Where Will It All End?: Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, Louisville to the ACC, East Carolina to the Big East (sort of), Notre Dame to the ACC (pretty much), Tulane to the Big East...... So what does all of this mean? Where does it all end? Well, let's start with where it is now. For the 2012 football season (and that's really what is driving the train) there were 69 teams in BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including Notre Dame, which is essentially a one team conference. There were an additional 62 teams in other conferences, plus three independents. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Big East goes away as a viable football entity by 2014. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville are already slated to join the ACC that year with Rutgers heading to the Big Ten. In addition, Notre Dame will play five ACC games beginning that same season. That will leave the four remaining football teams in the Big East without a home, at least in the short term. Those teams are Cincinnati, Temple, Connecticut and South Florida. So where does that put us in 2014 given the moves announced as of today?
Pac 12 12 teams
Big 10 14
Big 12 10
So that gives us 65 teams in essentially 5 conferences. Well guess what? In 2015 we start a 4 team playoff system. Hmmm... So if you're a conspiracy theorist, you could speculate that we're headed to a four super-conference structure. We're not that far away, assuming the four Big East teams currently without a long-term football conference get left out in the cold. And that's pretty likely, considering that with the exception of Cincinnati, none of them have a particularly stellar football past.
The primary stumbling clock to this scenario ultimately playing out is simple geography. Within that 65 team structure, how does each conference get to 16 teams, and which one simply goes away, at least from a football perspective? It's easy to see the SEC raiding the ACC for two teams, presumably Florida State and Virginia Tech, although you could see Clemson in that mix. So that gives the SEC 16 teams. But where does the ACC go to fill the void? Adding Cincinnati and Connecticut would bring the total to 67, screwing up the math. And where does the Big Ten go for more teams?
So let's go in a different direction. Let's say the SEC goes west and raids the Big 12 for two more teams, presumably Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And perhaps the Big 10 takes Kansas State and Iowa State. That would leave the remaining six Big 12 teams headed to the Pac 12, forming a new 18 team conference.And maybe the ACC does add Cincinnati and Connecticut. So we end up with 67 teams in four conferences with Notre Dame still in a sort of independent limbo. If you also assume the playoff will grow to eight teams, as many do, you have plenty of room to accommodate a couple of at-large teams from the super conferences as well as a team or two from the current non-BCS automatic qualifier conferences.
But as Lee Corso says, "Not so fast". My feeling is that, as clean as it would make things, getting to four conferences is very difficult. I can't see Texas being part of a large conference, as they don't want to share the substantial revenue they generate. And the recently implemented $50 million exit fee for ACC schools could hold those teams in place.We'll ultimately end up with 70 - 75 teams comprising five conferences with the champions automatically advancing to an eight team playoff. The remaining three at-large teams will be chosen by a selection committee based on some set of criteria determined by whoever is in charge of the playoff at that time. I also have a hard time believing that the NCAA won't step in once we get beyond a four-team format.
So in 2018, when you're getting ready for national quarterfinal games in the Fiesta, Cotton, Chik-Fil-A and Sugar Bowls, semifinals in the Orange and Rose Bowls and a huge national championship game at a different site, you can say you heard it here first...