Former Kansas University safety Isaiah Johnson, the 2013 Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year, ran through his first taste of SEC football on Tuesday with his new team, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Speaking with reporters after practice, Johnson, who chose to leave KU in the offseason to play out his final season of eligibility closer to his Cary, North Carolina, home, said it felt good being back on the field despite the new surroundings and reports indicated that he worked primarily with the second unit.
Because he's no longer wearing crimson and blue, I get that most Jayhawk fans could give a rip about Johnson, the Gamecocks or how either of them fares this season.
But in the brief interview I saw from Johnson after practice, he did touch on a topic that I thought KU fans might find interesting.
“I liked it,” Johnson said of his first SEC practice. “Overall, I thought I did pretty good. It's cool being out here adjusting around these guys, coming from a different level.”
Not content to just let those thoughts drift off into the South Carolina swelter, one reporter followed up by asking Johnson to compare the Big 12 and the SEC.
“Competition-wise, I think it's around the same,” Johnson said. “Really, I just think it's more of a tempo thing, coming from the Big 12 to here, from more up-tempo, hurry-up offenses to kind of being more, not lackadasical, but more you've got time to rest as a defender and a DB.”
None of this should come as much of a surprise, but it was interesting to hear nonetheless. For years, these two conferences have played contrasting styles, with the SEC favoring more of the pound it on the ground, 17-13 games and the Big 12 choosing to air it out and play games in the 40s and 50s.
All the while, the debate has raged on about which conference was more powerful. The SEC, with its string of seven consecutive national titles from 2006-12, always has used the ultimate prize and postseason success as its trump card. And backers of the Big 12, which has not fared as well in the postseason recently, always have claimed that the Texas-based league is stronger from top to bottom.
Plenty of players in the past have suited up in both leagues, but I can't remember many — if any — coming from Kansas. That makes Johnson's move at least worth tracking and it should be very interesting to see how he fares with his new team this season.
Johnson was great during his first season at KU but fell back a little last year and was merely average. With just one season remaining in his college career and dreams of playing in the NFL on his mind, you can count on the former Jayhawk giving all he's got this season.
“It's not a lot of pressure,” he said. “I'm used to it. I'm ready. I came in with my mind right and I'm just going about my business.”
Saturday afternoon news broke that the Texas Longhorns were prepared to move on from men's basketball coach Rick Barnes after 17 seasons.
Regardless of whether it goes down as a firing, a resignation or a force-out, the mere fact that Barnes is moving on and the UT job is open ushers in a wildly exciting time for the Big 12 Conference.
That job, because of a talented returning roster, UT's relatively solid history of success and the resources and money available to turn that program into a force, will attract some of the best candidates in college basketball.
We're not just talking about guys who are looking to make a nice little jump. We're talking about guys who would be candidates at some of the country's best basketball schools if those jobs were open.
Kansas. North Carolina. Duke. Michigan State. Shaka Smart. Gregg Marshall. Ben Jacobson. Archie Miller. And more.
But forget about the candidate pool, which guys have a real shot and what direction the Longhorns want to go. That, right now, is anybody's guess and all those of us observing from afar have to go off of is the recent hiring of Charlie Strong as UT's football coach. Given that the hoops job is a completely different animal, I'm not sure that helps lead us to any quality predictions.
What we can predict, though, is how much the hire — whoever it ends up being — will impact the Big 12 and Kansas.
Let's say, for a second, that Marshall is the guy. Just like that, KU coach Bill Self will go from not knowing when he'll get another crack at Marshall, whose Wichita State team ended Self and KU's season a week ago in Omaha, to two guaranteed match-ups with the guy year in and year out.
That's an awesome scenario to envision. And could immediately breathe life back into the KU-Texas battles and make it the marquee rivalry in the conference.
If it's not Marshall and the Longhorns go with a guy like Smart, you're looking at a scary situation in which a sleeping giant could be awoken.
Smart is so beloved by his players, would be able to recruit top-tier talent to Austin and, beyond that, would bring a nasty style of play to the conference that could give teams fits.
