Yesterday ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski waxed poetic on the death of the Kansas-Missouri Border War, a rivalry 100+ years in the making, and how further ACC expansion could bring the Jayhawks and Tigers back together again.
Of all the major conferences, the ACC has been the most aggressive when it comes to adding membership. It has treated the Big East as its personal minor league system, calling up Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College in the early-to-mid-2000s. In its most recent raid of the Big East, the ACC adopted Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
So what's to stop ACC commissioner John Swofford from making another run at the Big East in the next 2-4 years, this time inviting Rutgers and Connecticut? After all, 16 is the magic membership number, right?
Answer: absolutely nothing.
Wojciechowski's scenario has the ACC aggressively poaching Rutgers and UConn from the ACC, setting off another major conference arms race that has the Big Ten poaching Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Rutgers and the Pac-12 and/or SEC going after Texas and OU (and presumably Texas Tech and Oklahoma State).
There's just one small hurdle to overcome before Kansas and Missouri can be reunited in the land of Legends and Leaders: Notre Dame.
Would it renounce its precious independent status for football? Would it consider a jump to the ACC? Would it reconsider the Big Ten? Would it kick the tires on the Pac-12? Would it amend its revenue sharing policy?
And it's because of this reason that the Wojciechowski Plan on Conference Realignment will never work. The ACC isn't aggressively adding Connecticut and Rutgers because a) it shuts the door on the possibility of Notre Dame joining the conference as an all-sports member and b) it would probably piss off Florida State, Clemson and the southern ACC block enough for those four programs to have more than a wandering eye towards the SEC.
And while I agree that there is a conference realignment end-game here that reunites Kansas and Missouri, it won't happen quite like this.
The Conference Realignment end-game starts, not ends, with Notre Dame. Assuming the Irish decide to forgo its precious football independence and join a conference, I'm going to go ahead and give the slight lean towards the ACC at this point. And if the Irish are all in on the ACC, they are bringing someone with them. And that someone is probably UConn -- meh -- over Rutgers.
With Notre Dame finally off the table, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 -- which will move lock-step together -- are free to complete their Delany-Scott Manifest Destiny plan. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 lay waste to the Big 12, which is still the shakiest non-Big East AQ conference -- by picking off Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (Pac-12) and Kansas and Kansas State (Big Ten, because KU probably isn't going anywhere without KSU).
To once again achieve symmetry with the new Pac-16, the Big Ten also rescues Rutgers from the flaming wreckage of the Big East and convinces Missouri to be reunited with Kansas and Nebraska in the Big Ten.
Finally, and not to be outdone, the SEC also moves to 16 programs. Slive's first move is to call up Oliver Luck and the Mountaineers, who just saw their third choice in major conference blown away at the hands of the Rose Bowl cartel. Apparently West Virginia to the SEC was close to happening this last round of expansion, anyway. This gives the SEC 14 teams (less Missouri but plus West Virginia). From here, Slive can either match everyone else at 16 by adding Louisville (most likely, and ignoring any gripes from Kentucky because they are Kentucky) and dipping back into the Texas market and adding one of Baylor or TCU. For our purposes, let's say the Frogs win that roshambo.
If you are following along at home, here is your 4x16 BCS AQ setup, from West to East:
Pac-16 (16) -- Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
Big Ten (16) -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
SEC (16) -- Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
ACC (16) -- Boston College, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, N.C. State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
To recap: that's Notre Dame and UConn to the ACC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech to the Pac-12, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Rutgers to the Big Ten and Louisville, TCU (or Baylor) and West Virginia to the SEC.
Screwed in all of this? Well, the few current members of the Big East of any college football value left holding the bag (Cincinnati, South Florida), but no more screwed than they are today. The TCU / Baylor loser and Iowa State also get royally screwed and probably get rewarded handsomely for getting screwed. Oh, and BYU, which is still independent.
Sound far-fetched? Sure, but far less so than the ACC aggressively expanding to Rutgers and UConn and shutting the door on Notre Dame possibly joining the conference. And really, there are only a few dominoes here that have to fall -- starting with Notre Dame joining the ACC -- that could reignite the BCS conference arms race that results in the end-game that many have predicted will come about for some time now.
Your move, Notre Dame.