Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Sunbelt--Searching for Number 12

A lot has happened since I took an extended hiatus from sports blogging.  Rather than try to recap it all I'm just going to jump right in with a current realignment issue.  The Sunbelt is currently set to have 11 members next season, 9 of whom play football.  They have also graciously extended football only invitations to the final two WAC refugees New Mexico St and Idaho bringing their football membership up to 11.  11 is a really pointless number of members to have--you can't have a championship game and you reduce the likelihood of each member winning a championship as well as dilute rivalries.  This seems especially silly when you consider that your two affiliates in football are big geographic outliers.  So lets consider options for membership:

James Madison---They want to be an FBS school. They have the means to be an FBS school. The problem is they want to be in the same conference as Old Dominion and right now ODU is in C-USA and C-USA isn't issuing invitations.  The SBC isn't even their second choice--they are intrigued by the idea that the MAC might expand east and they could go there, potentially with nearby Delaware.

Liberty--Liberty has also gone on record stating that they would like to move up.  Much like James Madison, they are North and East of the existing footprint.  There are also some concerns about Liberty's religious affiliation which is preventing them from being a contender for the SBC opening.

Lamar--Lamar is almost ready to go to FBS but the problem with Lamar is that the SBC needs a new member in the East not the West.

Jacksonville St--The Gamecocks could potentially make the jump but they would be a third Alabama school and I don't think the SBC wants that especially Troy and South Alabama.

an HBCU like Tennessee St or Florida A&M--These schools each have a ton of fan support and would fit in the footprint and fulfill that Eastern need but I don't think either school has the money to upgrade and for Florida A&M I don't think they want to break from tradition and stop playing a conference slate of primarily other HBCU's.

I think the logical solution for the SBC is to hold at 11 and either consider bringing in UMass as a football affiliate or dropping Idaho.  UMass at the moment is sitting their football program in the MAC but according to the internet rumor the MAC is pushing UMass to either commit for all-sports or leave.  The Atlantic Ten, UMass's home for their other sports, is a better league in the MAC so I don't UMass is going to want to make that move.  The Sunbelt could give them a no-strings attached football affiliateship for a few years until they either find a more suitable home for all their sports (they want in the AAC but right now it seems UConn is blocking them) or decide that FBS football isn't working out and go back to FCS.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Modest Expansion Proposal for the CAA

I'm going to take a break from my examination of each of the NCAA Division I conferences to take a look at the CAA's situation after losing George Mason to the Atlantic Ten.  I actually think losing Mason could turn out to be a good thing.  It opens up the possibility to add Davidson and TWO more additional southern schools near Davidson.  Creating a comfortable southern division for Davidson might be exactly what it takes for the CAA to land the Wildcats.  Things are unstable in Davidson's current home; between losing Charleston a few months ago and Georgia Southern and Appalachian St's recent announcement that they are going to the Sunbelt the SoCon only has nine members and the SoCon's expansion candidates don't have the academic clout or basketball pedigree that the CAA members do.

I think the two schools to add are Elon and UNC Greensboro.  Elon is a large private school who probably can find the resources to make the move and UNC Greensboro gives the CAA another UNC campus and another school in Davidson's backyard.

The CAA would look like this:

North--Northeastern, Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware, Towson, James Madison
South--William & Mary, Elon, UNC Greensboro, Davidson, UNC Wilmington, Charleston

It gives the CAA a nice assortment of private schools and upscale public institutions.

in order to sell the Northern members on this expansion plan I think its necessary to demonstrate to them that in order to survive as a league and keep their television contract they have to have Davidson and this is what must be done in order to get them.  I think you also promise that if and when James Madison leaves for a FBS conference that they will be replaced with a truly northern school--perhaps Siena or Stony Brook.

