While the dust is far from settled on conference expansion, it has now been a week since the news broke that USC and UCLA would be leaving the Pac 12 for the Big Ten. The rest of the BSD Staff did a great job summarizing their thoughts in the immediate aftermath, but with some time now inbetween the breaking of the news, here’s 8 thoughts on what has happened and what could be happening next.
1. First and foremost, it’s obvious that this is where college football — and athletics as a whole — are going so the Big Ten is smart to be as aggressive as possible. At the end of the day, this entire industry is about one thing: money. It’s a business and it’s wise for the Big Ten to act this way.
2. That being said, expansion stinks. It’s one thing for Texas A&M to head to the SEC or Nebraska to come to the Big Ten, and it’s another thing for the major blue blood programs like Texas, Oklahoma, and USC to leave their conferences for greener pastures. Again, I get it and understand why it’s happening, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. What makes/made college football great was the tradition and the region-focused culture each conference took on — and now, despite how cool USC vs. Michigan in mid-October might be, that is being lost.
3. Could the Big Ten just stop at USC and UCLA and keep 16 members? Sure. That seems extremely unlikely in my opinion though. It appears it’s just a matter of time before the Big Ten — along with the SEC — become the two premier “superconferences” within college athletics. With that being the case, who should the Big Ten focus on getting?
4. Notre Dame is the obvious first choice. They are in the heart of Big Ten country already, and more importantly, they are a major national brand in both athletics and academics. As many others smarter than me have said, they are the biggest domino in dictating what happens with conference expansion. If they depart their quasi-partnership with the ACC for the Big Ten, you can bet that the SEC continues their expansion shortly thereafter.
5. Notre Dame seems generally hesitant to join a conference because they think they are better than everyone, but what about the rest of the Pac 12? Oregon and Washington are probably the top two candidates, having strong athletic departments and bringing in intriguing television markets like Seattle and Portland. At this point though, it doesn’t seem like the Big Ten is eager to add Oregon or Washington right now.
6. Cal and/or Stanford could also be picked off from the Pac 12, and would break the Big Ten into the Bay Area market. Just from what I have seen, Oregon and Washington seem like the more likely duo to receive the invite should the Big Ten want to move to 18.
7. Then there’s the ACC which has proven to be more sturdy and stable than the Pac 12 and Big 12, but the USC and UCLA shakeup has clearly put everything into question. For the Big Ten, getting some ACC schools would push them right into the SEC’s territory with states like Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina all up for grabs. Now of course, the SEC will always be king in the south, but the Big Ten has to see the intrigue in adding a North Carolina, Florida State, or even a Georgia Tech.
8. One of the questions asked in the BSD Roundtable last week was: “Is this good for Penn State?” That’s an extremely difficult question to answer because whether it’s one week from now or two years from now, it doesn’t seem like USC and UCLA will be the final two schools the Big Ten adds. Hard to answer the question when the context surrounding the question is going to change.