This is Part 2 in a series on conference realignment. Click here to read Part 1.
The SEC either has great marketing foresight or dumb luck because with all the conference movement, and more certainly to come, they will be the only (super) conference that won’t have to rebrand it’s entire identity because of increased numbers. The Big Ten is already shifting to the Molly Ringwald Conference having sweet sixteen teams on board, while the Big 12 is going to trying and develop a healthier academic driven name by going with the formulaic approach of the Big 12=10-2+4. The smart thing would be to avoid name and number combos altogether since they will inevitably grow again unless of course commissioners end up in a Celebrity Death Match for the naming rights to the Big 20. It’s inevitable at this point. Maybe not the Claymation wrestling part, but Bill Yormark’s big words for his Big 12 conference will prove prophetic as the Big 12 being “open for business” just means he’s gunning for 20 teams and not waiting on anyone else.
Long before the realignment heard round the world happened with Texas and OU hoping the grass will be greener in the SEC, there were already talks of Super Conferences. The Pac 12 and their self-righteous moniker as the “Conference of Champions” seemed to be the early adopters of the Super Conference mindset when they added Colorado and Utah in 2010. This was a consolation prize though as they were reportedly trying to eat up all the major players in the Big 12 going after Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State too. If the Big 12 hadn’t reestablished their relationship with those major institutions, we would be living in tomorrow today as the Big 10, SEC, and Pac 12 would’ve likely become the only conferences that mattered while the Big 12 would’ve eroded into nothing. In a shocking plot twist, since that near miss on a total paradigm shift, the Pac 12 still hasn’t won a football championship since 2007 during USC’s “legitimate” run as gridiron kings, and they still haven’t sniffed a basketball title since Lute Olson and Arizona 10 years before that. While the Pac keeps raking in national championships in non-money sports like swimming and diving, indoor track, and women’s golf, that doesn’t help their case when it comes to attracting institutions. In an alternate reality where academic prowess and diversity of sport matter, the Pac 12 would reign supreme, but this is America where money and men tackling each other rise above all else.
Without realizing it, Texas and OU became assassins, but instead of being the mercenaries that would put the Big 12 six-feet under, they actually worked as covert operatives who, without anyone ever noticing, slipped the Pac 12 a shot of poison that is slowly killing them. With USC and UCLA knowing their value and following in the footsteps of their southern brethren, they jumped ship and swam for the Big 10. That move now has the Pac 12 caught up in a complete role reversal with the Big 12 who is about to assume control of more major institutions. While there have been rumors of talks about an amicable merger between the two conferences, there’s not nearly enough good will nor mutual care from either side to make that actually work, so now it’s time to sit back and see exactly how the cookie will inevitably crumble. With the Pac’s two flagship institutions gone, Arizona and Arizona State will follow suit in leaving and likely join the Big 12 along with Utah, and after an act of penance, Colorado. This will put the Big 12 at 16 and the Pac 12 limping along with 6 institutions. Neither are good numbers because 6 is a death sentence as a Power 5 conference and 12 isn’t enough to reach the magic super conference number of 20. Maybe the Pac will be able to merge with the Mountain West and survive or perhaps they’ll just pick off the two California schools in San Diego State and Fresno State to become the Pac West and be able to live off of the hope that once every 10 or 15 years they’ll have a team able to make a run at a legitimate bowl game. Regardless, both are acts of desperation. At that point, the Big 12 though will have the momentum to complete it’s mission of becoming the first Super Conference by doing the unimaginable and stealing its last numeric factor of 4 from the ACC. The move will legitimize the Big 12=10-2+4+2+2+4 as the greatest basketball conference in all the land, but will also set it up as a dangerous football conference. Duke and UNC are package deals and already fit with the east coast teams of West Virginia and UCF. Clemson has had recent football glory but needs a jump start, and Louisville wants to prove it’s more than Lamar Jackson or Rick Pitino and the new Super Big 12 alignment will give both teams a chance to try. The formula that the Big 12 started with their first four additions of UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU of basketball first and budding big money football teams second will continue to prove itself as the perfect recipe.
The Pac 12 could very well end up being the next Ivy League which isn’t a bad consolation prize, but they’ll again be a bridesmaid and not the bride in the Super Conference game show. The next great fear for them will be the growing temptation from Oregon with their Nike money and Cal with their little brother ego seeing UCLA and USC go, to also leave for more stable ground. The departures might not be over for them, and Super Conferences are an arms race with an air of Highlander. While there can’t only be one, the conferences who are on the hunt to become Super will be taking heads as they go and laying waste to anyone who crosses their path. Prepare yourselves, the end is near.