Loyal Cougars

Conference Realignment Fun Facts

Conference realignment expert Troy Adams takes a look at the vulnerabilities of the Power 5 conferences and the likelihood of each to make a move towards expansion. Check out the Conference Maps HERE.

Big Ten
Most assume that all of the members of the B1G are AAU universities. Not true.  B1G has more AAU schools (13) than any other conference by a long shot (P12 8, ACC 5, SEC 4, B12 3). However, Nebraska is NOT an AAU school (though the university did belong to the AAU when it joined the B1G prior to its AAU status being terminated in 2011).  Does this mean that the B1G would conceivably expand by adding more non-AAU schools? Not likely.

So far, B1G expansion principles have been strong academic schools in states with a contiguous border. This narrows the list of potential candidates, assuming the B1G would ever want 16 members, to UVA of the ACC and Kansas of the B12. ACC and B12 are both “grant-of-rights” conferences which means that nothing will happen, if ever, until TV contracts expire.

Geography says that the AAU schools in this conference will stay put. There are eight: Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and UW.

The P12 has little incentive to expand beyond 12 teams because fewer teams means greater odds to qualify for the CFB play-off, simpler scheduling, fewer pieces of the $ pie, etc.

Obviously the challenges of geography are the most pronounced in the West and if TV market size is still the driver in 5 years or so, there is really no place left to expand unless… see below. Also, if the P12 really said no to OU, they are serious about maintaining their conference size at 12.

The SEC is the only power conference WITHOUT a TV grant of rights which is a major financial barrier to defection. This makes them more easily poachable but they likely feel like nobody would want to leave. They are probably right.

The only SEC member that might defect to another conference (B1G) would be Vanderbilt. They are an AAU member but they have little incentive to leave the SEC unless they want to get their teeth kicked in less frequently in another conference (in football- Vandy’s basketball program is solid and its baseball team is very good).

Of the other SEC AAU schools, Florida is not going anywhere and both A&M and Mizzou are recent arrivals to the conference. Interestingly, while the SEC gets tons of media street cred, both A&M and Missouri have done impressively well in their first few years in the conference despite playing with mostly “B12 recruits.” Bottom line? They don’t need the B1G thank you very much; they are doing just fine in the SEC.

Would any ACC teams join the B1G? Maryland already did. But of the ACC’s 5 schools with AAU status (Duke, GaTech, Pitt, UNC, and UVA), the only school that makes geographic AND political sense to join the B1G is UVA. 

Would any ACC teams join the SEC? The ACC has been viewed as the conference most likely to be poached if the SEC expands to 16 but I disagree. SEC members will likely not want new additions in states where they already have a presence. This eliminates FSU, Miami, Clemson, Ga Tech, and Louisville. The SEC will mostly likely want to remain geographically rooted in the Southeast. This eliminates Pitt, Virginia, Va Tech, Syracuse, and Boston College.

I don’t see AAU schools Duke or UNC as SEC teams. This leaves NC State and Wake Forest as the only remaining SEC expansion candidates from the ACC. Conclusion? The SEC will probably NOT raid the ACC. 

Big 12
This brings us to the B12. Things can obviously change but I believe the B12 is set to implode when TV contracts expire. Over the next few years, B12 members will grow weary of the “Texas inequity.” This feeling will be most pronounced among OU supporters but everyone will feel it. This is why IF the SEC expands to 16, I think OU and OSU would listen closely to an offer. If OU and OSU bolt to the SEC, the B12 as we know it will be dead in the water.

A smart P12 could add UT, Tech, OU and OSU.  This would enable the P12 to employ to a 4 team pod system in which only ONE of these 4 teams would advance into a play-off structure every year. The 4 team pods could be a thing of beauty and could enable the introduction of some innovative principles into college football such as annual relegation, no repeat opponents during the regular season, maintenance of annual rivalries, etc. But that’s a discussion for another time.

No matter what, if the conference loses either UT or OU, all bets are off. Kansas, as an AAU school would be a great academic and geographic fit into the B1G. Iowa State is an AAU school but would never get political support from the University of Iowa to join the B1G. Ironically, Texas is the only other AAU member in the current B12 but I don’t see UT in the B1G.

What would happen to the remainder of the B12 conference? If KU, UT, Tech, OU, and OSU get into other arrangements, this would leave ISU, Baylor, TCU, WVU, and KSU. Great question… but expansion is heartless and does not care.


  1. Ross Jardine

    April 15, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Let’s hear it for Ghetto Magic! Still looks like BYU will continue to be on the outside looking in at least until TV contracts start renewing. The window seems to be closing on any chance to get into a P5 conference.

  2. Justin

    April 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Big12 HAS to be proactive or they are screwed. I could see them poaching Arkansas, which has Texas rivalry roots, from SEC. I’m sure razorback fans are tired of playing second fiddle to bama, LSU, et al. Then big 12 would just need one more…hmmm I wonder where they could get that one team?

  3. JQ

    April 16, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    How old is this article?? Texas inequality hasn’t been an issue since 2011. Big12 revenue is now divided equally. Last year, the Big12 had the 2nd highest payout per school.
    B1G ($26.5m), Big12 ($26.2m), PAC12 ($24.9m), ACC ($21.8m), and SEC ($19.4m).

    “set to implode”? Nobody is walking away from that kind of coin.

    This article must be years old. My apologies for commenting on something from the archives when conference realignment was a thing.