The SEC and Big 10 seem to control most, if not all, of the big decisions in college football. With the recent collapse of the Pac 12, with the top four brands leaving for the SEC and Big 10, it seems now more than ever that these two could be in a scenario where if they make a few strategic chess-like moves, they could put the NCAA and the rest of college football in a check-mate.
Today may have been one of those big moves.
In a joint statement, the Southeastern Conference and Big 10 announced that they would be joining together to address the issues going on in college football.
“There are similar cultural and social impacts on our student-athletes, our institutions, and our communities because of the new collegiate athletics environment…We do not have predetermined answers to the myriad questions facing us. We do not expect to agree on everything but enhancing interaction between our conferences will help to focus efforts on common sense solutions.”
-Greg Sanky, SEC Commissioner
“The Big Ten and the SEC have substantial investment in the NCAA and there is no question that the voices of our two conferences are integral to governance and other reform efforts,”
-Tony Petitti, Big Ten Commissioner
What is Likely to Happen?
There are only so many big brands of football left that are not currently in the SEC. Florida State, Notre Dame, and Miami top the list, but teams like Oklahoma State, TCU, Arizona, NC State, Colorado, and Kansas State are not far behind them. outside of those teams, there aren’t many teams that stack up against the top-tier SEC and Big 10 schools. Yes, BYU or Virginia seem like a better brand than Vanderbilt or Indiana, but they aren’t quite at the level of Michigan State or Ole Miss, which are considered middle-of-the-pack teams in their conferences.
It sure seems and feels like the SEC and Big 10 are joining forces to ultimately break away from the NCAA, at least in football. Money won’t be an issue. Each conference is set to make north of $100 million in TV revenue alone in the coming years, and having an NCAA patch on the jersey isn’t going to negatively affect that.
The next question is, what happens to the current teams in and outside of the SEC and Big 10? It could go realistically one of two ways.
SEC and Big 10 Clean House, Get Biggest Brands
If the SEC and Big 10 truly want to control college football and make it its own league, they may decide to go get the best teams and clean house to an extent. A separate league larger than 40 teams seems unlikely (SEC has 16, Big 10 has 18), but it also seems unlikely that adding only six more schools would get enough national presence. As of right now, there are only four schools west of Texas that are in these two leagues. That’s half the time zones in the continental US.
Before you can even go west, you’ve got to add Notre Dame, Florida State, and Miami somewhere. That only leaves three potential spots open for teams out west and, in many ways, leaves an empty void along the east coast.
In this case, getting BYU and Utah for the Holy War and a footprint in the Mountain West may be worth getting rid of Indiana and Illinois. Having Arizona and Arizona State may be worth dropping Vanderbilt and Arkansas. If the SEC and Big 10 truly want the best 40 teams, and to be a true national conference, this is what it may take.
SEC and Big 10 Expand to 40, Keep Same Members
There does seem to be some hesitancy to drop schools and form new conferences despite Rutgers being…Rutgers. In this case, again going back to 40 teams, Notre Dame and one of the Florida schools gets picked up by the Big 10 for their 20, and then the SEC goes with the other Florida school and two others (likely out west) to get to their 20.
With this scenario, the two conferences have all the huge name brands and power they want, but would likely leave a big enough gap both geographically, and brand-wise to keep a strong second tier of teams that would still be very competitive. How this would look is anyone’s guess, but not having any teams in the top level of college football from California to Texas just seems a bit odd, and honestly not something that would give a knock-out blow to the rest of college football.
Again, who knows how the rest of college football would react to this change, but there would still be some kind of major college football with most of the existing Big 12 and ACC schools.
The SEC and Big 10 alliance was bound to happen. Everyone who has followed the sport saw it coming from a mile away, and depending on which side of the issue you are as a fan, today is either a great day or the day that was dreaded but inevitable.
The only question is, will the Big 12 and ACC make the next move, or is it already checkmate?
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