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.
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.
Remember when things happened in college athletics without the rest of the world following them up with panic, hysteria and unnecessary — sometimes even awful — reactions?
OK, me neither, but if you stretch your brain really far, you might be able to remember a time when a school or conference anywhere in the country could make a move of any kind and that would be that.
Unfortunately that’s not the case any longer. As soon as the news broke that Maryland and Rutgers were involved in serious talks with the Big Ten, fans and officials in conferences throughout the country stood up and screamed, “We’re next!”
Just because the Terps and Scarlet Knights are willing to leave what could (and perhaps should) be considered dying conferences does not mean that the rest of the country should jump back in and cause a third round of reckless realignment in three years.
It sure sounded to me like all of this mess was behind us when the Big 12 steadfastly proved it was happy at 10 teams — even as others laughed and rolled their eyes insisting that just couldn’t be the case. If that wasn’t enough, it seemed like the nail in the coffin when the ACC bumped its buyout to a whopping $50 million.
Oops. I guess that wasn’t high enough — somehow.
It’s been known for quite some time that Maryland was one of those schools the Big Ten would consider grabbing should it choose to expand. I can remember hearing talk about the Terps to the Ten during the initial round of realignment three summers ago, when Colorado and Nebraska bolted the Big 12. So the move itself, when taken only as a single move in a vacuum immune from the impact of past, present and future moves around it, actually makes some sense.
But it’s a crying shame that officials within the Big Ten and at Maryland chose now as the time to make this move. It does nothing but confirm the hard truth we already know — that money is king in all walks of life, but most certainly in college athletics.
Some reports have indicated that the Big Ten has been dying to reopen its expansion eyes ever since Notre Dame moved its non-football sports to the ACC several months back. Go figure; jealousy and envy played a role here, too.
Can someone, or perhaps some people, please just get it over with and buy out the NCAA and turn it into what it is sadly becoming anyway — a training ground professional sports league driven by dollars?
For goodness sake, it sounds as if Maryland may get out of the $50 million early exit penalty by, first, negotiating it down and, second, having the Big Ten pick up the bulk of the tab. A tip of the cap goes to the Terps for some savvy business moves there, but a slap on the wrist should head the way of the Big Ten, ACC and NCAA for letting that happen if it does, in fact, go down that way.
I know most out there think these moves are the spark that will start another conference realignment wildfire, but I’m not one of them.
For starters, I don’t think this changes anything for the Big 12 Conference. The conference was happy with 10 members before and it will be happy with 10 members after, too.
I know there is some strong interest in adding Florida State if the opportunity presents itself, but, (1) I don’t see the Big 12 footing the bill for the buyout the way the Big Ten may with Maryland, and (2) the league has said all along that any expansion moves would have to be made up of a couple of knock-your-socks-off schools. Florida State certainly is in that category but I don’t think there’s a 12th team out there on that level — not BYU, not Boise State, not Louisville. Who?
The best guess here, particularly because this Maryland/Rutgers thing moved so quickly, is that this will be a big splash for a few days and then the realignment waters will be still again.
The ACC will move on, perhaps by poaching a team like UConn (a willing mover) from the Big East, forcing the Big East to take yet another step toward becoming an all-basketball league, with its football schools playing independent schedules. That’s the only way for that conference to maintain relevance in the changing landscape of college athletics. And who knows if even that will do it?
I’ve already talked to a couple of people about this latest mess and I’ve got a few more calls out there, so if anything interesting or noteworthy pops up regarding the Big 12, you know where to find it.
Until then, we’re back to our old tried and true catch phrase: Stay tuned...
Here are a few links to peruse for those who might be interested in reading more about what’s going on:
Here are some of the specifics on the Maryland/Rutgers news:
Here’s a blog that includes a take on the Big 12:
And here’s a good read about the ramifications and money ruling everything:
Today’s announcement that Notre Dame will move its non-football sports to the ACC has sent a large faction of Big 12 fans into a frenzy.
Although I understand why this is the case on the surface, I’m not so sure the announcement is worth getting worked up about.
For starters, it seems as if Notre Dame joining the Big 12, either entirely or as a partial member, was a longshot to begin with. There were talks and those talks were extensive, but I’ve been told that there was never a strong indication that the Fighting Irish, as things stand today, were ever really that interested in joining the Big 12.
The reasons for that are plentiful and include everything from academics and athletics to Notre Dame’s desire to maintain control.
As part of the agreement to join the ACC, Notre Dame will play five football games against ACC opponents annually but will continue to operate as an independent, which has been the school’s goal all along. That set-up is not a huge departure from what the Irish have done lately anyway. Just look at this year’s Notre Dame football schedule which includes Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest and Pitt, all schools that are in or will be in the ACC by the time Notre Dame joins.
In maintaining its independent status, the Irish not only will be able to continue their relationship with NBC, but also should be able to continue healthy rivalries with schools such as Navy, USC, Michigan State and others.
It’s a good move for the Irish and an even better move for the ACC. Looks like a win-win for both sides and, whenever that’s the case, it’s certainly hard to argue.
But enough about Notre Dame. What does all this mean for the Big 12?
In my mind, the answer to that is simple — the Big 12, as it has said for quite some time, will be staying at 10 teams for a long, long time.
There was some genuine interest in adding schools like Notre Dame or Florida State, but with those schools now off the table thanks to Notre Dame’s move to the ACC and the ACC’s simultaneous announcement that its exit fee would be increased to $50 million, those schools, along with Virginia Tech, Clemson and others now look to be off limits.
Quick sidenote: I can’t help but be mightily impressed by what the Big 12 and ACC have done in consecutive years in the face of uncertain and very dangerous futures. The Big 12 looked all but dead a year ago yet found a way to bounce back and flourish both in terms of its financial situation and its public image. Shortly after the Big 12 became more stable than ever, the ACC took its place on the chopping block and appeared to be equally as vulnerable, if not more so. Yet, here that conference is today, announcing the addition of Notre Dame and securing its future by agreeing to up its exit fee to an amount that no one would dare tangle with. Impressive.
And hopefully, just maybe, their moves can put an end to conference realignment for the foreseeable future. I won’t hold my breath on that, though.
The Big East, which has been in a tough spot all along, now becomes the most vulnerable league by far, with the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC all positioned to pick up any number of Big East defectors should it come to that. Maybe it won’t. But if the Big 12 were to make a move to expand, that’s likely where it would look.
Again, I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t think the remaining schools “out there” are impressive enough nor profitable enough for the Big 12 to want to bring them in to split the pie 12 ways instead of 10. It just doesn’t make sense to bring in schools for the sake of bringing them in when the schools you’re picking up don’t add much to the pot.
Louisville, UConn and even Rutgers all are intriguing options for various reasons, but neither of them is on par with the Notre Dames and Florida States of the world. And Big 12 leaders have said all along that it would take a special school for them to consider expanding. I don’t think the schools I mentioned above are considered special by anyone outside of their fan bases.
Adding any of those schools or a program like BYU (which isn’t happening) would not be a lucrative enough endeavor to make it worth the Big 12’s while.
I know the concept that bigger is better is tough for people to get past when it comes to realignment, but it’s important to remember that what’s good for one league isn’t necessarily what’s good for another.
The ACC now has 15 teams and the Big 12 has 10. Both appear to be stable and headed toward exciting and profitable futures. What’s wrong with that?