Jun 4, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; General view of the NCAA logo at Hayward Field in advance of the 2013 NCAA Track & Field Championships. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Conference Realignment Future

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:

Big Ten 

(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.

Pac 12

(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.

Big 12

(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.


Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: ACC American Athletic Conference Big 12 Big Ten Feature Mountain West Conference SEC

  • Sparty_Cyclone

    Syracuse and BC won’t be added to the Big Ten for the same reason as UConn: none of them are members of the AAU. Rather, it would make more sense (if the B1G were to expand) to invite UVa, UNC, and Duke (assuming UNC and Duke are inseparable). To avoid an odd number of schools, Georgia Tech will also get an invitation. All four schools are AAU members with excellent academic reputations and respectable athletic traditions that push the conference into new territory for the Big Ten Network.

    • David Stroud

      It would be Stony Brook and Buffalo who are both AAU schools. If they want the Boston market? They should talk Boston U. to re-start their football to join. Boston U. is an AAU school as well.

  • David Stroud

    If the Big 10 wants into the New York market and in the Boston market? They need these three teams to get upgraded better who are AAU schools.

    Stony Brook
    Boston U. needs to readd football.

    Both Buffalo and Stony Brook have been improving in football in recent years. Stony Brook have improved also in basketball and baseball, so you get the NYC market, plus you get the NYC Versus New Jersey crowd going if you add SB. Big 10 wants to talk about going to 22 teams, but 24 teams would get you a 4 pods of 6. Be much easier to control, and equal numbers. This would leave room for schools for schools in states that do not have a team in the power 5 conferences. The reason you need to leave room is because of the anti-trust lawsuit issues which helped got Utah into the PAC 12. I do see Kansas, Tulane and Texas could wind up in the Big 10 which leaves Big 12 looking for more teams.