If it's me making the hire, I'm going after Smart and not taking no for an answer.
But regardless of who the Texas administration goes after, they'll have enough high-quality candidates to make it nearly impossible to mess this one up.
All that remains to be seen is how big of a splash the new UT hoops coach will make on the rest of the Big 12.
Reports have said they'd like to make the hire quickly, perhaps by the end of the coming week. Can't wait to see who it is.
With national signing day now in the rearview mirror, ESPN.com Big 12 blogger Jake Trotter recently scoured the conference's recruiting classes and found that 115 of the 229 players who signed with Big 12 schools this February were from Texas.
Big surprise, right? Of course not. But the state that ranked third on the list just might be.
Kansas, that's right the Sunflower State you all know and love, ranked third in the 2015 class with 13 athletes signing national letters of intent with Big 12 schools this season.
The Jayhawks, who finished with 24 players in their 2015 class, picked up two of those, with three-star Bishop Miege quarterback Ryan Willis and three-star Butler C.C. offensive lineman Will Smith inking with Kansas. Not surprisingly, Kansas State picked up the lion's share of that group, with six of the 20 signed players in K-State's 2015 class coming from Kansas.
All six of those — along with three others who Rivals.com lists as committed but not yet signed — are Kansas high school prospects, including Lawrence's own Scott Frantz, a Free State High offensive lineman, who had offers from Iowa State, Kansas, Miami (Florida), Minnesota, Missouri and Purdue among others.
Outside of those two Big 12 schools, Oklahoma State (3) and Iowa State (2) also plucked a few players out of the Sunflower State, with all five of their signees coming from the Kansas juco scene.
Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Boise State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and roughly two dozen other schools also signed Kansas kids, most of those from the juco ranks. The combination of the prominent place in the Big 12 standings along with the attention given to Kansas prospects from conferences around the country only adds clarity to the reason first-year KU coach David Beaty and his staff are striving to make in-state recruits a big-time priority for the future of Kansas football.
"We want to do a good job of keeping the best players in the state of Kansas right here at home at their university. That is top priority for us, and we do that by building relationships not only with them but with their coaches and their parents and the families and the fans. We want to develop a walk-on program because we only get so many scholarships a year, and there's a lot of guys out there in the state of Kansas that want to be a part of their great program, and that walk-on program can be powerful. We want it to be the most powerful walk-on program in the country, and that's a goal of ours. We want to open the doors to more than just 25 a year of the great athletes that there are here in the great state of Kansas. We truly want this to become a Kansas identity football team. We're going to hit the state of Texas, we're going to hit the state of Oklahoma, we're going to hit the state of Missouri, but make no mistake, it'll be a Kansas identity football team." — DAVID BEATY, Dec. 8, 2014
Here's a look at Trotter's per-state break down of recruiting in the Big 12 in 2015:
Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Canada all had one each.
For a complete look at some more interesting recruiting trends in the Big 12 this year, including how the conference's football programs are expanding their recruiting into new territory, check out Trotter's blog.
With the calendar turning to February in just a few days, and March being the month that follows February, it doesn't seem all that ridiculous to start looking ahead at the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
While ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi and others do this year round, even in the offseason when no games are being played and coaches are still putting together their recruiting classes, several other college basketball analysts start to fire up their serious thoughts right around now.
Toss ESPN's Jay Bilas into that mix. I realize that Bilas probably was asked for and gave his Final Four picks during some kind of season preview a few months ago. No harm in doing that. But the input he can provide today, now that he's seen a ton of games and a ton of teams is much more valuable.
On Wednesday, Bilas, with a little help from John Gasaway, posted his Top 68 teams in college basketball rankings on ESPN.com's Insider page, and, not-so-surprisingingly, the former Duke player and current face of college basketball broadcasting had eight of the Big 12's 10 teams ranked in his Top 68. Whether they'll all stay there or get into the tournament remains to be seen. (For what it's worth, Lunardi currently has the same eight IN the tournament in his latest Bracketology projections).
