Last week, after Maryland and Rutgers announced their respective decisions to join the B1G Ten conference, I wrote a short piece about how that move might impact realignment going forward, and what effect that might have on WVU. Now, the Big East is welcoming new members Tulane (in all sports) and East Carolina (in football only), and this morning, the ACC bucked the trend of following the bouncing ball and approved Louisville as its 14th member.
And I have a feeling we're not done yet. I've read so many different rumors and theories and whatnot that I can't keep up anymore. Here is what we know:
- The B1G will be at 14 teams with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers.
- The ACC will be at 14 teams with the addition of Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville.
- The SEC is at 14 teams.
- The Pac-12 is at 12 teams.
- The Big XII is at 10 teams.
- The Big East will be at 13 teams: San Diego State, Boise State, SMU, Houston, UCF, USF, Tulane, Memphis, Cincinnati, Temple, UConn, Navy and ECU.
Well then. If nothing else, the Big East looks to be entirely unstable at 13 teams. They will either have to add a team or lose a team if they want a balanced schedule after Navy joins in 2015. If they add teams, BYU, Air Force and Army are still out there as I mentioned before. And I guess at this point, any of the remaining CUSA programs are fair game as well: UAB, Marshall, Tulsa, Rice and UTEP. Depending on whether more schools get poached, the Big East could add anywhere from one to as many as five teams to get to an even 12, 14 or 16 (since that seems to be where all this is headed). At that point, the effect on the current non-BCS leagues may be catastrophic. I know CUSA is scheduled to add a few schools to replace those leaving for the Big East, but at this point I've completely lost track of who is going where among CUSA, the Sun Belt, the WAC, and the Mountain West. Seriously, when you've never even heard of half the schools mentioned, it's time to throw in the towel. At least the MAC is stable. Heaven forbid if we lose our mid-week MACtion.
But the possibility still exists that the ACC is raided again - the B1G is rumored to be looking at several ACC schools to get to 16 teams: UNC, Virginia and Georgia Tech are the three names being thrown out there at the moment, and I view UNC and UVA as the two most likely candidates. Should they jump to the B1G, everything goes out the window. With the B1G at 16, the SEC would probably feel compelled to follow suit, and Virginia Tech and NC State are still the most logical choices there.
With the ACC severely crippled by the loss of so many founding members, the possibilities from there are almost endless, especially when you consider the Big XII's options. Our new friends have been content to hold steady at 10 teams for now, citing a preference for round-robin play and the need for added teams to make financial sense. But if the B1G and SEC expand to 16, can the Big XII feel comfortable at only 10? Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech would be ripe for the picking. Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse may have second thoughts. Perhaps Cincinnati becomes a viable candidate. Then, does the ACC dissolve? Does it reinforce with more Big East teams? Is there some kind of deal with the basketball-only schools? It's all speculation at this point.
Which brings us to the Mountaineers' perspective on all this. While I feel entirely confident in the Big XII's viability as a league over the duration of the 13-year grant of rights, it concerns me a little bit about the conference's insistence on holding steady with 10 teams while the B1G and ACC make all the moves. I don't particularly like being left on an island away from the rest of the conference, and I've honestly been hoping for some eastward expansion to ease our travel and, in part, to keep up with the other growing conferences. I always thought Louisville would be a great fit for the Big XII, and with them off the table, I wonder about the Big XII's ability to expand with quality teams.
I know some folks think we may have jumped to the Big XII too soon as a pathway to the ACC may have recently opened. I'm not one of those people. The Big XII, in my view, is by far more stable and lucrative than the ACC. The only advantage the ACC has over the Big XII is geography, and if the ACC gets raided again, it may just turn into the old Big East plus Duke and Wake Forest while the B1G, SEC and Big XII scoop up all the quality football schools.
Sure, there may be some consternation over what happens next given the huge amount of money and the future of so many major institutions at stake. But as I said before, I'm enjoying this round of expansion much more than the last few, knowing that WVU is firmly planted in a big-boy league for the next 13 years at least. The grant of rights, Champions/Sugar Bowl contract, new playoff system, and the Big XII television deal all ensure that WVU won't be left behind, no matter what happens.