Today, Texas and Oklahoma made it official – they’ve started the official process of withdrawing from the Big XII and joining, as soon as possible, the SEC. Their joint statement that they will not be renewing their grants of media rights after their expiration in 2025 is widely believed to be their first step of leaving the Big XII.
That announcement signals that the wheels of college football realignment have begun to turn once again, a process that spares no Division I conference, FBS or FCS.
Today we had an emergency convo to figure out what could end up happening with the Big XII, the Group of Five, and the upper echelons of the FCS. The one thing everyone seemed to agree on is that change will be happening, and the Group of 5 and FCS won’t look the same as it does now once it’s done.
CSJ: So here’s the big question. If the Big XII loses Texas and Oklahoma, what does the Big XII do? Do they poach teams from FBS, or maybe even FCS? What does that do to the landscape?
Ben Schleiger: The Texas and Oklahoma brands are large, lucrative, and known nationwide. Despite that, I don’t believe the Big XII is going to roll over and die when they’re used to raking in the money year after year. If they do anything at all I think they invite Houston and Memphis, but that’ll be it. Adding lower echelon FBS teams just will not make the cut. Houston and Memphis have both produced NFL talent over the years that make them noteworthy and worth adding to the conference. Adding anything below that that isn’t producing NFL talent just will not make the powers at be happy.
Ray Maloney: The best option, in my opinion, of for the Big XII to invite Arizona and Arizona State, along with Boise State and BYU. The PAC 12 has long been in turmoil, and even with the long-awaited departure of the former commissioner, the conference remains unstable. In Arizona and ASU, the Big XII would immediately get name recognition and solid athletic programs across the board. You also get your foot in a huge media market like Phoenix.
Kent Schmidt: I think there will likely be a few more dominos in the Big XII coming. West Virginia never has made sense geographically speaking in the Big XII and the ACC will likely take them. I think Notre Dame will also finally cave and fully go into the ACC.
For the Big 10, I think Iowa State and Kansas will be the schools it goes after as both are AAU members and with Iowa State, starting to build a strong football team and Kansas always with a Top 5 type basketball team.
For the Pac 12, they get the remaining schools in the Big XII – although since there are five other Big 12 schools, one might get left out. Baylor and TCU seem to go well together, and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State might be good traveling partners. That kind of leaves Kansas State out and maybe the lone Big XII holdout with the others being a number of AAC, Sun Belt, and/or C-USA schools.
Rob Butler: I believe we’ll see some type of merger with the American and Big XII – maybe the remaining Big XII schools in Texas jump to the American. Or the Big XII poaches from the American. If the American Athletic Conference snags those Texas schools from the Big XII, then I believe the AAC’s push to become a ‘Power 6’ will finally come to fruition….except it will be ‘Power 5’ once the Big XII will no longer exist. Somewhat of a Southwest Conference reboot – maybe Louisiana is included.
Jamie Williams: I think its likely that the rest of the Big 12 disperses to the Big 10 and Pac 12, and West Virginia to the ACC.
Preston Adams: It’s gonna be down to what these leftover eight schools do for self interest. I’d rather them poach the obvious AAC schools and get a Boise and BYU rather than disperse. I don’t think they themselves want to disperse either, despite this seismic event.
Chuck Burton: I don’t believe the Big XII is dead – not by a longshot. While losing Texas and Oklahoma is a big blow, no doubt, picking up Houston and Memphis would go a long way towards stabilizing the conference than most national media members can grasp. If they can get Cincinnati and BYU as well – the Big XII is back at 12 teams and without a doubt still belong at the Power 5 table. Even if they can’t, I think the addition of North Dakota State and South Dakota State could be a real solution to get to 12 teams in a reasonable geographic footprint that stretches from Canada to Mexico. They would need time to build up their facilities to Big XII standards, but I think they could do it.
CSJ: Could that really happen – North Dakota State and South Dakota State to the Big XII? If Texas and Oklahoma, for whatever reason, end up having to remain in the Big XII for contractual reasons for the next 3-5 years, a window could open up where the Bison and Jackrabbits could make a massive push to upgrade their facilities, the Fargodome and Dykhouse Stadium.
