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The Fall of the Big 12: What Realignment Could Look Like

Posted on July 30, 2021 at 12:35 AM


  Article by Dan Tortora


  Since March 2020, our world here in America has been anything but normal.


  We spent time wondering who in our neighborhood was stock-piling all the toilet paper, why peanut butter became such a hot commodity, who was bathing in Lysol, and what was behind each masked being we saw pass by.


  A year and a half later, as masks have come off and we have begun over time to go back to our offices, out to restaurants, and see those we have been away from, things have started to feel familiar again, in a good way.


  Like grabbing a cold drink and a hot dog and sitting in the stands with the sun shining and your favorite team right in front of you instead of on a screen seemingly far, far away.


  But more and more it feels like nothing has been left untouched during these interesting times.


  Just as college football is looking to have a full regular season, fans are preparing to head back into stadiums and arenas, and the media embark on our kickoff events, a wrench comes flying through the air, passing onlookers by en route to the Big 12 Conference.


  That wrench, which materialized due to the decisions of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, has lodged itself into the college football landscape and twisted the right knobs that appear to be changing the college football landscape for the foreseeable future, if not forever.


  The Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns, members of the Big 12 since 1994, have chosen not to renew their grants of media rights with the Big 12 when the current contract ends in 2025.


  A joint statement was released by Oklahoma and Texas, which said, "Providing notice to the Big 12 at this point is important in advance of the expiration of the conference's current media rights agreement. The universities intend to honor their existing grant of rights agreements. However, both universities will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving collegiate athletics landscape as they consider how best to position their athletics programs for the future."


  Both Oklahoma and Texas are eyeing a move to the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which already features 14 institutions, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, a perennial College Football Playoff contender.


  Their potential move to the SEC is now on the fast track of becoming a reality as the 14 chancellors and presidents of the SEC voted unanimously to extend official invitations to Oklahoma and Texas to join the SEC.


  The grant of rights agreements last through June 30, 2025, for Oklahoma and Texas in connection to the Big 12.


  Their exit fee allegedly holds a price tag of $75-$80 million per school and they are supposed to provide 18 months notice to the conference. But as was done in the realignment that happened almost a decade ago in collegiate athletics, institutions can negotiate new terms of what to pay and when to exit with the conference they are currently in.


  It would be reasonable to consider Oklahoma and Texas not having to wait out the almost four years between now and when the grant of rights agreement expires as essentially sitting ducks in a conference they no longer want to be a part of.


  Those that are a part of the Big 12 still (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia) each have a decision to make.


  Remain in a conference that already had to get a waiver to play a football championship game with 10 members as opposed to the 12 members typically required for a championship to occur or all follow suit with Oklahoma and Texas, seeking new homes across the college football landscape.


  Keeping with that notion that the Big 12 will dissolve, here are the landing spots for each of the eight remaining Big 12 schools, according to my prognostications:


  West Virginia heads to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The Mountaineers have fostered rivalries over time with the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers and used to face off against these foes in the old Big East Conference. Some familiarity and an instant renewal of rivalries would help both Syracuse and Pitt have more relevancy in the ACC, igniting fan bases of all three schools as they would have something to circle on the calendar from year to year.


  Iowa State to the Big Ten Conference. There is not much needed to be sold here. This move would turn the Cyclones' rivalry with the Hawkeyes of Iowa into a conference game, and in-state rivalries within the same conference umbrella just simply make sense all the way around.


  TCU to the American Athletic Conference (AAC). As the Commissioner of the old Big East Conference, Mike Aresco already had an agreement with the Horned Frogs to join his conference, but with Syracuse, Pitt, and the Louisville Cardinals leaving during realignment in the early 2010's, TCU backed out. Now, Aresco has the opportunity to rekindle the fire with TCU at a time where his conference only needs one more team to return to 12 football members, get back to two divisions, and have a football championship that does not require a waiver.


  The five remaining Big 12 schools could end up in combinations that would have them all either in the AAC, the PAC-12, or a smattering of both. With the AAC moving their home base from Providence, Rhode Island, to Irving, Texas, during the pandemic, look for the AAC to go after Texas Tech and Baylor to expand their footprint in the state that they now run all operations out of.


  That would leave Kansas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State to join the PAC-12, essentially making it the PAC-15. Kansas and Kansas State can bring their immediate in-state quarrels on the field to the PAC and Oklahoma State would join the two Kansas-based schools in bringing more midwest foes to Colorado, a school inside the PAC that currently makes no logical sense being there due to the fact that most of the PAC is geographically located on the west coast.


  These moves would bring the AAC to at least 12 football members (with TCU) and potentially 14 (with Baylor and Texas Tech), the SEC would have 16, and the PAC would elevate to 15.


  But the ACC and Big Ten would be uneven.


  Which leads me to the notion of Maryland returning to the ACC, a move that would correct what appears to have been an error on their part in leaving the ACC in the first place. The Terrapins have had no relevancy in the Big Ten in football and the noise of their sneakers on the hardwood was so much louder on Tobacco Road and in the surrounding areas of the ACC.


  Maryland's return would end an era of their blunder, bring the ACC to 16 football institutions, and keep the Big Ten at 14 thanks to the addition of Iowa State, which makes more sense for the Big Ten, something the Maryland move never really did do.


  Five conferences will remain, with the AAC finally getting a seat at the table.


  And as the masks come off, we will see different faces in different places.


  2021 just could not let 2020 have the last word.

Categories: College Football, NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference

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