    Now, here are teams that I do think that could get into the power 5 conferences.
    Houston, has history, and strong tv viewing market could be a plus for any conference. I think they need to be in the Big 12. If Texas leaves for the Big 10? Another large student body, and public school needs to replace them. The two privates of Baylor and TCU will not help the Big 12 in the future.
    SMU, the Ponies have history. You wonder where their program would be at today if they did not get the death penalty.
    Tulane, one of the former founder of SEC, they need to get back into the power 5 conferences again. One problem? New Orleans have less residents ever since Kathrina hit.
    Memphis is one that I am seeing could join the Big 12 first. They already have history in football. Adding them will help the school to have games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee again. Memphis played much better when they played those two schools every year. It is a rivelry game that is missed, and could boast up Big 12 versus SEC games. Plus, imagine the RPI ratings for the mens basketball will do for the Big 12?
    Cincinnati might be an interested choice. Would bring the second Ohio school onto the table.
    U. Conn. The only way they get in is to avoid any anti-trust lawsuit.
    NAVY would go somewhere unless they can keep some of their other games on the table. Those schools are later.
    UCF and USF will go to the Big 12. I disagree about Miami, Florida right now. Miami, Florida nobody wants to touch anymore, and I have seen their stadiums like almost half empties, and tv ratings for their games have dipped below 1 million. Their recent scandal and them getting off from getting any death penalty made them one of the most hated teams right now.
    East Carolina will get in a power 5 conference. The conferences are looking for ways of making money? Their fan support could help bring money in, and fill in any empty seats.
    Montana, will get a spot just to avoid any anti-trust lawsuit.
    Liberty, maybe their money and enrolled students could buy their way in. They are in the top 10 schools with students enrolled.
    Cal-Poly, there have been talks in the past of them joining the PAC 12. Them and Cal.-Davis are both on the same level with UCLA and the other California PAC 12 schools in education wise. Cal.-Davis is listed as an AAU school.
    North Dakota State, with their fan support that travels, they could be a fit in the Big 12, and be a threat in winning the Big 12 title. They have the talent, and they have won titles this last year for their conference in football, basketball and baseball. Adding them would avoid the anti-trust lawsuit as well.
    Villanova, heard rumors that they wanted into the ACC. If they want in, they need to upgrade their football big time. That goes with Georgetown, and also St. John’s who needs to add the sport to get in. Who would not refuse them if they upgrade their football big time?
    Delaware is a rival for NAVY. Adding them will keep them in the fold, and brings another state in to avoid the anti-trust lawsuit.
    Old Dominion to the Big 12? Why not? Virginia school strong in most of their sports, and a closer opponent for West Virginia. This would help the BIG 12 to raise their RPI in basketball as well.
    UALR if they added football, they would used the War Memorial Stadium. They last play football as Little Rock Junior College.
    Boston U. needs to add football, and they are a AAU school. They will get into the Big 10 before Boston College.
    Fullerton State, Northridge State and Long Beach State rumblings that they could restart their football programs. They could help bring their strong Basketball and baseball programs to any conference.
    Wichita State could get in if Kansas moves to the Big 10. They are in a much bigger populated area than Kansas and Kansas State. Bringing their basketball program into the Big 12 could help replace the lost of Kansas.
    UAB could need help relocated. Conference USA being far apart like they are could need a tighter footprint.
    South Alabama is a growing football team, but being in Mobile brings in that market.
    Arkansas State have been the power house in the SBC lately. They could be in the picture to help bridge the gap in the Big 12.
    Cantral Arkansas same as above.
    Fresno State and San Diego State both in the rumor mills. West coast and central plains need more schools to represent them. Most of the big 5 schools are located east of the Mississippi river.
    Air Force and Colorado State both deserves a home. Air Force has history, and they go for the President Cup in football against Army and Navy. All three have the Armed Forces Network which the government pay money for broadcast rights to those games for the troops.
    U.Conn. will only get in to avoid anti-trust lawsuit.
    U.Mass. is the only public school big enough to get in. Since most of the schools are private, U.Mass. gets in to avoid anti-trust lawsuits as well..
    Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire gets a spot. Vermont as well if they turned their club team into a varsity team.
    UTEP, UTSA, and Rice are another three along with a former D1 school West Texas A&M could bring in more large markets. Rice is an AAU school, and could join Texas in the Big 10. North Texas fans show up when they play schools that are close by.
    La. Tech, La.-Monroe and La.-Lafayette are three schools coming up.
    Montana State as a package with Montana.
    Stony Brook, an up and coming school that is an AAU in the NYC area. They could get into the Big 10 before Syracuse. Plus, you could have a Rutgers versus Stony Brook rivalry game every year with New Jersey versus New York City match up.
    Buffalo is also an AAU school.
    FAU and FIU both are inside the top 15 universities with enrolled students.
    Mercer and Georgia Southern could find their way somewhere.
    Boise State of course.
    Northern Illinois gets in somewhere. Since the Illinois politicians wants another Illinois public university in the Big 10? I do think they could settle for one of the schools join the Big 12. The nominees are Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State and Sothern Illinois-Edwardsville. The only school that proved themselves to take on FBS schools is Northern Illinois.
    Ball State is an interested choice.
    Western Kentucky showing signs of improvement. They should have gotten a bowl birth last year.
    Wyoming, to avoid anti-lawsuit along with New Mexico.
    South Dakota State
    Utah State and BYU
    Eastern Washington
    Portland state
    western Oregon
    Tulsa and Central Oklahoma
    Missouri State
    Mankato State or Minn.-Duluth
    Southern Mississippi
    Middle Tennessee State
    I would leave Temple out.
    Ohio U., Toledo, Miami, Ohio, Bowling Green and Akron

    To me, I think almost every school deserves to be in the top 5 conferences. They should make it power 6 conferences and make MWC the sixth. Any schools leaving MWC could be replaces with Texas, Oklahoma, Big Sky, MVC, Summitt, and some top D2 schools in the area. Big 12 would be better off letting West Virginia go, and add schools in their area including Memphis.

  • superdestroyer

    It is more likely that the Big 12 goes away before the ACC. The ACC schools gave up ownership of their media rights to get into one of the five big conferences. Why would Boston College move to the Big 10 when all of the money would flow to the ACC?

    Also, there is no way that the Big 12 goes to 16 schools. The Arizona schools, Utah, and Colorado do not want to add schools that are farther west and end up in a division that does not play the California Schools.

