Jared Wickerham, Getty Images
The latest dominos have fallen in the ever-changing world of college conference realignment. Now schools from coast to coast are left to figure out how they will be affected.
The jump by Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference from the Big East, formally announced Sunday by the ACC, could create another catalyst that hurls intercollegiate athletics toward the era of 16-team superconferences.
Or it could give the power players in college sports a chance to catch their breath while they sort out their next moves.
Will Texas and Oklahoma stay in the Big 12 or join another league — possibly the Pac-12? Will the ACC stop at 14 members or keep growing to 16 — and if so, who might the next two additions be?
Will the Southeastern Conference be forced to keep up by adding a 14th school if and when Texas A&M joins? And what happens to the Big East after once again losing multiple cornerstone programs to the ACC?
"I can say that in all my years of collegiate athletics administration, I've never seen this level of uncertainty and potential fluidity in schools and conferences," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said on a conference call. "Schools, they're looking for stability, and when that stability doesn't exist, for whatever reason, as long as that's going on, I think the conferences that appear to be stable moving forward are going to receive inquiries from schools that are desirous of having that kind of stability."
Until now, the focus of this most recent round of realignment had centered on the Big 12.
Texas A&M already has announced its intention to join the Southeastern Conference, leaving the future of the Big 12 in doubt. The boards of regents at Oklahoma and Texas are meeting today to discuss the possibility of the universities leaving that conference.
Oklahoma could leave for the Pac-12 and take Oklahoma State with it. Texas has stated its desire to keep the Big 12 together, but the Pac-12 could be an option. So could the ACC, or even independence in football — if they can find an arrangement somewhere like Notre Dame and the Big East have for the Irish's non-football teams. Over the weekend, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reaffirmed his desire to keep the Irish independent in football.
In Texas, a group of prominent businessmen and politicians ran full-page ads in some of the state's largest newspapers to plead for the Big 12 to hold together.
"It is time for the boards and administrations of all the institutions in the Big 12 to call a truce ... what we have is a conference not only worth fighting for, it's worth waging peace for," read the ad from Drayton McLane, owner of the Houston Astros, B.J. "Red" McCombs, former owner of the Minnesota Vikings and San Antonio Spurs, former Texas Gov. Mark White and former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardeberger.
But, if Texas and the two Oklahoma schools go, that could mean the end of the Big 12 — and that might create the best-case scenario for the Big East.
The Big 12 schools left behind — Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State — might make serviceable fits for a reconstituted Big East.
"We're not going to talk about any specific scenarios and hypothetical speculation, but you've heard me before, we are in the business of being prepared, and looking at different scenarios," Kansas State athletic director John Currie said. "And we know that we will have K-State in a position — preferably the Big 12 Conference — that is (a BCS) conference competing at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics."
There already has been speculation that West Virginia would be a target for the SEC to balance that conference geographically and grow to 14 members if and when Texas A&M finally joins.
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