Anyway, as is the case in the Big 12 standings, the Jayhawks are the top Big 12 team listed on Bilas' rankings, with KU coming in at No. 13.
Here's what Bilas has to say about KU:
Bill Self and his staff have done a marvelous job winning with this team and, while there is a long way to go, KU seems on the way to its 11th straight Big 12 title. Self has had to push a lot of different buttons, and call a lot of different players into action to piece together wins. The Jayhawks have lost only three games, and have won against a very solid schedule. While rated No. 1 in the RPI (which tells you all you need to know about the RPI), Kansas is rated 18th in offensive efficiency and 39th in defensive efficiency. The key has been the play and steadying influence of Frank Mason solidifying the point guard slot. The development of Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander will be the difference going forward. -- Jay Bilas
As for the rest of the conference, Bilas & Gasaway break the Big 12 down like this, at least today…
16 - Iowa State
18 - Oklahoma
20 - Texas
22 - Baylor
23 - West Virginia
49 - Oklahoma State
55 - Kansas State
For those of you who are "ESPN Insiders" and would like to look at Bilas' entire Top 68, the complete list can be found here.
The guys and gals at Fox Sports Southwest conducted an anonymous player poll of all Big 12 football players in attendance at Big 12 media days earlier this week in Dallas.
The results, which they published Tuesday, had a little more KU football flavor than I expected.
Here's a quick look at the questions and the noteworthy KU answers. Check out the link for the rest of the answers.
1. Who is the Big 12's best team?
Not surprisingly, KU received no votes.
2. Who is the Big 12's most overrated team entering 2014?
Somewhat surprisingly, KU received 3 percent of the votes here, which means exactly one of the 39 players polled mentioned KU. If there's one thing I would think Kansas would avoid being called it's overrated. But, hey, to each his own. No explanation was given.
3. Which Big 12 coach would you most like to play for?
Players were not allowed to say their own coach here and KU coach Charlie Weis received 3 percent of the votes, with one player saying: "The first game we played KU, he was the first coach who ever found his way through the crowd and found me. He shook my hand and told me I did a good job and it was just shocking."
4. Which coach would you least like to play for?
Weis tied with TCU coach Gary Patterson for the top honor here, with each receiving 18 percent of the votes, or the nod from seven different players. The lone explanation here was brief: "He just hasn't been that successful."
5. Which Big 12 school has the best fans?
As you might have guessed, KU received no votes.
6. Which Big 12 school has the worst fans?
This one might sting a little for some of you, as 40 percent (16 players) voted Kansas in a runaway. It doesn't sound like KU's reputation for having the Big 12's worst football fans came from their vulgar behavior or nasty ways. Quite the opposite, in fact. Said one player: "Their fans don't show up. They're a basketball school." ... "They're too into basketball." ... "The stands were like half full."
Check out the full results for more on which programs the players themselves think have the best, and worst, players, coaches and fans in the Big 12.
During the past couple of weeks, I've been asked a few times when I was going to do another conference realignment update in the wake of the ACC announcing its granting of rights agreement that will run through 2026-27.
I certainly understand the interest, and, yes, the ACC news was huge for the realignment landscape. But by huge we're talking huge in the sense that it may have put an end to the movement for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the wild and crazy past three years of realignment, we've talked a lot about how this move or that response might be the key to realignment and full-on pandemonium. But it seems clear to me that the ACC locking up its members for such a long period of time makes things as stable as they have been in years, at least throughout college athletics' major conferences.
Could something still happen? Sure. Anything's possible. We've seen and experienced that too many times throughout the past few summers to sit here and say that this means, with 100 percent certainty, that things are done. But while it might not be 100 percent certain, it seems as if it's as close as it can get – maybe 99.9 percent.
There are those out there who believe that the granting of rights agreements don't mean jack. I've heard from them countless times throughout my coverage of conference realignment and, while I understand where they're coming from, I'm much more inclined to believe the college administrators in multiple conferences who have told me that such agreements are worth their weight in gold.