Here's what this moves for CAA football:

North--Maine*, New Hampshire*, Rhode Island*, Albany*, Stony Brook*, Villanova*
South--Delaware, Towson, James Madison, Richmond*, William & Mary, Elon

This too is a nice set up that keeps everyone together and happy.  But here's one caveat, since the NCAA considers 7 schools to be a FCS conference CAA could work in conjunction with America East to make CAA football two leagues.  Here's how:

None of the Northern Division football schools are full members of the CAA, they are all affiliates and four of the six belong to America East.  America East could pick up sponsorship of the sport a couple of ways.  Monmouth's recent move from the NEC, who sponsors FCS football albeit with far fewer than the maximum 65 scholarships, to the more prestigiuous MAAC, who doesn't sponsor football, has left their football program somewhat isolated as an affiliate of the Big South.  Adding Monmouth as a football affiliate would give America East their 7th member.  It would also open the door for Wagner to do the same with their program if a MAAC invitation ever materializes--they nearly got one a couple months ago.  The other thing that America East could do is add Central Connecticut St as a full member.  They play football but are currently an odd fit as the lone public school in a private school league.

As for the CAA's 7th football school they could simply swap out UNC Greensboro, who doesn't play football, with a SoCon school like Furman or Wofford who does.  The other route they could take is to keep Villanova as a CAA football affiliate (instead of giving them to America East) and have America East add both Monouth (fb only) and Central Connecticut St (full member).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

State of the Conference: The Atlantic Sun Conference

The Atlantic Sun Conference is at the bottom of the totem pole as far as NCAA Division I conferences in the Southeastern United States go.  The league does not sponsor football although a few of its members field non-scholarship football teams or plan to do so.  It's members are:

Northern Kentucky
East Tennessee St
USC Upstate
Kennesaw St
North Florida
Florida Gulf Coast

Schools in Blue are private.

As a feeder league it will likely lose programs to the leagues above them in prestige, particularly the Big South and SoCon.  They will likely have to bring in NCAA Division II teams to maintain the minimum of 7 teams.

State of the Conference: The Big South Conference

Staying in the Southeastern United States, the next conference I will look at is the Big South Conference.  Right now it has 12 members--4 in each of the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina for a neat geographic footprint.  The Big South plays FCS football.  Its members are:

Virginia Military Institute
High Point*
UNC Ashville*
Coastal Carolina
Charleston Southern

Schools in Blue are private.
* Non-Football school

Stable for now, this league's football schools will soon be courting the SoCon if they haven't started already. It's hard to say who the leading candidates would be.  Coastal Carolina has a solid program that would fit with the SoCon's geography.  Liberty is also strong but they are further north and they are evangelical which might be a turn-off for some of the SoCon's members.  Gardner-Webb, while not having an exceptional program, is similar in profile to the private schools in the SoCon.

As far as schools potentially entering the Big South I think the schools in the Atlantic Sun who field are or planning to field football teams are the most likely.

State of the Conference; The Southern Conference (SoCon)

The Southern Conference was once the home of many of the SEC and ACC programs but today its a highly respected FCS conference with schools in primarily in the Carolinas but with one member in the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.  It is home to 11 members as a result of the announced departure of College of Charleston.  It's a mix of public and private institutions and 2 (previously 3) members do not play football in the league:

Appalachian St
UNC Greensboro*
Western Carolina
UT Chattanooga
The Citadel
Georgia Southern

Private schools are in Blue

The SoCon is a league that is going to lose members--FCS football superpowers Georgia Southern and Appalachian St are leading candidates for the FBS Sunbelt Conference.  The CAA, if it can hold together, has been looking at Davidson with longing eyes for a long time and they would be willing to admit another Carolina school like UNC Greensboro or Elon to accommodate them.  The A-10 might also be interested in the Wildcats.  If this league were to take heavy hits it could cause UT Chattanooga to petition the Ohio Valley Conference for admission as the two schools would fit into their footprint.

