Conference Realignment: Oklahoma To Decide Nation's Fate On Monday?

The head of the Big 12 board of directors, University of Missouri chancellor Brady Denton, says that while his school and others continue to work towards keeping the Big 12 gang together, the conference's life is in Oklahoma's hands, dude.

"It's changing all the time ... Our position is we're waiting to see what the rest of the conference does, particularly Oklahoma.

[snip]

"[Missouri athletic director Mike] Alden just said it's up in the air ... that we're waiting on Oklahoma. There weren't even any questions. I was kind of surprised."

Thankfully, we might not be waiting for long, as Oklahoma's board of regents are scheduled to discuss the university's conference affiliation at a meeting on Monday:

"The school's board of regents has posted the agenda for Monday's meeting. It's a single paragraph that says the board will consider switching conference affiliation, and any legal ramifications of such a move.

The agenda says the regents may discuss the topic behind closed doors and "take any appropriate action."

Oklahoma president David Boren told reporters on September 2 that he didn't think that this was something that was going to linger for more than a few weeks. So if Oklahoma does decide to head west along with in-state rival Oklahoma State, the death knell of the Big 12 may set off another round of conference musical chairs that ultimately impacts Boston College. And when the dust settles, Manhattan, Kansas could be East, Stillwater, Oklahoma "Pacific," Austin could be an ACC town and Iowa State ... poor, poor Iowa State.

Meanwhile, in other realignment news, Florida State is taking a proactive stance with respect to realignment, with FSU's chairman of the board of trustees Andy Haggard stating the school has begun forming a committee that will explore the university's options. As a relative outsider looking in, I do not believe Florida State is atop the short list of possible SEC expansion candidates. I believe that there is in fact a "Gentlemen's Agreement" in place, and I think that Auburn and Alabama would also be opposed to adding Florida State as number 14. Further, Texas A&M's inclusion in the conference wasn't unanimous either (10-2) so there's clearly some opposition to expansion in the first place. Things change, however, if Slive and the SEC want 16, then I think Florida State becomes part of the SEC expansion plan.

Tomahawk Nation has a handy Florida State Conference Realignment FAQ, though they lost me when they start talking about the Seminoles as a possible Big Ten target.

I do believe Florida State is the only ACC school that would accept an invitation to join the SEC. Virginia Tech isn't going anywhere and the SEC is not prying North Carolina away from the ACC, either. Academics matter to University presidents and chancellors and I believe there's little chance that North Carolina is walking away from rivalries with Duke, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Virginia, as well as from the highest ranked BCS conference academically, according to USN&WR's latest 'Best Colleges' rankings.

However, if Florida State officials feel that the Texas-to-the-ACC talk is more than just the Longhorns creating leverage with the Pac-12 for a possible move out west, FSU would be insane to leave the conference, as the ACC would become one of the biggest winners of this round of realignment. A conference without Florida State though changes the calculus for Texas and for any other Big 12 programs looking to find safe harbor in the ACC.

Meanwhile, back in the ACC, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman sees Texas-Duke basketball, Texas-Miami baseball and Texas-Florida State in football and thinks that the Longhorns in the ACC might actually work. If Texas does take its talents to South Beach the Atlantic Coast and the conference moves to the pods, Bring On The Cats reminds us that we mustn't forget about Kansas State:

"This clearly is the most ideal outcome, but perhaps the least likely. We would maintain our football recruiting ties in Texas, but gain enormous basketball cachet in a conference with KU, Duke and North Carolina.

In addition, our profile would rise with East Coast exposure and more games on ESPN. Stability? The ACC would be the clear winner in realignment by adding Texas - only the Big Ten could match that by adding Notre Dame.

The other pods likely would be Clemson-Florida State-Georgia Tech-Miami, the four Carolina schools, and Boston College-Maryland-Virginia-Virginia Tech."

As a representative of the ACC's northernmost program, I'm clearly biased, but I think that if the ACC does in fact move to 16 and the pods, I would still prefer that the ACC expand to Texas and a Big 12 dancing partner of Bevo's choosing and two current Big East programs over a Big 12 foursome.

To be clear, I understand the appeal of adding both Kansas and Missouri. And Kansas State? Well, they'd simply be along for the ride. If the ACC adds Texas, Missouri, Kansas and K-State, it would still be one of the biggest winners of expansion, adding some big TV markets -- Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City and Wichita -- and some quality programs. But I also think the ACC is currently in a much stronger position than others would have you believe, and think that adding two of the Big East's stronger programs along with Texas and Big 12 survivor #2 could be the type of move that:

1) makes your conference stronger at your rival conference's expense and
2) could cause the end of the Big East as a BCS AQ conference. 

If the ACC made another run at Syracuse (original ACC expansion candidate, etc. etc.) and one of Pittsburgh / Rutgers / Connecticut, that would likely be the end of the Big East as a viable BCS conference. Couple those moves with a move by West Virginia to the SEC -- my current pick for SEC #14 -- and the Big East would be left with only Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri from the Big 12.

Weakening the conference you are most often compared to by poaching two of their stronger programs and pairing with Texas and Texas Tech seems like a much better play than adding four Big 12 schools and watching the Big East balloon to 12 football programs, 20 basketball programs and land a better TV contract.

Then again, all this speculation could be for naught if Boren and the Oklahoma board of regents decide to stick it out in the Big 12 on Monday, and put a realistic plan in place to get the Big 12 back to a number of programs consistent with its namesake.

As always, stay tuned.

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