College football realignment has dominated the headlines throughout parts of the last two years. The biggest move before last season's moving day was Nebraska's decision to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. On July 1, 2012, it will be a busy moving day across college football, as West Virginia and TCU will join the Big 12 and Missouri and Texas A&M become members of the SEC.
Although realignment may take a back seat for a couple of months, there's no question it will jump back in the headlines in the next few years.
What’s Next in College Football Realignment?
1. Waiting on the Big 12: 10, 12 or 14? That’s the million-dollar question facing new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Will the Big 12 expand to 12 or 14 teams? Or will it stand pat at 10? Florida State and Clemson have been rumored as possible candidates to leave the ACC for the Big 12, but the No. 1 target is clearly Notre Dame. The Big 12 seems content with 10 teams, but a lot could change in the next couple of years. In addition to Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame, Louisville is also believed to be on the radar for Big 12 expansion. Although it’s not a necessity, the Big 12 should add another team or two to bridge the geographic gap to West Virginia. It may not happen in 2012 or 2013, but expect the Big 12 to explore expansion once again in the near future.
2. The Big East: Much has changed in the Big East over the last year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse decided to bolt the conference for the ACC, while West Virginia sued to leave for the Big 12 in 2012. The departures left the Big East with only five football members for 2013, and the conference restocked by adding Houston, SMU, Memphis, San Diego State, Boise State and UCF. Navy will join the Big East in 2015, and Temple was able to join for 2012, which keeps the conference at eight football members. While the Big East has some stability with these additions, it could be short lived. Boise State is struggling to find a home for its non-football sports and could be forced to return to the Mountain West. Also, the Broncos’ quest to find a home for its non-football sports will also have an impact on San Diego State’s conference alignment for 2013. Even if Boise State and the Aztecs join the Big East, the conference could be under siege once again in the coming years, especially if the ACC decides to expand to 16 teams. Some have already dismissed the Big East as a power conference, but getting Boise State to join and keeping Louisville in the mix will be crucial to its long-term success.
3. ACC Stability?: Rumors about Florida State and Clemson’s future with the ACC persisted throughout this offseason. The Big 12 has commented it is not interested in expanding, but that could change quickly. The ACC added Pittsburgh and Syracuse, giving the conference 14 teams in 2013. The Panthers and Orange won’t add much in terms of football value, but will help the ACC on the hardwood. The ACC may look to expand to 16 teams in the future, with Connecticut and Rutgers frequently mentioned as possible targets. Although Florida State and Clemson have underachieved at times, keeping these two programs in the mix is a must for the ACC. All signs point to both teams staying, but as we have seen with conference realignment, things can change in a hurry.
4. Impact of a Playoff: Could the news of the four-team playoff have an impact on conference realignment? The initial feeling is that the new postseason format won’t ignite a new round of changes. However, who knows what will happen after a couple of years in the new system. Adding more teams to a conference decreases the money for each member, and there has to be a concern about making the road too difficult to reach a national title game. This is one area that can’t be evaluated now, but is worth monitoring over the next five years.
5. Super conferences: Much has been made about super conferences and the future of college football. Could we see a 16-team league in the next few years? It’s certainly possible. However, let’s consider the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Are there really four new members that fit each conference? At this point, both leagues would be adding teams just for the sake of getting to 16 teams. The SEC doesn’t seem to be overly interested in expanding, but could look to add teams in the North Carolina or Virginia markets. Is that anytime soon? Probably not. Maybe the ACC or Big East will expand to 16 teams, but the talk of super conferences seems to be overblown.
Related College Football Realignment Content
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
A History of Realignment in the Big 12 Conference
A History of Realignment in the SEC
A History of Realignment in the Big East
College Basketball Realignment Winners and Losers
Redrafting College Football's Conferences
Will Notre Dame Ever Join a Conference?
Was Independence a Mistake for BYU?
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
SEC Football: Getting to Know Missouri
SEC Football: Getting to Know Texas A&M
TCU Football Comes Home to the Big 12