Ok Miner Rushers, we want to hear your opinion. Conference expansion has gone every which way over the last few days, but has seemed to settle down now as the PAC-12 will likely not expand to 16 in this current round of realignment.
WHAT WE KNOW:
While much is still up in the air, this much is certain. Texas A&M will be leaving the Big 12, and will likely be participating in the SEC as early as next year. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are now members of the ACC, the Big 12 seems to be surviving with its remaining nine members, and now East Carolina has applied for admission to the Big East which may be falling apart faster than we thought the Big 12 was. Still, as things change almost by the minute, anything is possible.WHAT IS RUMORED:
Obviously a ton is rumored, but one main thing is that even though the Big 12 is ok for now with nine teams, they likely need to add more. Top tier options for the Big 12 would be BYU, West Virginia, and Louisville, likely in that order. Others may include Air Force, and if necessary possibly Houston and SMU (although the Big 12 has stated they have no interest in expanding in Texas).
The Big East has now been tossed overboard, and they certainly don't have a life raft. After the losses of Syracuse and Pitt, the conference is now down to 7 football playing members in USF, WVU, Louisville, Cinci, Rutgers, UCONN, and soon to come TCU. But, it has been publicly noted that UCONN and Rutgers heart lies in the ACC, and they could bail at any moment. Possible expansion candidates for the Big East are the service schools (Army, Navy, Air Force), and possibly even UCF and ECU. As stated above ECU has already applied for membership.
The SEC, after the addition of Texas A&M, will now have 13 schools, and although they have said they are fine staying at 13, they will likely want a 14th to round it all out. Two potential candidates would be Missouri and West Virginia. Another possibility could be Virginia Tech, but its a long shot considering the ACC raised their buyout fee to over $20M, and are making moves to completely stabilize their conference.
All these talks are filtering down into the ranks of the top non AQ conferences, namely Conference USA and the Mountain West. The commissioners from the two conference are set to meet in the coming days to discuss a possible football only merger that would crown a single champion between the 20-24 schools. That would hopefully garner a AQ bid, and while these talks been ongoing for months, no official word has been given from the NCAA that would confirm that AQ bid.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN:
The Big East Falls Apart:
With the ACC and the remaining Big 12 teams looking for new partners, the Big East could very well be seeing the end of its day as a football conference. The losses of Connecticut and Rutgers to the ACC, and Louisville and West Virginia to the Big 12 would almost certainly kill the conference. That would allow schools like South Florida, Cincinnati, and possibly even TCU to make their way back to C-USA. Although, TCU could very well choose to go back to the MWC. This undoubtedly would be the best scenario for Conference USA.
ACC/Big 12/SEC Stay Put:
I think this is the least likely of possibilities, only because the Big 12 (9), and SEC (13) would be left with an uneven number of teams. But, as we've seen, anything is possible. The ACC is comfortable with its 14, and could easily add UCONN and Rutgers whenever they so choose, so they may be fine at 14 right now. The next question is whether or not the SEC stays at 13. Missouri would probably be their first expansion choice, so not taking Missouri would allow the Big 12 a bit more breathing room. The Big 12 may comfortable at 9, or could possibly only try to lure BYU in to get to 10, and causing minimal chaos, considering BYU is already independent.
There are so may possibilities, and rumors that its almost impossible to keep up with. But, what do you all think will happen? Drop a comment, and let us know how you think the whole conference realignment thing will shape up.