  • mredlxiv

    I think the following will happen: First Division I will become Division IV Add a 13th game to help with stipend costs and 9 or 10 conference schedule.. Playoff expands to 8 teams. 4 conference winners. 4 P5 conference runner ups would play 2 at large P5 schools and 2 winners of AAC, MAC, MWC, mini-elimination playoff in a play-in game format. Realignment:
    A. Big Ten adds UVA & UNC + ND as associate member playing 6 games B10
    B. SEC adds VA Tech, NCST
    C. PAC 12 adds UT, TT, OU, OSU
    D. ACC adds KU, KSU, Baylor, Houston, West Virginia, UConn and remains a basketball superpower.

  • unclejesse40

    I personally think that these bigger conferences are going to regret adding all of these schools when its the teams at the top that make the money and the lower ones that suck it from them. People want good games not simply conference games.

  • Conundrum

    This presumed B1G prerequisite of AAU affiliation reminds me of the similarly unwritten rule that no building in Phila could be taller than Wm Penn’s hat atop City Hall. It only served to stunt the City’s growth until it was finally and smartly ignored. To suggest that AAU schools Stony Brook and BU are logical candidates for the B1G while Notre Dame and other non AAU schools are not is absurd. Nevertheless, the word is that UConn is close to joining the ranks of the AAU. Once they do they will be the next likely addition to the B1G to solidify the New York market with Rutgers and bring the BTN to the New England market.

  • Dave Paul

    So many people have not paid attention to the recent additions to the big 3 (Sec, B1g, P12). The 7 schools that they have taken have all been big Public schools with great academics and decent sports programs. The keys here are Public and Academics. The B1g is not interested in any of the 6 Private Acc schools (ND, Miami, BC, Syracuse, Duke, Wake Forest). My prediction is the next 2 schools that they take will be UConn and Virginia.

    • superdestroyer

      Virginia signed away its media rights to stay in the ACC. Moving to the Big TEN will not work since it would conflict with the Big Ten network. Uconn maybe but there would not a western school to match and such a school does not exist.

  • Bill Rubin

    The only way the SEC or B1G can poach schools from the ACC now is if the ACC dissolves–since the ACC member schools have now ceded their media rights to the ACC, making any money earned all guaranteed to the ACC regardless of conference alignment. It is more likely that the Big 12 dissolves and is split up between the Pac 12, B1G, and SEC, with perhaps WVU considering a move to the ACC if the ACC ever allowed that to happen. (Recall that WVU’s first option was the ACC, not the Big 12–there’s a geographical and acaemic reason for that!) Eventually, Notre Dame will be forced to join the ACC fully–when the 4-8 team playoff system becomes the purview of the Big 4-5 conferences, forcing Notre Dame to be in a conference to have a chance to play for the national championship. NBC and ESPN will have to do some maneuvering, but it will happen–it’s inevitable. Notre Dame’s joining the ACC will cement the ACC as one of the Big 4 football conferences as the Big 12 implodes. Even if the Big 12 remains, there will always be a an ACC–too many eyeballs in too many major media markets along the entire Eastern seaboard.

  • Gray

    I agree with superdestroyer: the Big XII is destined for devolution. Only a mass-exodus, thereby dismantling the conference, will allow the Big XII “have’s” to regain national prominence in the post-BCS college football universe. Sooner or later, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and ??? will finally join the Pacific # Conference. When that happens, I expect West Virginia to finally receive that long-awaited invite from the ACC. Kansas (and possibly Iowa State, if those pesky “Virginia Tech-to-the-ACC”-type politicians get involved) should get the nod from the B1G Ten; KU basketball, alone, is well worth the invite. Plus, the BTN will add Kansas City to its list of TV markets.

    Now, the SEC could gamble by adding Kansas State and TCU; realistically, I think the remaining Big XII leftovers look westward and the (non-power) conference invites select members from the Mountain West (and maybe BYU).

  • robertfoshizzle

    This article is unbelievably stupid. The Big Ten isn’t going to go after Syracuse. The only reason they would go after Boston College is for the market, but I’m thinking they would rather get into the south (North Carolina, Georgia Tech, etc.) or go after Texas. Hawaii will NEVER be in the Pac 12, and will never be a major player because of their remote location. I could go on and on, but it’s not worth my time. I understand this is just a “throwing spaghetti” at the wall prediction, but even with that, there are much more sensible ways to go about it.