As far as schools that could join the SoCon, East Tennessee St would like to re-enter the league after being exiled to the OVC after dropping football.  OVC member Jacksonville St might also have an interest in the league.  I would consider every Big South school as having an interest in the SoCon with the football playing members being the most likely to be included.  The members of the Atlantic Sun Conference would probably like to be in this league too but their chances are much slimmer with maybe the exception of Georgia schools Mercer and Kennesaw St.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

State of the Conference: Colonial Athletic Association

My last post was on the A-10 which nicely transitions into a conversation on the CAA.  The CAA is in some ways a less sexy A-10--they have similar geographic footprints but the A-10 outshines the CAA.  The CAA is also a power conference at the FCS level but this status is in jeopardy as only 4 full-time members play the  sport and 4 members of America East are affiliates in that sport.  The CAA's full-time members are:

George Mason
James Madison
William & Mary
UNC Wilmington
College of Charleston

Schools in blue are private
School underlined play CAA football

Football affiliates include: Maine, New Hampshire, Albany, Stony Brook, Villanova, and Richmond.

The CAA is an oddity because its members have such diverse interests.  There are private schools and public ones, football schools and basketball schools, northern schools and southern schools all trying to find common cause in the same league.  For this reason I think this league is somewhat vulnerable, particularly if one wing of the conference is not willing to put aside their own interests in favor of the good of the whole to keep the league going.  There are numerous flight risks--over the half the league, in one shape or another, is a candidate for the A-10.  James Madison and possibly Delaware have FBS football aspirations,and the Patriot League has made no secret that they would like to have William & Mary.

Even if this league were to keep its membership intact its hard to say who their best expansion bets would be. They were recently unsuccessful in their bid to land Davidson but if the league lost a couple more northern schools (presumably to the A-10) they might have the room to accommodate the schools that Davidson would require as companions.  Ultimately, I think Davidson is not going to be able to stay in the SoCon forever, not with the speculation that the league will soon be gutted by the Sunbelt for its two top football programs.

I should at least consider the possibility of Northern expansion.  These candidates are many of the same that the A-10 would be looking at--Stony Brook, Albany, Siena, and perhaps other MAAC schools.

State of the Conference: Atlantic Ten

This is the first installment of an ambitious series of blog posts in which I plan to examine the state of every NCAA Division I conference.

In recent years the A-10 has been regarded as a competitive basketball league that combines a hybrid of state and private schools that span the East Coast as well as a few geographic outliers in the Midwest.  In recent years the conference has kept its membership at 14 however their membership swelled to 16 as Temple and Charlotte are competing in their final year of play while league newcomers Virginia Commonwealth and Butler have already arrived to replace them.

All is not well for the A-10 however.  The recent moves by the Big East (Catholic 7) are going to leave the league weakened and its Midwestern wing non-existent as Xavier and Butler are going to be part of the new Big East and St Louis and Dayton are believed to be following them.  This leaves the league with this line up:

U Mass
Rhode Island
St Bonaventure
St Joeseph's
George Washington
Virginia Commonwealth

The schools in blue are private institutions

I think the league still remains a viable conference.  There are certainly a few schools that might be be flight risks:  U Mass would like to be in a FBS football conference; Rhode Island perhaps would be more comfortable in America East, and Fordham in the Patriot League.  However, I think this group sticks together and I am doubtful that their will be a mass exodus from the conference.

One thing this conference has going for it is flexibility in expansion.  The can expand in any one of three geographic regions--the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southeast.  With 2 to 4 spots open the candidate list is long.  Northeastern options include Stony Brook, Hofstra, Northeastern, and Albany.  The Midwest's frontrunners are Detroit Mercy and Valparaiso and if appears that St Louis and Dayton are staying around their chances improve.  The Southeastern candidates are headlined by Davidson but George Mason, Elon, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, Charleston, and Elon could all be in the running in order to accommodate Davidson's needs.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Brave New World: Expanding the NBA into Europe

Basketball has become a truly international sport.  it's enjoyed around the world and is growing.  Professional leagues exist on other continents and are producing their own talent rather than simply being a showcase for American nationals who couldn't make it in the NBA.  The NBA has long flirted with the idea of a European expansion and I think it is something that could be feasibly done with enough capital to bankroll the endeavor as well as proper marketing.

