WVU really is not an attractive expansion candidate for any BCS conference. Poor academics & weak TV market really hurt them. The only thing they have going for them is that they can come in a package deal with us and Syracuse. Pitt, Syracuse, and WVU will do whatever it takes to stick together.

Comment by Alex 08.14.11 @ 4:01 pm

I realize this is very unlikely to happen, but why don’t the Big 12 (minus A&M and Texas and perhaps Missouri) combine with the Big East. With a new TV deal in the offing, I think both groups would benefit and that conference would be competitive in both football and basketball with any other conference. I think they would still be best in basketball and only behind the Big Ten and SEC in football. That IMO would bring some big money from NBC.

Pitt, WVU, Rutgers, Cuse, USF, Louisville, Cincy, UConn – one division

Kansas, KSU, Oklahoma, OK St, TCU, Baylor, TT, Iowa St (or Missouri if they don’t go SEC) – other division.

All of these teams are in limbo somehow – why not control your own destiny and beat the other conferences to the punch.

Comment by Mac 08.14.11 @ 8:17 pm

Trans-America conference Mac? Travel wouldn’t be that bad, play seven division games and two or three from the other??

Several years ago I thought the same for the Big East and Wac, and have the champions of each play a championship game.

Only the shadow knows!

Comment by Dan 08.14.11 @ 8:49 pm

word on the street is WVU is putting on presentations to SEC and ACC about the states 1.8 million fans that follow WVU religiously. WVU travels better than Pitt ; they have one final 4 in the last three years ; they have gone to and won several BCS games and Olly is pushing that they don’t share a city, state or facilities with a professional team. What he doesn’t mention is that once you graduate from WVU, you are qualified to be President because you are at least 35 years old….

Comment by huffdaddymc 08.14.11 @ 11:18 pm

Hey, I knew to be tempered, now the SEC votes they want to stick to 12 right now!!

I have to laugh. Even in my little pond of the world, I probably make at least 10-12 calls a day to just make sure that something we talked about last week, and is suppose to happen tomorrow, is still a go.

Are you telling me the board of regents and the pres. of TAM didn’t have some talks with the SEC about still coming on board before leaking it out that they are leaving.

Now, everyone is CYA’in, with statements left and right.

Ok, only a couple weeks till the pig flys, then it will be forgotten till mid-January!!

Comment by Dan 08.15.11 @ 3:09 pm

Reading further, seems the two sticking points for the SEC are, don’t want to interfere in any type of contracts for one.

The other, they would have to go to a 14th team, and Florida does not want Florida State, S.Carolina does not want Clemson, and Georgia does not want Georgia Tech!!!


Comment by Dan 08.15.11 @ 3:25 pm

I feel everyone has it wrong. Despite a lame commissioner the Big East once the BE gets a new TV Deal will be in a position too buy an ACC team or 2. More importantly if the Texas sports network succeeds I can see programs such as Texas going the way of BYU and Notre Dame and becoming independents with their own TV contracts. Why share the money with anyone? USC/UCLA, Florida, and Ohio State are national programs with a massive and rich alumni base who can schedule and recruit anyone anywhere. I think this is may be the wave of the future. Even if these programs remains in their currents conferences they may insist on TV deals like Texas therefore wielding power over the other schools.

Comment by Mike G 08.16.11 @ 9:20 am

I’d be good with that Mike G.. Hey, if they could pull off grabbing a BC, Maryland, Va. etc. etc. with the thoughts of “our tv contract is going to be several more million a year for you”.

Would beat UCF, Houston and Temple!!

Will depend a lot on what happens. I just hope the Big East is watching every move, and being on top of things.

Latest is, TAM is definitely going, will go before the season. They had to come out publicly, that they called the SEC, not vice-versa for contract legalities.

If it does happen, more than likely, an ACC team is going to get poached, or more???

I’m all for keeping the Big East together, as long as they make some strong moves, to keep it together as a relevant conference for a long time.

Also, if it eventually does go to 4 or 5 power conferences of 14 or 16 down the road, I hope the Pitt people are on top of things to make sure we’re not left out of the dance.

Comment by Dan 08.16.11 @ 12:23 pm

I think wear everyone is coming from, is if the ACC would get poached of 1,2, or 3 teams, it would still have enough schools, that it would still be a stronger shot at being one of the power conferences, and you’d hate to see UCONN, WVU, and Syracuse jump for their security, and us left standing looking around.

Interesting stuff!!

Comment by Dan 08.16.11 @ 12:25 pm

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