On the surface, with a total of 64 teams in the current Power Five conferences, the math of realigning those schools into a Power FOUR conference structure would appear easy. Make no mistake, though; the math is the only thing that’s easy.
Political dealings, long-standing relationships, academics and television contract math (which is a much more complicated algorithm than “64 divided by four”) are all huge factors that, quite honestly, prevent this dream scenario of some from becoming a reality.
But let’s have some pretend fun for a minute. Can we find the puzzle pieces to make four super-conferences relatively happy, understanding full well that it will leave massive scorched earth at a number of schools that are left behind?
Let’s go step by step:
1. With only a fraction of the tradition and realignment savvy of the other four power conferences, Big 12 will, without a doubt, be the Power Five conference that gets dismantled in this fallout.
2. The SEC, as the most powerful and lucrative college football property in the land, will have first crack at schools in any conference. Because its TV revenue pie only gets bigger on a per school basis if it expands into more states, the SEC invites ACC schools North Carolina and Virginia. They accept. The SEC moves Missouri to the SEC West, and plunks UNC and UVA in the SEC East. The SEC is at 16 schools.
3. Next in the power pecking order is the Big Ten, which cashes in on its evaluation of Oklahoma and Kansas and invites both. Oklahoma and Kansas tell their in-state brethren (Oklahoma State and Kansas State), “Sorry, it’s business.” Kansas joins the Big Ten West, Oklahoma joins a loaded Big Ten East. The Big Ten is at 16 schools.
4. The Pac-12 decides to expand aggressively into Texas by inviting Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor, which allows UT to still feel like a Texas school with the benefit of playing in a stable Pac-12, which becomes the Pac-16. Also, the conference realigns the divisions from North-South to West-East, with the Texas schools aligned with Colorado, Utah and the two Arizona schools. The Pac-12 is now the 16-school Pac-16.
5. Finally, the ACC is left to fill in four spots — two of which were there already and two of which were vacated by UNC and UVA when they defected to the SEC. If Notre Dame is forced to give up its independent football status, this is where it will land, so let’s slot the Irish in the ACC. Now, of the power conferences, the ACC is the one that’s actually mindful of basketball, so let’s add three football schools with strong recent history in basketball — West Virginia, Cincinnati and UConn. (Okay, UConn is a basketball school that happens to play football, I get it. Work with me.) And as an homage to the old Big East, I’m going to realign the divisions into a North-South format that has the old Big East schools all in the same division! It’s like Led Zeppelin getting back together! The ACC is now at 16 schools.
6. The Big 12 refugees — Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State — seek refuge in the AAC or Mountain West conferences, and their fans cry themselves to sleep at night.
So here’s how the four-16-team super-conference world would look (new additions to conferences are in bold):
Unfortunately, in Houston, this configuration still leaves the University of Houston on the outside looking in, likely as one of the more powerful members of a souped-up version of the American Athletic Conference with the Big 12 refugee schools (Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State).
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