College football expansion evolves as Big Ten, Pac-12 need to make more decisions

The realignment of college sports appeared to be stable after the expansion activity of the early 2010s ended with the five major conferences intact.

There would be peace and harmony throughout the land. For less than 10 years.

Last summer, the news broke that Oklahoma and Texas would be the Big 12 leave for the SECdrastically change the conference landscape and throw a wrench in the eye Arranged College Football Playoff Expansion

There was predictably a ripple effect. The Big 12 took teams from the American Athletic and also Brigham Young. The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 created an alliance to allay concerns that the SEC is becoming too big to fail. That alliance lasted 10 months for the Big Ten poached two of the Pac-12 historic schools – Southern California and UCLA – last week.

Now chaos reigns with the era of the Power Five in great doubt.

How this all ends is a mystery. But one thing is certain: more change is coming and money and fear of being left out will shape the decisions of both conferences and schools.

Here’s a look at where things are now and a breakdown of the biggest questions about where they could go.

Why did USC and UCLA go east?

The decision of two Los Angeles schools to leave a conference they’ve been associated with for nearly 100 years for a competition where there are no schools in the adjacent time zone and will be holding road games in November with the likes of Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin, tells you – if you didn’t already know – how much money drives college athletics.

The fact that it’s the Big Ten ambushing the Pac-12 is even more illuminating. The leagues have been sending their champions to play in the Rose Bowl for more than 60 years, with adjustments for the playoff era. The value of playing in Pasadena on New Year’s Day was immense for the Trojans and Bruins. Now they will have to do it as a member of the Big Ten.

How might the Big Ten divisions work?

UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen (19) catches a touchdown pass against USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen (19) catches a touchdown pass against USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

The league will reach 16 teams when Southern California and UCLA are added before the 2024 season. Stretching from New York to Los Angeles, it seems an impractical setup. A split of the East and West divisions helps reduce those concerns for football.

The easiest move would put USC and UCLA with Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern. Purdue would move to the East with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland. Or they can balance or completely eliminate the division.

It’s hard to see the league staying at 16 as it tries to expand its reach. Adding other Pac-12 schools — namely Oregon and Washington — would reduce some geographic problems and increase football strength, but that might not add enough value. However, there is an obvious solution for one backyard addition.

What will happen to Notre Dame?

Football independence has benefited the Fighting Irish for over a century. Even haters would admit that Notre Dame maintains a unique position in the sport and recent success has shown it can thrive on its own. The company’s own television contract and the flexibility of the planning were its trump cards. However, the time when it can go on its own may soon be coming to an end.

The Big Ten is an obvious landing place when the school decides it needs the stability of a league to secure its future for the next century. In addition to the money, there are geographic advantages and a host of natural rivals that suit both sides. However, the history between the two sides has been frosty, dating back to the early 1900s when Notre Dame attempted to join the league several times and the last decade of the century when the Big Ten tried and failed to open the school. to lure.

How does the ACC come into the picture?

Making the move to the Big Ten even more complicated is that Notre Dame is a member of the ACC for all other sports. The agreement between the two requires the Fighting Irish to play football in the ACC if they participate in a conference before the league’s rights grants expire in the summer of 2036. It will take money to get out of that deal. That’s not really a concern for the Big Ten or Notre Dame, given how much value one has to the other. It would be a major coup for the conference and it would arguably be placed with or above the SEC in terms of financial power.

Will the Pac-12 dissolve?

With the loss of two of its leading institutions in its largest media market, the Pac-12 is in a precarious position. With 10 schools left with two each in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington plus Utah and Colorado, the league must weigh up how to handle upcoming television rights negotiations with the current deal expiring in 2024 with the potential to expand. and have the largest members search to find a safe landing place in the current uncertainty.

The Mountain West would be an obvious place to look to replace two teams. San Diego State, Boise State, UNLV or even Colorado State would strike a balance between football and market improvement.

The other possible place for additions would be the Big 12. Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU could be attractive. The bigger question may be whether the Pac-12 is attractive to those schools.

Big 12 on the move?

The smallest of the Power Five leagues had been content to stick with 10 teams until the defections of Oklahoma and Texas, because it didn’t want to share its financial pie with incoming schools that weren’t doing enough to increase its value.

With his impending departure, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby will retire later this year and Houston, Central Florida, Cincinnati and BYU that will join the league next summer, that conservative approach no longer persists. An aggressive move would be to seek interested parties from the Pac-12, which is now in the weakest position of the Power Five.

Follow college reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Big Ten Expansion Forces Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC To Consider Options

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