With that thought in mind, it makes sense to deduce that things will be quiet for a while now that the ACC is solid again. And I gotta admit, my hat's off to that conference for getting it done. I really believed the ACC was flirting with disaster.
After all, for the past year or so the ACC's vulnerability has been seen as the one domino that could send the whole thing tumbling once again. If this ACC school or that one left for this conference or that one, then others would be forced to react, both those schools left in the ACC and the other conferences trying to keep up.
Finally, it looks as if the Big 12 can tell people it's happy at 10 teams and the rest of the world can actually believe them.
So what does that mean for the future? Well, from what I can gather it means this: Proceed with caution.
I've had enough talks with enough people throughout the Big 12 to understand that the league will never again be caught off guard. Every time the conference's athletic directors get together or every time its governing body meets, the topic of realignment and/or expansion comes up. Sometimes it's just for 2 minutes to make sure things are still on track and other times it's for a little longer, with conference officials bringing key questions or concerns to the table for discussion. Consider it Big 12 officials staying on top of things rather than waiting for things to play out before rolling up their sleeves.
And consider that yet another legit sign of the strength and vitality of the Big 12.
A recent article from CBS Sports indicates that the Big Ten and commissioner Jim Delany had talked to as many as six schools during recent months about the idea of expansion. The article claims that the talks were of a serious nature and that things may have heated up considerably had the ACC not locked up its members with the GOR.
Who knows? It's very possible that there's some truth to that and also possible that the whole thing is just more posturing by the man who many believe started the realignment madness in the first place.
Either way, thanks to the ACC, we don't have to find out.
Delany did not disclose the names of the schools he talked to and I can't imagine that he ever will. Was KU one of them? I suppose it's possible, perhaps even likely, but from everything I've been told, it sure doesn't sound like KU had any kind of contact with the Big Ten about realignment.
Now, it's important to remember that contact can be made in both official and unofficial manners. Maybe KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger never talked to Delany about realignment, but maybe a friend of a friend of a friend at KU did.
Again, we'll probably never know and we'll probably never need to.
From where I sit, that's the best news to come from realignment in years.
I didn't write this to proclaim that realignment is over once and for all. None of us are naïve enough — any more — to actually think we're done with this demon for good. It'll come up again, most likely whenever someone gets upset with the way things are run in their conference and certainly whenever these various granting of rights agreements close in on expiration. But for now, it seems as if we can safely get back to mowing the lawn, enjoying cook outs and diving into other elements of sports coverage in the summer instead of tracking the madness of conference realignment.
Time will tell. And you know we'll stay on top of it.
Now, get out there and enjoy this weather.... Oh, wait.
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/
3:02 p.m. Update:
Well, by now I'm sure many of you have heard that the ACC issued a joint statement which indicated that the rumors about ACC schools going to other conferences are false.
That's what they're saying, anyway.
Here's the link:
I applaud the ACC for saying something, even if it is somewhat laughable, but I can assure you that this statement means very little in all of this. If you're in the ACC's shoes, it's much better to have something like this exist than not. But it hardly means things are sunny in ACC land right now.
Let's face it, they upped the exit fee to $50 million — an astronomical number at the time it happened — and even that didn't keep schools from leaving. If a school wants to leave and another conference wants to take them, they're gone. That's still at least a decent sized "if" at the moment, as we're simply waiting to see if the Big Ten really wants to take its power play all the way.
A couple of quick things to share before I move on to the rest of my day and get back to wrapping up the Kansas University football season and working on that Granting of Rights story. It’s coming... I promise. And it’s going to give you a real thorough look at what that thing’s all about.
Just quickly, though, I noticed that there has been a lot more talk out there about Big Ten expansion in the past 24 hours and I wanted to touch on that a little more.
Popular opinion right now says that as soon as the Big Ten adds two more to get to 16 that will open the floodgates for the ACC, SEC and Big 12 to jump on the bandwagon and start adding to their member lists as well. That makes sense. But I’m not so sure it’s going to go that way.
