The relative calm following last summer’s conference realignment shake up was just temporary.
After the Big Ten added Nebraska, the Pac-12 added Utah and Colorado and the Mountain West raided the WAC, it seemed that there would be a short lasting peace amongst the conferences.
But money speaks louder in big time college sports.
Texas A&M’s decision to leave the Big 12—its announcement is expected within a week or so—will send just as large a ripple effect throughout the NCAA’s conference lineup than Nebraska’s defection and the Pac-12’s expansion last summer.
The Big 12, looking more and more like a mid-major conference with two legitimate powers, will need to refortify itself or cease to exist.
The latter—which seemed likely last summer—doesn’t seem like an option this time around.
“Obviously now, I think there is a little more urgency to think about if A&M leaves, who’s No. 10, or who’s 11 and 12 as well,” an anonymous source told the Associated Press.
Why would the Big 12 even need to still be around? Effort and money. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe put a lot of work into keeping the conference intact after last year’s conference earthquake.
And Texas A&M’s departure won’t leave Beebe’s efforts last summer in vain.
“It remains our strong desire for Texas A&M to continue as a member of the Big 12 and we are working toward that end,” Beebe told ESPN.com. “However, if it is decided otherwise, the conference is poised to move aggressively with options.”
Options meaning non-BCS schools as a possibility of moving into the Big 12.
That also means that Conference USA—which operates in Big 12 markets—as well as the Mountain West Conference will be on edge to see if the Big 12 goes after its teams.
SMU has already expressed interest in joining the Big 12.
Houston—which has gained football notoriety that last few years—also seems a likely contender to join an expanded Big 12.
However, there are Mountain West teams that may be affected. Air Force and Colorado State seem to be geographical fits.
Boise State—which just moved to the Mountain West this year—brings a strong football program that will fit into the Big 12’s football-first mentality.
The question is, if the Big 12 starts to contact these non-BCS schools, can the Mountain West protect itself from the raid?
“We’re keeping our finger on the pulse definitely,” MW commissioner Craig Thompson told the Union-Tribune. “The more likely scenario if A&M were to leave, the Big 12 would look for a 10th member. Would that then affect the Mountain West? Are they going to invite San Diego State, New Mexico or Air Force, somebody from our league?”
And what if the Big 12 were to cease altogether? That was an option last year, when the Big Ten was courting Nebraska and Missouri, and five teams from the Big 12 were in talks with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott about creating the first real so-called “super-conference.”
But there is commitment from the remaining nine Big 12 institutions. There is commitment because of a new television deal. There is commitment because it is still a BCS conference.
There is commitment because losing only Texas A&M doesn’t seem like such a big deal to the conference.
It will just have to reinforce if and when A&M leaves.
“It would be foolish for the Big 12 Conference not to do some contingency planning,” Kansas State president Kirk Schulz told The Kansas City Star. “That’s why I think we’re pushing hard to keep A&M, but we’re really looking at as if they decide to depart, who do we want to add? I look at those as parallel, not, ‘Well, we’re going to wait until we hear from A&M and then look at what to do next.’ We really feel like we need to be ready to go.”
From the looks of it, the Big 12 is ready for A&M to depart. Is the Mountain West vulnerable if the Big 12 comes knocking on its door?
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