University of Texas fans cheer on the Longhorns as they play the Rice Owls on September 3, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. This was the debut game for the new Longhorn Network, a partnership between the University of Texas at Austin and ESPN. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
The weird just keeps on getting weirder.
According to Kirk Bohls and Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman, if the Big 12 does in fact implode, Texas would decide between pushing for membership in the Pac-12 or Atlantic Coast Conference:
"They don't want to be independent, and the one thing they do know is their conference options are about to be reduced by one. If the Big 12 implodes, Texas would have to decide between pushing for membership in the Pac-12 or Atlantic Coast Conference or turning independent, an option Dodds has always strongly opposed."
The AA-S report states that DeLoss Dodds strongly opposes going independent, which would leave the Longhorns with two options -- heading west to the Pac-12 or heading east to the ACC. Dodds will employ a three-part criteria:
-- The first is the well-being of its student-athletes. The Pac-12 is two time zones away from Austin and could make life difficult for student-athletes traveling back and forth from Austin to Pullman, Washington. The ACC may be seen as a more favorable option since all member schools are just one time zone away. Advantage: ACC.
-- Texas' second metric is economics. Texas will protect its stake in the Longhorn Network at all costs, and isn't really interested in sharing. This is another sticking point with moving to the Pac-12, as Larry Scott has made it clear Texas cannot keep its LHN with a move to the Pac-12. Advantage: ACC.
-- Third is to maintain rivalries, traditions to keep up fan interest. This one seems to be a sticking point with any move to the ACC. If Oklahoma moves to the Pac-12, this may sweeten the deal for the Longhorns move west. Texas would get the opportunity to start up new rivalries with Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, among others, on the gridiron, but Oklahoma isn't moving to the ACC and there's only a possible Baylor lawsuit standing in the way of Texas A&M officially joining the SEC. Advantage: Pac-12.
Two out of three criteria favor the ACC, eh? Maybe this isn't such a far-fetched idea after all.
The strangest part of the report isn't the fact that Texas is seriously considering a move to the ACC. The strangest part is the unique configuration the ACC would adopt if they add the Longhorns to the fold.
"The ACC is willing to talk about a unique conference format that has intrigued Texas. Instead of divisions, the conference could be divided into four pods, with each pod containing four teams, to aid scheduling."
Now while talks between the ACC and Texas haven't progressed to a mature phase, it's always fun to speculate on what a four pod ACC might look like. According to the report, if Texas does move to the ACC, the Horns would probably bring along at least one partner with them, likely Texas Tech. The question then becomes which other two programs the ACC would look to bolt on to get to 16.
Let's say, for sake of argument, that the ACC goes after two of West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn -- the four Big East programs most commonly discussed as possible ACC expansion candidates -- to get to 16. For the below, I'll go with West Virginia and Syracuse, but you can mix and match as you see fit. What would a four pod ACC look like then?
Pod 1: Boston College, Syracuse, North Carolina, Duke
Pod 2: West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Pod 3: Florida State, Miami, N.C. State, Wake Forest
Pod 4: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Texas, Texas Tech
Logic would seemingly dictate that you keep the four North Carolina schools in the same pod, but then there really doesn't seem to be any logical geographic groupings for two of the other pods. Splitting North Carolina and Duke from N.C. State and Wake Forest seems to balance out the pods both competitively and geographically. I suppose you could keep the four Carolina schools together and put BC and Syracuse in the same division as Florida State and Miami and have one long-haul pod. That might work, too.
Fun to speculate, but really all bets are off on conference realignment until Texas and Oklahoma make their intentions known. The mere fact that we are somewhat seriously discussing a Texas move to the ACC is pretty mind-boggling in and of itself.
However, the fact that Texas and ACC officials are at least discussing the possibility, combined with the fact that Mike Slive will reportedly slow play any plans of adding a 14th member lead me to believe that the ACC is in a much stronger position with respect to conference realignment than most would have you believe.