Jamie: No way NDSU and SDSU can or would be able to make that jump to the Big XII. They don’t have the facilities or the budget to do it. It’s more than a football move even though its a football move. They both fit in the Mountain West profile, and I’m not sure SDSU has the ability to even move at this point. Both would need at least double the capacity they have right now. Could they do it in a 5 year time frame? NDSU -maybe. SDSU – no way.
Ray: NDSU to the Big 12 would be a ridiculous move for NDSU to make and would seriously harm the overall athletic program. The basketball arena as not on par for Big XII competition, and the Fargodome, well, we all know that will not suffice and the basketball arena holds less than 6,000 (unless they decided to play men’s basketball at the Dome). Dykhouse Stadium was just rebuilt for 19.200 capacity recently – can they fundraise to get it to 30,000, and can they support it? Seems unlikely.
Preston: There’s no way the Big 12 schools would bring in two, albeit, very good FCS programs right off the bat. If for no other reason, they would get an even worse TV deal as a result. They’ll be hurting regardless of losing Texas and OU, but I think they’ll be able to get some AAC schools because I don’t see those Big 12 schools wanting to give up. I just don’t see how the conference will be able to demand that “Power 5” money while pulling up two FCS schools.
Kent: If the Big XII and AAC basically merge and rebrand, I could then see NDSU and SDSU possibly gong there. Both are already in the Big XII for wrestling so both have small ties already. The Big XII would really then be what the American Athletic Conference is now and look to form a middle part of the country league with the best football schools. I could see this being with members amongst Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, Air Force, Tulsa, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston, and SMU. Adding in NDSU and SDSU might also help as I really think it is ESPN wanting to dictate how they can show football on the network. This kind of league will not get the same kind of media deals the top four leagues might get but still would definitely be in the top five. A league in three time zones would allow for the flexibility of broadcasting times to be early 12:00pm Eastern starts or 10:00pm Eastern starts. I think this also would be just a football league with the remaining sports maybe being left in non-football leagues.
Chuck: You’re telling me NDSU and SDSU couldn’t, with a bit of time, fundraise to build the facilities to get into a Power 5 conference? At NDSU especially there are plenty of deep-pocketed interests ready to pour their money into an effort like this, and you can believe politically every North Dakota and South Dakota politician would have to be thrilled to be a part of this too. This is very different than many other AAC schools that are third or fourth bananas in their own state and might face some political maneuvering – that’s no consideration here.
Competitively, there is zero question that NDSU and SDSU have elite FCS programs that have demonstrated that they can compete not only against FBS teams in football but Big XII teams in particular. Additionally both NDSU and SDSU have been fairly regular participants in the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournaments as well.
NDSU participates in almost every sport the Big XII offers as well with the exception of tennis, so it’s not like they’ll need to make massive Title IX changes to comply. SDSU sponsors even more sports that the Big XII offers, including equestrian and swimming and diving. All in all, it’s a pretty even fit sports-wise.
I see NDSU as the equivalent of a Boise State – but right in the middle of the Big XII footprint, really close to Kansas State and Iowa State. All they need is some time to upgrade facilities – that’s it. SDSU is a bit behind the Bison, but not that far behind. I think they both could do it.
CSJ: A big part of the justification for the Big XII reaching and picking a school like NDSU or SDSU would be to value some level of regionalization. Other possible G5 moves involving James Madison or Jacksonville State could involve regional choices, too.
Chuck: I think the era of the cross-country Power 5 conference is at an end. The Big 10 is still reeling from the Rutgers/Maryland fiasco, the AAC and C-USA are hemorrhaging money, and the Big XII West Virginia experiment has also been universally been exposed as a disaster. Adding schools like BYU or Boise are just that all over again – two schools with no natural rivals far away from the rest of the conference. I can see why individual schools are OK with it – they get massive hunks of money payouts from TV. But what do the conferences get out of it? Certainly the Big 10 hasn’t gained anything by HAVING Rutgers and Maryland, and the Big XII didn’t gain by HAVING West Virginia.
Preston: I absolutely agree that we are headed towards more regionalized conferences again, hence I don’t see the Big 12 being split up into tiny different parts. Currently the AAC scoffs at (though I think not for long) the idea of adding in a perfect fit like JMU. There’s no way the Big 12 would do the same thing without conceding that they’re not in that Power 5 echelon anymore. C-USA, AAC, and Sun Belt are all in for some more regionalization too in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if a new conference came out of it too, supplemented by FCS schools.
