I think the Big East goes coast-to-coast with or without AQ. They need UCF, Houston and SMU to have a football conference with 8 all-sports members. They need Boise State to have any hope of a decent football TV contract. And they need SDSU because Boise State says they do.
Get ready for talk of a 16-team league. Get ready for talk of four-team pods. Get ready for speculation as to whether Florida State, Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Canisius or Utah State might join the SEC.
The Big 12 has reopened the whole expansion can of worms.
Two “high-ranking sources” from the Big 12 have told The Houston Chronicle that further expansion is “very possible.” West Virginia and TCU have already been tabbed to replace Missouri and Texas A&M, of course, though the Mountaineers can’t gain entry until they escape the Big East.
A new move would take the Big 12 — eventually — to 12 or even 16 teams. Or 11? “The Big Ten made 11 work for a number of years,” said one Big 12 source. (Thirteen is also on the table because the Big 12 does not have a conference championship game and the scheduling requirements that go with it. A 13-team model wouldn’t be as tough on that league as it would have been on the SEC.)
Louisville — which almost snuck in past WVU for the league’s last bid this past fall — would be the most likely 13th member. From there, BYU and Notre Dame would probably generate the most chatter, whether those schools are realistic options or not.
“I don’t want to send the message, ‘Oh, they’re getting ready to expand,’ Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said… sending the message that his league’s getting ready to expand. “But you’d be naive to think there’s not instability still in our business.”
Part of the instability could go away when the BCS commissioners decide on a new format for the end-of-season system. Leagues like the Big East and non-BCS schools like Boise State, UCF and San Diego State have been racing to form an alliance all in the hopes of getting a slice of BCS reaches. The league wants to maintain its automatic qualifier status. The schools want an easier shot into the BCS.
But if the new model does away with automatic qualifier status altogether, schools wouldn’t necessarily need to be in a particular conference to get a BCS invite. And one has to wonder if the Big East would move forward as a coast-to-coast national league if it’s not a necessity.
If the BCS commissioners create a model that’s easier to reach, leagues and teams should — should — become a bit more stable. And that would mean that further Big 12 expansion by one or even two teams isn’t likely to create nationwide ripples.
We still firmly believe the SEC is set at 14 schools and won’t eye 16 unless the landscape around it changes in a major way. Louisville and BYU to the Big 12 is not sweeping change.
So while the Big 12′s blows off smoke like a volcano about to erupt, we don’t believe the college football landscape will be blasted apart this time around.
But never say never.