Now that Pittsburgh and Syracuse have officially bolted from the Big East for the ACC, the race to the four super conferences has begun. The Atlantic Coast Conference is now the first team with over 12 football teams in their conference and will most likely add two more schools to create two eight team divisions. Which two teams will they add and how will the other conferences react?
Most of the rumors at this point focus on UConn as the next school to jump ship to the ACC, which would help the football/basketball balance. If the Huskies do join the conference, then the past three NCAA basketball champions and eight of the past eleven would reside in either the Atlantic or Coastal Division. Imagine matchups like Duke/UConn, UNC/Syracuse, Maryland/Pittsburgh several times each year. Meanwhile, the 16th team is still a mystery. Rumors include current Big East members Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, as well as long shot Big 12 powerhouse Texas.
In 2005, the ACC started the current realignment when they poached Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami from the Big East. Then other conferences followed suit over the past couple years to reach 12 teams and the lucrative conference championship games. The ACC expansion this week is the first domino to fall in what is going to be a nationwide realignment as four conferences will form 16 team super conferences. This link lists the latest realignment rumors as most people predict the Big East and Big 12 will go under, leaving the Pac-16, Big 16 (Former Big 10), SEC, and ACC standing.
While the impression that these university presidents and conference commissioners are chasing money for mostly football programs is disturbing, the geographical outcome is comical. This year Pacific 12 teams have to travel over the Rockies for the first time to play divisional games against Colorado and Utah. Texas Christian is already slated to play in the Big East next year in games possibly at Connecticut and South Florida. If Oklahoma leaves the crumbling Big 12 to the Pac-16, they will be 1,400 miles from the Pacific, while Texas would be 1,000 miles to the nearest Atlantic Coast if they join the ACC.
Even the four major television networks are getting in on the realignment action. The SEC and CBS have been partners for the past 15 years, while last year the ACC inked a major deal with ABC/ESPN and the PAC-12 is now with FOX. If Notre Dame ever gets off their high horse and joins the Big 16, guess which major broadcast network will still air their games?
Maybe these conferences are trying to form these four super conferences to create a four team playoff and quash the BCS. Imagine the winner of the Pac-16 championship game playing the winner of the Big 16 in the traditional Rose Bowl matchup. Meanwhile the winners of the ACC and SEC could face off in a Southeastern venue, like the Georgia Dome or Orange Bowl. Then the winners of those two games play weeks later in a title game in a more centralized location like the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, JerryWorld, etc.
So maybe after all this chaos we could end up with 64 teams playing in a season to get down to eight elite teams playing in conference championship games, with a chance to be the final four teams remaining, culminating in a championship game not decided by voters or computers. Hmm, imagine a NCAA sport doing that?