I think, for all practical purposes, and in order to make the endeavor a success it makes since for the NBA to establish multiple teams across the pond.  I am going to suggest six and while I won't debate which six cities would be the best locations I think the rationale is simple--you are going to need multiple teams over there in order to create rivalries.  Creating a whole European division also will cut down on the amount of travel the rest of the league makes to Europe.

Here is how I would set things up:

Eastern Conference 
Europe: Pick 6 Cities
Northeast: Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington, Toronto
Southeast: Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, Memphis

Western Conference
Midwest: Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minnesota
Southwest: Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, Utah
Pacific: Seattle/Sacramento, Portland, Golden St, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Phoenix

Each NBA team will play each of their division mates 4 times (for a total of 20 games), and each of the other 30 NBA teams twice (for a total of 60 games).  When you add that together you get 80 games, 2 shy of the current 82.  If 82 is truly a magic number I am sure the NBA can find a way to determine who plays whom an extra time to get to 82.

I would also establish a "tour" system for travel.  by "tour" I mean that the six teams of one division would travel as a whole and each team would play each of the six members in that other division.  This would probably mean a road trip 10 days long.  Mind you, the who season wouldn't all be a bunch of tours but when it comes to traveling to Europe it makes sense to go over there, play a bunch of games, and then come back.  Also, it would mean just one trip to Europe for each team in the league, thus reducing travel fatigue and problems associated with adjusting to a new timezone.  A "tour" might also be handy for East Coast teams (Northeast Division) traveling to the West Coast (Pacific Division) and vice versa.

The Playoff system would need some tweaking.  Perhaps you could have some sort of playoff within the divisions to minimize travel. Or maybe whenever there is a playoff match up between a European and a North American team the 7-game series would be formatted 2-3-2 to alleviate some of that travel.

The Latest NHL Realignment Proposal

It came to my attention that the NHL has a new realignment proposal that the Player's Union shot down last year in an attempt play hardball in the then upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.  It looks a lot like the last one; only 3 teams are in different Divisions:

West Division 1          West Division 2
Vancouver                    Colorado
Edmonton                     Dallas
Calgary                         Winnepeg
San Jose                        Minnesota
Los Angeles                  Chicago
Anaheim                        St Louis
Phoenix                         Nashville

East Division 1           East Division 2
Detroit                          Columbus
Toronto                        Pittsburgh
Ottawa                         Philadelphia
Montreal                      New York Rangers
Buffalo                         New York Islanders
Boston                         New Jersey
Tampa                         Washington
Florida                         Carolina

My thoughts are that the last proposal was better.  I liked the West's Division 2 better when it had a more Midwestern feel and contained Detroit and Columbus.  I also think that Denver is a better fit with the California and Western Canadian teams.

I also thought that the previous proposal was better suited to handle expansion and relocation.  The old model was designed to accommodate a western team like Phoenix moving east while in the new proposal a western team moving east would force either Columbus or Detroit to move to the Western Conference.

I am also not a fan of the playoff set up under this model.  I am not keen on 8 out of 14 western teams making the playoffs while in the east only 8 out of 16 get in.

I do see some good in this new model though.  I think it would very easily accommodate expansion in the West.  Seattle could be granted an expansion franchise and seamlessly become part of the West's Division 1.  I could also see where a city like Milwaukee would fit nicely into the West's Division 2 should the league ever have an interest in expanding there.

Mixing things up in the Missouri Valley

The Missouri Valley Conference is currently a hybrid league of 5 football schools (all public) and 5 non-football schools (4 of whom are private).  The league is also affiliated with but does not directly administer the Misssouri Valley Football Conference--which consists of the 5 FCS scholarship-granting MVC schools as well as Summit League members North Dakota St, South Dakota, St. South Dakota, and Western Illinois as well as the Horizon League's Youngstown St.  In basketball the league's two crown jewels are Creighton and Wichita St but the former is currently being thrown around as a potential future member of the new conference being started by the Big East's Catholic 7.  Should Creighton leave the balance of power in the MVC would be tipped in favor of the football schools.

