Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pittsburgh And Syracuse To The ACC

I've been hesitant to talk too much about conference re-alignment just because we don't know what's really going to happen, and I don't want to bother analyzing speculation. The Texas A&M move to the SEC is still not certain, and neither are any moves by the other Big 12 schools to the Pac-12 or Big Ten. It does look at this time, however, that it's a done deal that Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be joining the ACC, with a timetable to be determined soon.

It would be way too soon right now to start analyzing the basketball implications, and where those programs are going to be at when they start in the ACC, but I just want to say that I think we've still got a lot of re-alignment to go.

Clearly we're likely to have more teams added to some of the big established conferences. The Pac-12 is likely going to go to 16, the SEC is likely to go to 14, and the Big Ten could go to 14 as well. The Big East and Big 12 are going to look for new teams to replace their losses as well.

But while people act like the inevitable conclusion are a bunch of 16-team super-conferences, I don't think that's the case. The fact is that 16 team conferences have been really unmanageable in the past, and I'm not convinced they'll work in the future. The first conference to try 16 teams was the WAC, and that lasted less than four years before half the conference bailed to form the Mountain West.

The Big East has had more success with 16 teams, but they've been too bloated as well. Despite the incredible over-hyping by the media each season, there is still a situation where several teams are stuck in the basement every year with no real hope of ever getting out. Obviously there are a whole bunch of teams itching to get out. Pitt and Syracuse are just the first two, I think. There are rumors that West Virginia will go to the SEC, and I'm sure that Clemson and Georgia Tech would happily go to the SEC if the SEC would have them (the SEC won't, since they've already got South Carolina and Georgia in the fold).

The teams that should be nervous right now are the basketball-only Big East schools, as well as the teams that have football but don't play in the FBS - that list includes St. John's, Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence. The conference re-alignment is being driven by football, and that's why a great basketball program won't save a school. Even Kansas is in trouble with the Big 12 collapse because their crappy football program is making them undesirable for the Pac-12, SEC or Big Ten, despite how good their basketball program is. One of the interesting scenarios I've seen batted around is the idea of the Big East basketball schools combining with a couple of Big 12 schools (such as Kansas) and some other schools with great basketball but horrible football (Memphis, Butler, etc). That would be very interesting, but it's obviously very speculative.

Like I said, it's all speculation now. I think we're years away from this settling down. The big conferences will expand, and then I will expect at least some of them to break up from the sheer size. All we can do from here is watch and see what happens. It's impossible to predict.

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