College Football Realignment News: Notre Dame on Deck; Pac-12, Big 12 could merge; SEC vs. Big Ten playoffs?

The shock is fading…right? Or maybe the Trojans and Bruins gearing up for Big Noon games (9 a.m. PT!) are still going to take some getting used to.

The 4th of July weekend is upon us, so we’ll assume the realignment takes a few days off. We need it. USC and UCLA need it. They need time to buy parkas, hire tutors for five-hour plane rides, and develop a taste for cheese curds. Such is the lingering impact of the two West Coast icons heading to the Big Ten.

Now it’s time to consider the next steps.

Notre Dame is a talking point until she decides that’s not the case. His continuous dance with the members of the conference goes back almost a century. The Pac-12 is already on record as aggressively continuing to expand. The Big 12 did not reveal a plan, if any. He could stay at 12 ready to go in 2025, or as industry insiders suggest, choose as many Pac-12 schools as financially possible and possibly send the Pac-12 to the dustbin of history.

Then there’s the ACC which, until further notice, looks increasingly vulnerable. If this all sounds ruthless, we should be used to it by now. The shock should wear off… right?

Here’s the latest from the realignment trenches….

Nothing happens until Our Lady decides

The Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors met by phone Friday, but does the Pac-12 have a strong position? Until Notre Dame decides its future, there probably isn’t. Sources have told CBS Sports that the Big Ten is over “for now” until the Fighting Irish determine whether they want to try to join the conference.

To entice Notre Dame to jump into the Big Ten, a source suggested that Stanford could be brought in as a kind of “rivalry” partner. The two schools have met 24 times over the past 25 years, with the series only interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

In this scenario, Notre Dame would have at least five traditional rivals (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, USC) as Big Ten conference partners. With an attractive conference schedule and three annual non-conference games, the Irish could easily continue their “Shamrock streak” of unique games across the country.

The Big Ten could stop there at 18 or go further, depending on the intentions of the SEC. There is a growing feeling that a combination of Clemson, Florida State and Miami could migrate to the SEC. This assumes that one of the three would provide pro-rata (equal value) to teams already in the league. That’s $80 million to $100 million a year in media rights fees.

Breaking the ACC grant of rights could require a steep eight-figure exit fee, assuming the contract is not successfully challenged in court. However, such a penalty could be funded over several years while new schools reap an annual windfall.

Does that force the Big Ten to take a close look at countries like North Carolina and Virginia? Both were on commissioner Jim Delany’s radar years ago before the league finally added Maryland and Rutgers.

With or without Notre Dame, an industry source doubted the Big Ten would be worth inviting Oregon and/or Washington. This source went so far as to call both schools “tweeners,” not big enough to justify the $80-100 million annual media rights fee, but clearly better than other Pac-12 schools.

Think Oregon and Washington more attractive to the Big 12 if the Pac-12 doesn’t stick together. Talking about that…

Looking down

Regardless of Notre Dame’s decision, the next step in the realignment could be a Big 12 or Pac-12 raid by the other conference.

An industry source said the Pac-12 (without USC and UCLA) and the Big 12 (without Texas and Oklahoma) were compared to “Mountain West or AAC-plus”.

Attempting to poach teams from the other league is the obvious response to the enhancement of these labels and the rights fees that come with them. A raid might not change much of the financial calculations, but it would mean the survival of one conference and the potential dissolution of the other.

An industry source described the Big 12 options as if the realignment was a buffet.

  • Take Arizona Schools (add Phoenix Market)
  • Take Arizona and Mountain Schools (Colorado and Utah)
  • Attempt a near-complete merger with the Pac-12 by adding Arizona Schools, Mountain Schools, Oregon, and Washington

The Big 12 must act quickly. On the West Coast, a source says there have been a series of calls among Pac-12 administrators with themes of loyalty and cohesion… but nothing like a “blood oath” . Why would there be any with each looking after their own interests?

“You can’t trust anyone,” a Pac-12 source said of the climate for major college football. “It’s finish.”

The Mutual Destruction Option

There is an option that would ensure the joint extermination of both conferences but would provide stability for the survivors: get the top Big 12 and Pac-12 schools to agree that forming a new conference is in their best interests.

It could look like this:

There’s some spice if Utah and BYU could reconnect in a conference. Pac-12 schools gain recruiting access in Texas and expand their reach in the Central Time Zone. Big 12 schools gain recruiting access in California while adding the media markets of Phoenix, Denver and Seattle.

This hybrid conference might look better than anything one league could form by taking a few teams from the other. And if the idea is to get as close to SEC and Big Ten revenue as possible, this might be the best lineup.

Of course, this would also mean that the following programs would be left out: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oregon State, Washington State, West Virginia.

The power of two

As mentioned Thursdaythe 32 teams combined in the Big Ten and the SEC could mount credible playoffs on their own when they have their final configurations (for now) both settled in 2025.

Media rights insiders who recently spoke with CBS Sports added some depth that suggests the idea was not only considered, but may be a big reason the Big Ten made the bold move.

  • Take the top four from each conference and seed them into an eight-team pool.
  • The quarter-finals and semi-finals are played in bowl matches (as proposed in last year’s 12-team playoff table).

Using the CFP’s first eight years as a benchmark, only five qualified teams in the field wouldn’t have a chance to return: Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame and Washington.

If Clemson and FSU joined the SEC — and if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten — only Cincinnati and Washington would be the outliers. Would there even be a lot of hindsight?

#College #Football #Realignment #News #Notre #Dame #Deck #Pac12 #Big #merge #SEC #Big #Ten #playoffs

Add Comment