Found: The one conference that has decided it likes itself as is.
That’d be the Pac-12, which issued a statement Tuesday night saying it isn’t going to expand. But this might not have been quite so high-minded as it sounds. Where conference realignment is concerned, nothing ever is.
Reports suggest that the Pac-12 didn’t believe its membership would be able to co-exist with the Longhorn Network, which is why this round of reshuffling began last month. Nobody is crazy about the idea of sharing a league with Texas, which means …
This round of reshuffling is near its end.
The SEC appears bent on adding Missouri and the Big East will have to do some major damage control, but the Big 12 has lived to play another day. Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State won’t be headed to the Pac-12, at least not this month, and there’s no other conference that could accommodate all three. (Accommodating Texas has always been the tough part, but Oklahoma’s insistence that Oklahoma State ride along has made the Sooners a bit less attractive.)
If the SEC adds Missouri to go with Texas A&M and stops there, the biggest football league will have gotten bigger but not elephantine. If the Pac-12 stays with 12 members and the ACC, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh en route, at 14, there would seem no crying need to answer. The biggest question a 14-school SEC would face: Who’s going to move to the East? (Early suggestions point to Auburn, which is the easternmost outpost in the SEC West. Which would mean separating Auburn and Alabama.)
Assuming there’s no late flurry of mind-changing, the winner this time around would be the ACC. It has fought off expected incursions from the Big East, the Big Ten and the SEC, and it has again made itself the best basketball league by some distance. It’s still possible the SEC could make a run at Virginia Tech (even with the ACC-mandated $20 million exit fee), but the SEC has adopted a stance of, “You come to us; we won’t come to you.” And Virginia Tech couldn’t be construed as desperate to go anywhere — as opposed, say, to Texas A&M.
That’s how this all started. Texas A&M got mad over the Longhorn Network and stomped out the nearest door. You’d have to believe the Big 12 schools who were ready to sue the Aggies will be less truculent with Texas and the two Oklahomas staying and the Big 12 still be a viable (if diminished) conference. You’d have to believe that the daily — heck, hourly — round of who’s-going-where updates are about to subside.
UConn is already making eyes at the ACC, but it’s unclear if that league would want to add a 15th school without a 16th, and no obvious 16th candidate has arisen. West Virginia might still leave the Big East, but it’s not certain the SEC would want it. Oklahoma has demanded that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe be replaced — Beebe’s apparent sin is his inability to rein in Texas — but that’s an in-house matter. In sum, what’s left this time are tweaks, as opposed to wholesale change. Until next summer, when …
Texas decides to print its own currency — Bevo Bucks. And there we’ll go again.
By Mark Bradley