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Pac-12 announcement may save Big XII, limit SEC expansion options

What is going on out there?!?!
What is going on out there?!?!

Yesterday we published a report from the Kansas City Star stating that Missouri would have an offer to join the SEC if the Big XII were to implode. That report was later echoed in a report by the Birmingham News citing sources within the SEC. Those reports still may well be accurate and likely still remain true: Missouri will likely be targeted by the SEC as the 14th member if the Big XII doesn't survive. (The SEC later denied in a statement that there was such an offer, but one has to wonder if this was merely legal cover, since the reports yesterday came from multiple sources on both the MU and SEC sides.)

What has changed, however, since we passed along that news yesterday afternoon, is this unexpected announcement late last night about the Pac-12's decision to decline offering invitations to Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. With that news, which seemed to shock even some insiders from other conferences, the Big XII's demise--which looked all but inevitable as recently as 24 hours ago--is suddenly much less a sure thing now that OU/Texas et al to the Pac-16 is now off the table. In fact, many now believe the Big XII will survive with Oklahoma and Texas intact.

If the Big XII does somehow survive, Missouri will almost certainly stay a part of that conference and no official offer will be extended from the SEC--exactly as was reported yesterday. While the Big XII's possible survival will likely prevent the all-out endgame of four 16-team super-conferences from becoming reality in the near future, it will not end the uncertainty surrounding conference realignment, and it is unlikely to reverse the official decisions made by three schools (so far) to switch conference allegiances.

Texas A&M (SEC), Pitt (ACC) and Syracuse (ACC) have all already made official their moves to new conferences, where each has already been officially approved by the respective conference leadership. There doesn't appear to be any going back on those moves, although at this point I suppose just about anything is possible. And because these moves appear to be done, this thing isn't over yet.

For starters, the Big East must, by NCAA rule in fact, expand their football membership to replace the two lost schools. Reports have emerged they are targeting service academies, interestingly enough. The Big XII is also likely, if it does indeed survive, to pick up a school or three to make up for the losses of Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado over the last two years. But that is not really the SEC's concern, as whomever either picks up will most certainly come from the realm of non-BCS conferences.

What does concern us, however, is what the SEC does next now that their first choice for a 14th team (Missouri) may be off the table. Again, if the Big XII implodes, all indications are Missouri will be that team. If it survives, however, the SEC must either find some way to live with 13 teams or must look somewhere besides the Big XII for a 14th member.

Playing with 13 teams is possible, but obviously not with balanced divisions, and without balanced divisions scheduling becomes a nightmare. If a 14th team must be added, it will almost certainly have to come from either the ACC or the Big East.

Adding an ACC team like Florida State, Clemson or Virginia Tech would probably be the preference of most SEC fans, if I had to guess, but there are a couple of major problems here. First, with the ACC's power move in adding Pitt and Syracuse, the conference now looks stronger than ever (from a stability standpoint), and in the event there is a move in the near or distant future towards four super-conferences, the ACC is now certain to be home to one of them. Not only has the ACC now already essentially clinched super-conference status, but the three schools mentioned are getting the best of both worlds (at least on the football field): they are playing in a "super-conference", but one that they can and should dominate for the foreseeable future, particularly Florida State and Virginia Tech. Furthermore, in the case of the two schools seemingly the best cultural and geographic fit for the SEC--Florida State and Clemson--rumors persist that their in-state SEC counterparts are none too keen to bring them on board. In any case, adding an ACC team is possible, but looking less likely. We already know that the SEC prefers Missouri over anyone from the league, and that has to make you wonder if expanding with an ACC school is a realistic possibility at the moment considering the seemingly strong options there like FSU and VT.

That really just leaves the Big East. And within the Big East, there are really only two realistic possibilities: Louisville and West Virginia, neither of whom exactly stir up excitement on the part of, well, anyone. With Louisville, there is the same issue as with Clemson and FSU: does UK want them in the league? If the answer is no, it's likely not an option. At any rate, they wouldn't bring in any new markets, if that's what the SEC is really after, as would seem to be the case with Texas A&M and Missouri being the top targets. All of which brings us back to West Virginia. The Mountaineers really don't bring anything to the table that the SEC needs, save perhaps a small presence in the Pittsburgh media market. However, in the case that the SEC really just needs to round out the league with one more team, and the Big XII and ACC effectively circle their wagons, they may well be left as the least bad option. Even with that said, there were reports yesterday morning that West Virginia had reached out to both the ACC and SEC, and both had declined interest. The only other even remote possibilities would be TCU (soon to join the Big East) and USF, but neither seems all that realistic.

Look, we here at RBR aren't here to follow the rumors and gossip of everything realignment. There are plenty of places to do that. However, when big news breaks about a credible report that directly affects Bama and the SEC--like yesterday's news about Missouri coming on board if the Big XII crashes, and yesterday's news about a plan for Auburn to be moved to the East division--we will address it as we did yesterday.

For now we will leave it at this. Texas A&M appears headed to the SEC no matter what as team #13. Missouri reportedly will be team #14 if the Big XII doesn't survive. If the Big XII does survive, the SEC will likely need to look elsewhere for a 14th team. And finally, in that case, adding a team from the ACC may not be an option, which would leave the SEC in a bad spot. Notice all the "if's", "likely's", "maybe's", etc. Nothing is for sure, but that's where things stand now, and when something credible breaks relating directly to the future of Bama and the SEC, we will address it.

Until then, we remind you that there is an actual game to be played on the field this weekend. In Tuscaloosa. One that involves two top-15 teams in an SEC West clash. Nick Saban doesn't have time for this...other stuff.