Conference Realignment: New Midwestern Conference Could Emerge

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Forget for just for a moment that the PAC 10 is likely to expand to sixteen teams or that the Big Ten isn’t about to settle for Nebraska without doing a super-sizing of itself. Even if the SEC and ACC expand to keep pace, there is likely going to be enough good programs left out of the picture to force a new midwestern based conference to emerge.

college footballUnder the scenario now unfolding, the Big 12 is toast. But so is the Big East. Rutgers and Syracuse will likely go to the Big Ten and UConn too if Notre Dame agrees to join along with Nebraska. That will leave the Big East morbidly weakened, but present a new opportunity: join the remnants of the Big 12 and Big East conference together to form an all-new league.

And that scenario is entirely plausible.

Here is how it might happen:

With Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 and Nebraska headed to the Big Ten, the five remaining schools will need a home. Baylor, Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State will effectively become orphaned.

From the Big East, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Pittsburgh would be left out as would South Florida who, by the way, could find their way to the ACC. Take Memphis, Tulane and Southern Miss from Conference USA and you suddenly have a 12-team conference.

But why stop there? Texas Christian, Utah, Brigham Young and Colorado State could be pulled in from the Mountain West conference to form the new league’s western flank. It may seem unbalanced on the surface and a dreadful travel nightmare at that, but with two divisions in play, it can be done. ¬†Maybe Heartland Conference would be the appropriate name.

This particular scenario isn’t likely to happen especially if the Pac 10 and Big Ten become 16-team conferences. Sure, the SEC with 12 teams would still be the college football powerhouse, but the other conferences would have four more schools. That represents four additional schools for a lucrative TV pact which is what this conference expansion movement is all about.

So, here is how I see things shaking out: Syracuse, UConn and Rutgers leave the Big East for the Big Ten. South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh head to the ACC. West Virginia, Missouri and two schools to be named later join the SEC. I believe those two schools could be poached from the ACC, forcing the ACC to turn to Memphis and Southern Miss to fill their now depleted ranks.

When the smoke clears we’ll be left with four 16-team super conferences. Yes, under that scenario the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference would probably merge while Conference USA would be forced to get creative and raid the Mid-American conference for some teams. How about six 16-team conferences?

Just when you think that the conference alignment picture has straightened itself out, everything is clear as mud again. Blame it on the Big Ten who let its own conference expansion whispers force everyone to look at their options, leaving some schools scrambling to make sure that their options remain strong.

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