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Conference Expansion: Big 12 Not Dead Yet? Would The SEC Go After The ACC?

The Big 12 just might not be dead. According to The Oklahoman, the school's ten remaining members will hold a meeting of their athletic directors on Monday to discuss salvaging the Big 12.

The same Oklahoman source said one last-ditch effort to salvage the Big 12 could take place Monday in a meeting with the athletic directors from the Big 12’s remaining schools.

The meeting could also involve talking to TV officials, to gauge what kind of TV contract the league could land after losing both Colorado and Nebraska this past week.

The Big 12’s TV contract with Fox expires after the 2011 season.

Texas deciding to stand pat in a Big 12 without Colorado and Nebraska is probably the best possible outcome at the moment for BC and the ACC. If Texas decides the Big 12 isn't worth salvaging, then in all likelihood 5 of the remaining 10 Big 12 schools would likely join Colorado in a 16-team Pac 10.

For the ACC, the question of which 5 Big 12 teams becomes very important. Texas A&M is reportedly interested in breaking away from Texas and joining the SEC. The Aggies, however, are unsure which direction they will take. If they decide to pursue an invitation from the SEC, the conference would temporarily have 13 teams. This might trigger the SEC to look towards the ACC to round up to 14 teams or go balls out and match the Pac 10 with 16 teams. ESPN's Joe Schad seems to think the SEC could stop at 13 teams, but given the scheduling headaches that the MAC has faced, that situation doesn't seem too realistic. The SEC's fourteenth team could very well come from the ACC in the form of Florida State or Clemson.

The better question regarding Texas A&M is not whether they will vote to join the SEC, but rather whether the SEC is interested in Texas A&M. If Texas and Oklahoma go west and come off the board, the SEC's incentives to just invite just Texas A&M decrease substantially. While Texas A&M does provide the conference with an expanded footprint in the Dallas and Houston TV markets, the real jewel of Slive's eye appears to be Texas and Oklahoma.

Sources also told ESPN that there was no way the SEC would turn its gaze towards the ACC in any expansion plans:

Looking beyond the Big 12 for expansion, specifically to the ACC for schools such as Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State or Miami, was not in the SEC's plans, sources told ESPN.

The sources saw no way the SEC would raid the ACC and added serious doubt that Virginia Tech could be pried away from Virginia.

There is already plenty of blood in the water with Pac 10 and Big Ten expansion. Mike Slive doesn't have much incentive to tip the ACC apple cart if all they stand to gain is an Aggies program that would be walking away from most of their longstanding rivalries.

ACC Targets on Big Ten Expansion List?

The rumors about the Big Ten poaching an ACC program or two don't seem to be dying down either. MarylandGeorgia Tech and Boston College have all been rumored to be on the Big Ten's wish list. The Big Ten targeting Big East school rumors seems to have died down a bit and the conference may ultimately be spared in this round of conference musical chairs. However, if the ultimate goal of the Big Ten is to lure Notre Dame to join the fold, Jim Delany isn't going to accomplish this by extending invites to any one of those three ACC schools.

Expansion Wildcards

Money seems to be the primary motivating factor in all this conference realignment talk, so it should come as no surprise that the University of Memphis is willing to offer what amounts to a bribe for any BCS conference willing to take on the Tigers. FedEx CEO Fred Smith have spoken to a number of different conference officials and made it known that his company would be willing to offer up to $10 million annually to rescue Memphis from Conference USA obscurity and place them in the Big East or the SEC.

Would the ACC consider taking on the Tigers for $10 million a year? Not likely, especially considering this figure split 13 ways (1/13 cut for the league) amounts to a little over $750,000. This isn't chump change by any means, but the ACC would likely be taking on a lot more headaches than its worth. Those headaches include considering further expansion to get to an even number of teams and taking on a football team coming off a 2-10 season in Conference USA.

Chances are that this offer would be more strongly considered by the Big East (even though they would likely have to jettison one of their basketball-only members to make room for the Tigers) or the SEC (if they are looking for a fourteenth member to pair with Texas A&M).

East Carolina AD Terry Holland also wrote a rather candid open letter to Pirate supporters explaining where ECU falls in all the various expansion rumors. He states that Conference USA would be very interested in bringing on any of the Big 12 leftovers (who wouldn't be?) and explains the Big East's current dilemma they have between basketball and football schools. It's an interesting read and furthers the notion that the Big East is really just putting their heads in the sand and hoping the Big Ten doesn't poach any of their existing members in this round of expansion.