I know a lot of people out there believe that such a move would force the Big 12 to act, but you have to remember that, at its core, this thing is all about television dollars. If the Big 12 can add a couple of teams — say Florida State and Clemson — and increase its value in the eyes of the league’s television partners then it becomes a no-brainer to expand. Do it yesterday. But if not, why do it at all?
It’s not as if this is a guessing game either. The TV execs would gladly enter (and may already have) into any discussions or negotiations about the potential to make more money (from their advertisers and corporate sponsors) but also would be very blunt in explaining to any conference whether moves A, B or C would actually bring increased value. If they say no, I don’t think you can expand. If they say yes, poach away.
One Big 12 administrator with knowledge of the league’s television deals I spoke with yesterday said he did not think college athletics was headed toward four 16-team super conferences any time soon and also said he thought both the ACC and Big 12 were in good shape and did not need to panic and expand for the sake of expansion.
Another league source told me recently that he thought if the Big 12 wanted to expand it likely would have done so already.
I know many reports have indicated that there is some division within the Big 12 about the issue of staying at 10 or expanding. While that may be true on a small level, I don’t believe the members who are open to expansion have reached the point where they are adamant about it happening. I think all 10 still see the value in staying at the current number and are content to remain there.
I’m not sure the same can be said for the Big Ten.
This recent report features Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis pointing out the advantages of expanding to 16....
... And this report quotes Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise saying that the league did not discuss any other schools when it unanimously voted to approve the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-12-06/no-other-universities-considered-big-ten-when-maryland-rutgers-joined.html
The articles above do not necessarily indicate that Big Ten officials have differing viewpoints on further expansion, and it’s clear in both of them that the league is planning to evaluate the landscape on a daily basis and will act accordingly.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and company are certainly worth keeping an eye on but it may be possible that the Big Ten is not the key piece in all of this after all.
I know I’ll be watching just as closely for news from the ACC’s lawsuit against Maryland and Rutgers’ lawsuit against the Big East. Both are intriguing, potentially game-changing moves and the outcome of either could have just as big of an impact on conference realignment as any expansion talks.
Time will tell.
While we wait, here's an updated percentage wheel with my thoughts on what the Big 12 will do in the near future...
I’m still working on that granting of rights story to help bring a little clarity to the issue of why KU and the rest of the Big 12 schools can’t or, more likely, won’t leave for another conference any time soon.
I’ll make sure you all see that when it’s finished.
For now, though, let’s shift gears back to the concept of the Big 12 adding schools as opposed to any of the current members leaving.
If we’ve learned nothing else through this whole realignment mess it’s that things change quickly and sometimes turn 180 degrees on the same day.
That seems to be the case currently, as the hottest rumors regarding the Big 12 today center on the possible addition of Florida State and perhaps even one or more other ACC schools.
Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and, possibly even Georgia Tech could be included if something were to take place. But right now the whole thing seems to be stuck in a holding pattern featuring heads on swivels.
Curt Popejoy of RantSports.com released a recap late Tuesday night that said Tampa radio stations have been reporting that FSU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 and that an announcement could come as soon as next week.
I don’t think we’re there yet. There are too many elements of this thing still up in the air, whether that’s the result of the ACC’s lawsuit against Maryland to enforce full payment of the $50 million exit fee or the fact that the Big Ten may still be looking to expand its membership, which, if it did, would have a major impact on the rest of the realignment rodeo.
Multiple sources have told me recently that very few people/schools involved in this mess actually enjoy the idea of realignment but are forced to act or at least prepare to act out of a sense of self preservation.
It’s my belief that the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12 all have been working hard behind the scenes on ways to not only strengthen their conference through proactive movement, but also to ensure that their current lineups will not be harmed by movement elsewhere.
It’s a sticky situation and could spin out of control just as quickly as it could once again calm down.