If the AAC opens up its eyes and sees the entirety of JMU athletics (thank you again softball), it really is a no brainer. Plus we have beaten the last 2 AAC teams we have faced, 1 in an absolute obliteration. The conference is spread out, but the schools are easy to get to. I think C-USA is in for its own reckoning because it’s a wreck in so many ways, least of which has Old Dominion traveling to El Paso for volleyball games. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some serious geographical realignment at the G5 level regardless because some of these conferences just make NO sense. I think NDSU and SDSU could slide into the MAC and would be immediately competitive and favored. Do they want that Tuesday foolishness though?
I see C-USA splitting up. That conference is way too spread out. And I do think that we are in for some major G5 realignment which puts many of those to FCS schools in play, and the lure of a 12 team playoff also works for schools like JMU and NDSU.
Jamie: In that vein, Jacksonville State fits easily into the Sun Belt regionally and seems to be positioning for that. Sam Houston could fit there, too, or could be a part of a west-based Conference USA reshuffling.
Kent: Maybe another kind of super Group of Five football league would be on the East Coast with another top FCS school in JMU joining Central Florida, South Florida, App State, Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Army, Navy, Liberty, East Carolina, UAB, Temple, and Buffalo. This might be the new AAC league since a majority of the league is from what the AAC currently is. Again, this would also be a football only league.
CSJ: Are 16 team superconferences the wave of the future?
Kent: I certainly don’t like the 16-team super conferences personally but if the SEC goes this direction, the Big 10, ACC, and Pac 12 will have to follow suit in my opinion.
Chuck: What makes college athletics unique is the juxtaposition between the “little guys” and the “big guys” and the fact that they can play each other. People don’t like this terminology today, but the idea of FCS “mostly amateurs” facing off against Power 5 “mostly semi-professionals” in football is that makes the sport great. There’s no “App State beats Michigan” story in the NFL – that only happens in college sports. It’s also why the NCAA Tournament is so great and such compelling theater. With 16 team megaconferences, those stories don’t exist, and Power 5 football becomes a minor league that nobody cares about.
However they do it, they need to preserve organic local rivalries and David vs. Goliath stories for college athletics, otherwise it will all die.
Ben: Personally I just don’t think four 16 team mega conferences is an acceptable or even worthwhile version of college football. The only way I would personally accept that as if they branded themselves as their own league above FBS and made it easier for FCS teams and FBS teams to promote and regulate themselves kind of like soccer does with the three best and three worst teams moving up and down.
Ray: College football has always been about rivalries. The color and pageantry, the bands and cheerleaders … it’s all unbeatable.
Alcorn State football coach Marino Casem said it best years ago: “On the East Coast, football is a cultural experience. In the Midwest, it’s a form of cannibalism. On the West Coast, it’s a tourist attraction. And in the South, football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day.”
The notion behind a 16-team mega conference is nothing but greed and gluttony for the all-mighty dollar.
History is vital to the success of any individual or group and every attempt to destroy that history must be met with resistence. The Big 12 has its roots going back more than 100 years. Yes, the current membership came about much more recently after the demise of the Southwest Conference, but the fact remains the Big 12 is largely the Big 8 & Little Four, and that existence goes back to the old Missouri Valley Conference … Big 6 … Big 7.
And another thing, integrity of a league is incredibly important. The PAC 12 came about as the result of a massive cheating scandal that sent the league reeling. And we all know about the events that led to the eventual demise of the Southwest Conference. Conversely, with few exceptions, the Big Ten and Big 12 have largely been void of any proven cheating scandals. And please note the the term “largely void.” What is alleged to have taken place within the KU men’s basketball remains to be fully determined.
A mega-conference, as the WAC found out a long time ago is a fool’s idea. There is no way a team can play all the other teams in the league in order to find a true conference champion and in the end, the league’s best representative in the postseason. And with a mega conference football, and to a lesser extent, men’s basketball schedules would largely be drawn up with TV revenue in mind.
If a school like Texas or Oklahoma has the reported $70+ million needed to exit the Big 12 early, then it is clear that those schools have no need for more money,