Today, on As Conference Reaglinment Turns, the Big East has reportedly added Tulane in all sports and East Carolina as a football only member. Once again Mountaineer fans, lets all repeat “I’m so thankful to be out of the Big East.”
The move to add Tulane for television market makes sense. New Orleans is a major television market, but the biggest question is, who really watches Tulane football?
The Green Wave has not been a nationally relevant program since their undefeated 1998 season. The team has struggled to draw fans into the Super Dome, causing Tulane to begin planning for an on-campus stadium with a much smaller seating capacity.
Then there is East Carolina. The Pirates are a scrappy team that usually hovers in the 7-8 wins per season range. It is culturally a perfect fit for the Big East, but really has no major television market draw. You could argue that they bring some portion of the Raleigh and Charlotte market. If the Big East wanted the Charlotte market, it would have been better to take UNC Charlotte (set to play in C-USA).
This set of expansion is obviously in preparation of the Big East losing either Connecticut or Louisville to the ACC. Early rumors say that UCONN is the leader for vacant ACC spot because of higher academic standards than the Ville. Jim Calhoun’s APR issue must not be factoring into that decision.
With both the ACC and Big East fighting it out for fillers, the Big XII is sitting idle. Some might say that the Big XII is content with 10 teams because of the ability to play a round robin football schedule and the elimination of a top team losing in the championship game, or whatever other party line they want to feed the public. In the end, the Big XII needs to expand to fend off a second raiding attempt by the Pac 12.
Remember, that had the Pac 12 bent to Texas’ will and allowed them to keep the Longhorn Network, the Big XII might have ceased to exist. In the ever shifting conference landscape, where it appears that conferences are all consolidating to 16 team conferences with presumably 4 major conferences, the Big XII has to be nervous.
The Big 10 and SEC appear secure in their major conference status. That leaves the Pac 12, Big XII, and ACC to assume the final two slots. Currently, the Pac 12 and Big XII have agreements to match up with the SEC and Big 10 in the Rose and Champions (Sugar) Bowls, giving them the inside track to remaining major conferences.
If the major conferences are to be 16 team conferences, that leaves few options East of the Mississippi River for the Pac 12. Larry Scott pursued the four-pack of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech when he was forced to settle for just Utah and Colorado. If those 4 teams leave, the Big XII would be destroyed and picked off by the other big conferences.
For the Big XII to remain viable for the future, they need to strike soon, and take down the ACC.
Maryland is about to enter a contentious legal battle with the ACC, one that Florida State will be following closely. If Maryland is able to negotiate a reduced exit fee and exit time table, expect Florida State to start serious talks with the Big XII.
If Bowlsby wants to ensure the long-term success of the Big XII, he needs to bring the conference up to 16 schools. In my opinion, that should start with Florida State and Clemson. The other 4 schools should come predominantly from the ACC to effectively eliminate any competition for the 4 major league slots and to ward off any Pac 12 poaching.
Possible schools for Big XII expansion, in order of merit: Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Pittsburgh, BYU, Cincinnati, Boise State. Keep in mind, their are no active rumors linking any of those schools to the Big XII outside of FSU and Louisville.