With Southern California and UCLA working on an exit from the Pac-12 to join the Big Tencollege football is poised to take an irreversible step toward building two major conferences at the expense of tradition and the remaining Power Five leagues.
Though considered a possibility in administrative circles since the first round of major conference reshuffles a decade ago, the birth of these super leagues would create a rift between the rest of the current Football Bowl Subdivision and the SEC and Big Ten.
USC and UCLA trying to get out of the Pac-12 is the clearest signal yet that the highest echelon of college football will focus on dozens of teams unmarried by geography, rivalry or history, but the hunt for ever-larger payouts for media rights and broadcast deals.
Rather than just a possibility, these super conferences are now inevitable.
When this latest conference rescheduling becomes official, precipitation will be rapid and seismic.
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While the Big 12 could partially offset Texas and Oklahoma’s loss to the SEC by gobbling up the American’s best teams, the Pac-12 won’t have options in the Group of Five ranks even close to the reputation, success and television appeal of the two Los Angeles-based schools.
If the Trojans and Bruins can secure a spot in the Big Ten, the Pac-12 could then lose Oregon and Washington, with the next two members with the draw and support an option for further west coast expansion.
In that scenario, the Pac-12 would have to dive deep into the Group of Five—for Boise State and San Diego State, for starters—just to create a set of schools with enough relevance to simply survive in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Even in the hypothetical situation where the Pac-12 and Big 12 merge, that league would still be miles behind the SEC and Big Ten in terms of overall competitiveness in the race for the national championship.
That leaves the Pac-12 with only one hope: that the Big Ten will accept the entire conference, with warts and all, perhaps motivated by the longstanding relationship with the conference built by the Rose Bowl.
But this would diminish the overall strength of the Big Ten and do nothing to move the needle during the current negotiations over the league’s rights.
Rather than delving deeper into the Pac-12, both the Big Ten and the SEC could focus on the best programs available elsewhere: Clemson, Florida State, Miami, and the top tier of the ACC, along with Notre Dame. .
While the Irish don’t have the same concerns, the flag bearers in the ACC would be motivated to change conferences for the same reason that USC and UCLA can disembark: ACC schools will make millions less a year than the SEC and Big Ten, with the total set will grow dramatically when the Big Ten signs its new deal.
USC and UCLA are the tipping point for a new world order. Ultimately, every school with designs vying for the national championship will push and pull in an effort to get to the front of the line and beat the crowd in one of two super conferences.
That could result in the second major upheaval in college football’s divisional structure in the past 50 years, following the creation of Division I and Division I-AA (later renamed the FBS and Football Championship Subdivision) in 1978. This time around, the split will be. putting the two super leagues in one level and the rest of the current FBS in another.
The unofficial divide between the haves and have nots will have a clear dividing line. The future of college football is clear: Two super conferences take center stage.
Follow college reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UCLA, USC to Big Ten? The future of college football is 2 super conferences