I personally would like to see the Missouri Valley football schools mix things up.  I think the 5 football schools--Indiana St, Illinois St, Southern Illinois, Missouri St, and Northern Iowa, as well as basketball power Wichita St should consider voting as a block 6-3 to disband the league and walk away without exit fees and then form a new conference with the 4 Dakota schools, Western Illinois, and Nebraska-Omaha.  5 of those 6 are Summit League members.

This would give the new conference 12 all-sports members, 10 football schools, and a relatively simple travel arrangement as a product of going to divisional play for basketball and Olympic sports:

North Dakota
North Dakota St
South Dakota
South Dakota St
Nebraska-Omaha (no football)
Northern Iowa

Wichita St (no football)
Missouri St
Western Illinois
Illinois St
Southern Illinois
Indiana St

The result would be shedding the weaker private schools while bringing in some solid state schools into the fold and creating a league that runs its football conference in-house.  Youngstown St could be retained as a football affiliate if the league wanted to keep the Penguins around.

The Fall Out
As a product of this move 3 private schools who were part of the MVC would be set adrift--Drake, Bradley, and Evansville.  The Summit League's eastern flank--Oakland, IUPUI, and IPFW as well as Denver would also be left in a league that no longer met the NCAA's minimum membership requirements.  Rather than these two groups merging, I see the 9-member Horizon League whose membership is mostly public schools in the Great Lakes region likely picking out their 3 favorites from that pool and going to a 12 member league.  The remaining schools' best bet would be to join Chicago St and UMKC in a Midwestern wing of the Western Athletic Conference.

The Horizon could look like this:

East: Oakland*, Detroit Mercy, Youngstown St, Cleveland St, Wright St, Evansville*
West: Valparaiso, Loyola (Chicago), UIC, Bradley*, Milwaukee, Green Bay

and the WAC like this:

Midwest: IUPUI*, IPFW*, Chicago St, Drake*, UMKC, Texas-PanAmerican
West: Denver*, Utah Valley, New Mexico St, Grand Canyon, Cal St Bakersfield, Seattle

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Even Bigger Big Ten

The Big Ten wants to go to 9 or perhaps even 10 conference games and have announced that the conference is going to refrain from scheduling FCS opponents.  I seriously think that the Big Ten may be gearing up for a dramatic expansion.  I think the wheels are already starting to turn and we are going to get a 16 member conference and perhaps as many as 20 members.

As I stated in my last blog article, if the SEC chose to, they could make a huge power play and lock down the entire Southeastern United States.  The Big Ten needs to be prepared to preempt or at least give a strong rebuttal if they do so.  The Big Ten needs to go for the ACC's jugular.  Maryland is already in, so I think the next natural progression is to go after UNC and UVA.  They are excellent academic schools in states that are growing rapidly.  

The ultimate goal of hitting the ACC hard is to drive Notre Dame away from them and force them to finally accept Big Ten membership.  the loss of UNC and UVA would certainly spark a mass exodus from the ACC to the SEC or Big 12.  In order to accommodate the addition of Notre Dame (or perhaps ensure that the UVA/UNC grab can be facilitated) that Duke University is the logical choice.  

With the addition of these 4 schools the Big Ten would be a 18 member league.  I think the best set up for them to consider is a zipper model where each member would have 2 crossover rivals from the opposite division.  For example--Nebraska and Minnesota would both have Iowa and Wisconsin as crossover rivals.  Much like they did with Nebraska's addition, the goal would be to create competitively balanced divisions that could be tweaked down the road to A) adjust for competitive balance and B) allow schools who never get to play each other due to the league's enormous size  an opportunity to face each other.  I would say that every 4 years would be a good interval for which to mix things up.  I think the zipper model also accomplishes something else important--it ensures that games between members on opposite ends of the conference footprint occur.  Iowa-Nebraska is a great game but its appeal is somewhat regional.  Now Nebraska-Penn St is of interest to fanbases in multiple regions.  This also boosts the appeal and value of the Big Ten Network.