If there’s one final thing I’ll emphasize (again) it’s that the Big 12 is happy at 10 teams but is not choosing not to be foolish this time around and won’t simply sit around and wait for the rest of the world to act. That does not mean the league will add BYU or Cincinnati just to expand, but it does mean it could give a serious look at some serious candidates, with Florida State being the top priority among them all.
Here are a few links for you to look over while I wait to hear back from some more folks. I’ll try to update this later today and throughout the week.
Here’s the latest from realignment guru Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com, who offers some great insight from the Texas point of view: http://texas.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1445262
The Pac-12 continues to stand by the claim that realignment is not on the horizon, but that’s largely because the league does not have as many attractive options as the others should it choose to expand. Here’s the latest from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who recently said San Diego State and Boise State would be on the league’s list of candidates if it were to expand: http://www.pacifictakes.com/2012/12/4/3721260/conference-realignment-pac-12-boise-state-san-diego-bsu-sdsu
Most of this is common knowledge, but it’s laid out very nicely here: http://www.bloguin.com/crystalballrun/2012-articles/november/the-big-picture-of-conference-realignment.html
Finally, this is a couple of weeks old now (and, in realignment that’s ancient) but here’s what a member of Florida State’s board of trustees had to say recently regarding FSU’s plans: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2012/11/19/maryland-florida-state-fsu-trustee-andy-haggard-college-conference-expansion-realignment/1715537/
3:44 p.m. Update:
Still working on a few things and waiting on a few calls to see if I can get some more info on all of this, but nearly all of the people I have talked to continue to point to the Big 12's comfort at 10 teams as a very real thing and something that does not put the conference in any danger.
Here's a column from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com that essentially spells out why. Most of it you've heard here, but it's still a good read.
Also, in case you didn't check out the audio from KU men's basketball coach Bill Self's news conference today, here's a look at some of Self's thoughts on the current state of conference realignment:
“Everybody thought it was pretty much status quo, and there’s one guy working behind the scenes that’s really good that has now changed the entire landscape of what’s going on, and that’s (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany,” Self said. “With what he’s done with the Big Ten, it’s now caused a trickle down.”
“The SEC is going to poach somebody now,” Self said. “They’re going to go to 16. The ACC is going to have 16. But, the SEC may poach the ACC, so now that’s going to screw that number up. So where are we on this stuff? I don’t know that we could be on more solid footing right now,” Self said. “With the situation with the SEC and the Big 12 in football, the alliance, the new television deal, we are in great shape. I don’t think there’s any need to rush to do anything.”
“I think with the movement that’s going on, the landscape will change and feelings will change,” Self said. “Now maybe the way we thought it was isn’t exactly the way it could be two or three, five years from now.”
9:51 a.m. Update:
Here's a nice assessment of things from Matt Hayes, of the Sporting News, who spells out more clearly what the result of the ACC's lawsuit against Maryland (for full payment of the $50 million exit fee) could mean for the future of the ACC and the future of expansion and realignment.
8:56 a.m. Update:
As expected, the ACC woke up bright and early this morning to vote to add Louisville starting in 2014. Here's a nice recap on the whole thing from ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy.
It'll be interested to see where things go from here. Even though the move to grab Louisville would seem to indicate that the ACC is going to survive, it actually could wind up being a move that makes their situation more precarious, as the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC all could see it as a sign that they should get going with their expansion plans (not that the Big Ten needs the nudge) which could lead all three to look toward other ACC schools as outlined below.
Now that this has become official, I'll do a little checking around to see if anyone in the Big 12 or at KU has any kind of reaction.
It's interesting, because people assumed for months that Louisville would jump at the chance to join the Big 12. And they probably would have. But, as I outline below, I don't think the Big 12 is crying over this one. If it truly wanted the Cardinals, it would've signed them up long before getting to this point.
I also thought this Tweet that just came through from ESPN's Joe Schad was pretty interesting:
ACC Presidents have agreement to disclose any contact from other conferences and source says it hasn't happened outside of Maryland — Joe Schad via Twitter
Doesn't mean much for the news from today, but could mean a lot moving forward if other leagues try to poach more ACC members.
