During the past couple of weeks, I've been approached by dozens of people who have asked me why I haven't written much lately about conference realignment, or at least what's left of this latest round.
The reason is simple: Nothing's happening.
Now when I say nothing, I mean nothing of any substance. Sure Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 officials are constantly keeping one eye glued to the realignment landscape and, as any wise person knows, all of these groups (and more) are developing ever-evolving contingency plans, you know, just in case.
The Big 12 Conference is no different, which makes perfect sense considering the conference's stance is no different today than it was two weeks ago or two weeks before that or two months before that.
The league is happy with 10. It likes the round-robin scheduling set-up and enjoys watching the cash register ring and ding a little longer and louder when it's time to dish out money to its members.
Could this change? You bet. Could it change sometime soon? Sure. Has it changed at any level or in any way yet? Nope.
As anyone reading this update probably already knows, the one thing standing in the way of national conference stability and another mudslide is the Big Ten and it's intentions regarding the ACC. If the Big Ten moves to poach a couple more teams from the ACC — say, in this case, North Carolina and Georgia Tech — that almost certainly will trigger a response from the SEC and the Big 12. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know there, but it is worth noting because I feel strongly that it's the only way (at least right now) that more movement occurs.
Remember, at one point, when the Big 12 looked vulnerable and appeared to be falling apart, even those teams in the league that were on the outside looking in were working their butts off to line up a soft landing. I've been told that if the ball starts rolling, several ACC schools in that same position would do the same thing, perhaps even more aggressively. If that were to become the case and movement did happen, you could probably kiss the ACC goodbye. No hail mary. No last-minute save by league commissioner John Swofford. Just a bunch of new divisions and new rivalries and odd travel.
So if we all know that already, what's the point of this specific post? I guess it's to remind you — or perhaps caution you — that just because someone (even a very powerful someone) comes out and says something regarding realignment that does not mean anything's actually new.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's statements last week in Dallas about the league were interesting and certainly served as good conversation starters, but they weren't really anything new.
Here’s the complete recap from CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd, who does a good job of looking at this thing from all sides. But for those of you not interested in sifting through the whole story, here's a quick look at the key quotes.
1.“We could be proactive, I think,” Bowlsby said.
2.“We continue to watch the landscape,” Bowlsby said. “Until we're persuaded that larger is better we feel pretty good about right where we are.”
3.“That's exactly one of the questions we'll be asking ourselves,” Bowlsby said.
What do all of those quotes have in common? Easy. They all continue to speak of a conference that's happy with its current set-up but wise enough (this time around) to not get caught off guard if something were to happen.
In the past few weeks, rumors have run wild about the Big 12 being in line to add four ACC schools and it just being a matter of which ones the league wants. There also has been more talk about KU and the Big Ten — I can tell you that no conversations have taken place on that front — and, of course, there continues to be discussion about the Big 12 being vulnerable and the Grant of Rights agreement not being as strong as many conference officials suggest.
The rumors will always be there. And a few of them will even be fun to read. Who doesn't like the idea of traveling to Miami or Tallahassee, Fl., in the middle of the Kansas winter?
The Big 12 athletic directors are scheduled to meet Jan. 28-29 in Dallas and what is to take place at those meetings varies depending upon whom you're talking to. Some in the league say realignment will be the top item on the agenda and that they believe it's time for the league to get serious about a plan to expand. Others, including multiple league sources whom I spoke with this week, say realignment will likely be kicked around — as it always is — but that issues such as scheduling, future championships and other financial matters will garner just as much attention.
Without being in the meetings and without those meetings taking place yet, it's hard to know exactly what will or even should happen. Perhaps we'll know more when they're behind us. Or perhaps it will be more of the same, with the Big 12 sitting pretty at 10 and the rest of the world around it debating whether the league should expand to 12, 14 or 16.
Either way, it looks as if the Big 12 has options. And, in this game, that's a good thing.
I'll leave you with a new installment of the sacred percentage wheel, which, based on my conversations with people around the league, gauges (at this point) how likely the Big 12 is to move to expand in the next several months:
Here's a look at a few other articles that might be of interest, at least to those of you who, like me, find all of this equal parts fascinating, maddening and twisted. Enjoy!
This report from The Washington Post brings us up to speed on the legal activity involving Maryland and the ACC: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/terrapins-insider/wp/2013/01/18/maryland-attorney-general-moves-to-dismiss-accs-lawsuit-against-maryland/
This update, from Orangebloods.com's Chip Brown, paints a picture of some more serious discussions at the AD's meetings next week: http://texas.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1463673
Here's another post on Bowlsby's comments from Dave Miller of the National Football Post, who says the Big 12 is on the clock: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/big-12-clock-conference-realignment-103000567--nfl.html
This report, from Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, explores the possibility that the Big Ten might not stop expanding until it reaches 18 teams: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-01-05/sports/ct-spt-0106-northwestern-football--20130106_1_brian-arnfelt-big-ten-nu-fans
Finally, here's a nice way to keep track of all of realignment's moving pieces, put together by collegesportsinfo.com. Take a look when you've found a comfortable setting and have got your mind right: http://collegesportsinfo.com/conference-realignment-grid/