We all know conference realignment isn’t finished. The smaller conferences will continue to change each year as more teams enter Division I, and the larger conferences will eventually begin expanding again. Eventually the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac 12 will all have 16 teams. The SEC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 will get to choose who they want in their conferences because those are the three most stable. I would’ve said the ACC will respond, but the new bowl tie-ins and the Big 12’s per-school revenue numbers make the Big 12 a more appealing conference than the ACC now, so the Big 12 will respond before the ACC. Then the ACC will respond.
I don’t know if this will happen in 10 years or 30, but at some point the major conferences will all have 16 teams. Here is my prediction of who they will add and what they will look like:
(Add: Syracuse and Boston College)
Syracuse Penn State Purdue Wisconsin
Boston College Ohio State Indiana Minnesota
Rutgers Michigan Illinois Iowa
Maryland Michigan State Northwestern Nebraska
The Big Ten is obviously one of the most stable conferences, but it tends to be behind the other conferences when it comes to realignment. That won’t happen in the future though. Instead of expanding into the southern market, like the conference talked about in the past, it would be more pragmatic to jump to the northeast. I think that a New York state market in addition to New York City (which Rutgers provides) would be huge for the conference, and a market in the New England region would also be smart. Syracuse and Boston College make perfect sense for that. The Orange are a major program in up-state New York, and Boston College is a well-known northeastern football school. Those would be the two most logical fits, and at that point the Big Ten would move from formerly a midwest conference to a north of the Mason Dixon Line conference. Which brings us to the next move.
(Add: Virginia Tech and N.C. State)
Virginia Tech Florida Alabama Missouri
Vanderbilt Georgia Auburn Arkansas
Tennessee South Carolina Ole Miss LSU
Kentucky N.C. State Mississippi State Texas A&M
The SEC was already a superpower, and with the conference’s new upcoming television deal, it will be able to pick from any school it wants. Adding Virginia Tech and N.C. State is a way for the conference to spread into every southern state’s television market plus a couple of border states. With that jump, the only states east of the Great Plains and below the Mason Dixon Line that don’t have an SEC team will be Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware. None of those states are really southern anyway. The reason for adding N.C. State will be because Duke and UNC will try to stay together. Virginia Tech is a much better school with a better fan base to add than UVA. This will make the SEC and Big Ten rivalry even stronger, because at this point, after these two moves happen, it will simply be a southern conference vs. a northern conference.
(Add: Hawaii, San Diego State, Boise State, UNLV)
USC Arizona State Boise State Washington
UCLA Arizona UNLV Washington State
Hawaii Colorado Stanford Oregon
San Diego State Utah Cal Oregon State
Boise State and San Diego State are already Pac 12 affiliates in some sports, so a permanent move eventually makes sense. And with Boise State’s football program and San Diego State’s market, the expansion will work well for the conference. After that, the conference will probably look at the two most logical and largest markets to add in with good football programs. Exposing Pac 12 football to Hawaii would be logical and exciting, so the Warriors will probably be next, and adding UNLV allows the conference to expand into Nevada and specifically the Las Vegas market in addition to adding a pretty good team.
(Add: Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh)
Texas Oklahoma West Virginia Florida State
Texas Tech Oklahoma State Pittsburgh Miami
Baylor Kansas Notre Dame Georgia Tech
TCU Kansas State Iowa State Clemson
Goodbye ACC. Your conference as it is known will be forgotten when the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC make their moves. With the ACC’s decision to become a basketball conference, it got shut out of the TV deals for major bowl games. With that in mind, every football school will listen to a chance to jump ship, and if Maryland is able to avoid the exit fee, it will open pandora’s box. N.C. State and Virginia Tech will be already gone, but Florida State and Miami will still be available. They’ll be the first to go. The Seminoles already proved their desire to leave when, like Maryland, they voted against the exit fee. Miami, Georgia Tech, and Clemson will see the writing on the wall at that point and will have to realize that the conference is falling apart. The Big 12 would jump at the chance to welcome all four schools, which would give it a southeastern market. I’m also of the mindset that Pitt will get an offer from the Big 12, and with Syracuse and Boston College already gone to the Big Ten, there’s no way the Panthers don’t jump. The final team will be Notre Dame. I know it’s crazy, but I’m still holding out hope that eventually they’ll be forced to join a conference full time. Currently they’re in the ACC, but after all the other moves are made, the Irish will want to be in a more football-oriented conference. Hello Big 12. It will be by far the most jumbled conference in sports with random teams from the Great Plains to the midwest to South Florida, but it’ll expand their market, and no team in the ACC will want to stay.
(Lose: Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Boston College, Syracuse, Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pitt)
(Add: Cincinnati, UCONN, Central Florida, South Florida, Temple, Army, Navy, Memphis, Tulane, Southern Miss, UAB)
UCONN South Florida Virginia Memphis
Temple Central Florida Wake Forest UAB
Army Duke Louisville Southern Miss
Navy UNC Cincinnati Tulane
The good news for the ACC is the conference won’t die. It will essentially take the teams that are left and combine with teams from the American Athletic Conference. Every team on the list is in a different market east of the Mississippi River. I also think Notre Dame will start the trend of Independents joining a conference, and Army and Navy will follow suit. Putting the two Service Academies in this new conference would be great for it because that will allow it to stretch from North Carolina up to Connecticut while touching almost every state. The conference will be a pretty good basketball conference but look a lot like the Conference USA did in 2004. I put UAB in as the final team added because the other AAC schools wouldn’t make sense, and the ACC would want 16 teams. ECU would not be pragmatic since the ACC already has the North Carolina market, and the other available schools would be in Texas and Oklahoma. That would leave UAB, a C-USA team with historic rivalries with the other schools in the conference and a pretty decent sports program. But tough break for Duke, UNC, Virginia, and Wake Forest. UVA and Wake Forest didn’t have many options, and the determination for Duke and UNC to stay together will be what cost them in the end. However, this will make this a pretty good conference, especially in basketball, but football will suffer.
Mountain West Conference
(Lose: San Diego State, Hawaii, UNLV, Boise State)
(Add: BYU, New Mexico State, UTEP, North Texas, Houston, Rice, Tulsa, SMU)
San Jose State Utah State Rice New Mexico State
Fresno State BYU Tulsa New Mexico
Nevada Colorado State Houston UTEP
Wyoming Air Force SMU North Texas
The Mountain West will also be affected by conference realignment and get in on the fun. With the loss of the four teams to the Pac 12 bringing its total to eight teams, another eight will be added, making it the sixth conference with 16 teams, and the conference won’t be that bad either. BYU will jump back into the conference since Independents will be an obsolete thing. The other AAC teams outside of ECU will join the MWC, and it will be a major conference west of the Mississippi. Houston will be a large and perfect market for the conference, SMU will bring in the Dallas market, and UTEP will bring in the west Texas market, plus it could have pretty good rivalry games with New Mexico. With that, New Mexico State is a big enough school to be added in, joining New Mexico, and North Texas would bring in another region of that giant state of Texas. Tulsa brings in the Oklahoma market, and Rice would simply make sense to be added since Houston and SMU will be added.
The changes in the conferences will create an exciting Big Six that will be pretty good. Unfortunately, ECU looks to be the one team that will be left out of the equation, but there is just too much already in the North Carolina market. And with the addition of other FCS teams, the Pirates might get lucky and join some conference made up of other good C-USA, MAC, Sun Belt, and FCS teams that have developed into good FBS schools.
All of this is pure speculation obviously, and none of this may come true. If it does, there’s no telling how long it will take shape. But it’s exciting to talk about.