Original Post, 11:49 p.m. CST 11/27
A couple of quick conference realignment notes to get your Wednesday morning started off right (or cap off your Tuesday night depending upon in which time zone you’re reading this).
First, let’s look at what’s new in the ACC, where news broke this week that the league officially has filed a lawsuit against Maryland requesting the entire $50 million buyout and, while that was going on, decided to call a meeting for Wednesday morning (Nov. 28, a.k.a. today) to talk about expansion.
If universities hopping three time zones and not batting an eye at multi-million dollar penalties to play in new leagues didn’t lead you to the conclusion that this whole thing’s a mess, maybe that last part will. You read it right. The most vulnerable of all the current BCS leagues, the one in danger of having the rest of its teams plucked away by the Big Ten, SEC and, yes, even the Big 12, is actually looking to expand.
Hey, they could be onto something and it may very well be the only way for the league to survive. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
Anyway, one of the hottest expansion targets for the suddenly scrambling ACC is Louisville. Louisville, you may recall, has long been rumored to be a potential target for the Big 12 should it choose to expand. Wonderful.
Here’s my take on the Louisville component. If the Big 12 wanted Louisville — and I mean truly wanted it, not just thought it would be a decent option if other parts fell into place — it would have signed them up by now. I’m not knocking the Ville or saying it would or would not be a good option for the Big 12. I’m simply saying that those who think the league would cry over losing out on Louisville may be mistaken.
Here’s an outstanding breakdown of what’s going on in the ACC at the moment. Although it’s clear from this report that there may be some serious movement here, the report also makes it clear that the potential additions of Navy, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati, along with Louisville, hardly would represent a coup for the ACC. Survival, perhaps, but certainly nothing to celebrate with a parade or national holiday.
Evidently, today’s ACC conference call to discuss handing out official invitations is set for 7 a.m., so by the time many of you are reading this, things could be well on their way. Even if that’s the case, there’s still plenty of interesting stuff here and plenty to talk about.
Now, let’s look at things from the point of view of the anti-realignment crowd, the group that’s tired of all the moving and shaking and nonsense and just wishes this whole thing would come to an end once and for all.
After news hit that Maryland and Rutgers were leaving the ACC and Big East to join the Big Ten, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was asked how the move would impact the Pac-12. In short, he said it wouldn’t and he reaffirmed that stance this week by saying that recent expansion talks within the conference produced the same conclusion that the league came to toward the end of the last round — there is no need, at this time, for the Pac-12 to go beyond 12 schools and the league is happy with its current number.
Kind of sounds like another conference I know.
Anyway, here’s a report from Nov. 19 from Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times, who details Scott’s thoughts.
Finally, there’s more smoke coming from Big Ten land that the 14-team conference wants two more and has sent out feelers to Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Notre Dame and, yep, Kansas.
As I explained last week, it does not make any sense, at least not as things stand right now, for KU to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. As appealing as some things might be, the financial burden of leaving the Big 12 would cripple KU’s athletic department.
It would not surprise me at all if Jim Delany and the Big Ten became the first league to reach 16 teams. It also would not make me think any more highly of that league or what they have going on. Bigger, we’ve heard time and time again throughout this ordeal, is not always better.
If Delany gets there, look for Virginia and Georgia Tech to be the two teams he does it with, which only adds more meat to the argument that the ACC, though still in existence, is far from a thriving conference. Take Virginia and Tech away and you’re looking at an even less appealing league, with or without expansion.
So there you have it. The Big Ten and ACC are actively looking to expand, the Pac-12 and Big 12 appear content at 12 and 10 schools, respectively, and the SEC seems more concerned with hiring football coaches and seeing if it can make it seven straight BCS champions than adding new members. Don’t think for a second that all three of the quote/unquote quiet conferences in this have their eyes close right now. Heads are on swivels and activity is being tracked.
If we’ve learned anything through realignment it’s that things can move awfully quickly.