My 20 Member Model
If the 18-member zipper model is to complex and contains too many working parts I think the Big Ten could easily go to 20 members and simultaneously create a more harmonious pod set up and lock down the Northeastern US television markets.  This would be by adding Boston College and Syracuse in addition to Notre Dame, UNC, Duke, and UVA.  The result would be 5 pods of 4--

Pod 1--Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa
Pod 2--Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern
Pod 3--Notre Dame, Ohio St, Michigan, Michigan St
Pod 4--Penn St, Syracuse, Rutgers, Boston College
Pod 5--Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke

Each school would always play their pod mates (3 games), one member from 3 of the other 4 pods (3 games), and all 4 more members of the 5th pod (4 games) for a 10 game conference schedule.  The 2 teams that go to Indianapolis would be the 2 teams with the highest ranking.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An SEC Super Conference

Normally I don't advocate for making the SEC any stronger than it already is on this blog but today I am going to propose a plan that would insure that the SEC would be the biggest power broker of college sports.    I believe the way that the SEC achieves ultimate football superiority and maxes out profitability is actually breaking up the conference.

DON'T stop reading!  I didn't say what you think I just did.  The SEC is in a solid position not only competitively but geographically.  They have some of the nation's most elite and historic programs and the heart of the conference rests right in the middle of the southeastern United States.  Flanking the SEC to East and somewhat overlapping it is the ACC and to the West is the Big 12.  Both of these conferences have elite programs but from top to bottom they don't compare to the SEC's line up and both conferences are burdened with weaker members that don't add market value or do not have a history of sustained football success.  With both of those conferences experiencing defections in recent years there's been talk of those two conferences working in tandem to keep up with the arms race that is college sports--a likely theory is that the Big 12, with a Grant of Rights in place (an agreement that keeps the football revenue from its members in the conference even if one or members leaves the conference), will be cherry picking the Atlantic Coast Conference's best programs.

I think the SEC could make a fortune and tip the balance of power in college sports if they decided to think outside of the box and make a radical expansion move--expand to 24 members and then split into two conferences each with two 6-team divisions.

From the ACC add: Miami, Florida St, Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech
and From the Big 12 add: Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, and Texas Tech

This is how it would look:

I am going to refer to the Eastern wing of this football confederation the SEC and the Western wing the SWC.  I think the reasoning is self-explanatory.

The SEC will be divided as zipper.  The 6 new members of the conference who came from the ACC should be familiar with this set up; they will make up the PRIDE DIVISION.  The six members of the original SEC EAST will be the TRADITION DIVISION.  Within the new SEC each team will have a crossdivisional rival that they will play on an annual basis while they will rotate playing the other members of the opposing division.  The divisions and crossover pairs are as follows:

PRIDE              TRADITION
Virginia Tech       Kentucky
NC State             Tennessee
Clemson              South Carolina
Georgia Tech       Georgia
Florida St            Florida
Miami                 Vanderbilt

Meanwhile the SWC will consist of two geographical divisions, an East consisting of the original 6 members of the SEC West, and a West consisting of Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.  The SWC will not have permanent crossover rivalries.  

WEST                 EAST
Missouri              Auburn
Oklahoma           Alabama
Oklahoma St      Ole Miss
Texas                 Mississippi St
Texas A&M       LSU
Texas Tech         Arkansas

Why do this?
For starters it kills off two rival conferences, the ACC and Big 12, by depriving them of their strongest, and most financially lucrative members.  It also concentrates the profit share that teams will earn by lessening the number of schools who can claim to be in an upper echelon conference.  It also geographically hems in the Pacific 12 Conference--the Pac-12's expansion options become incredibly bleak with Texas and Oklahoma in the SEC/SWC Confederation.  The other thing that it does is it forces the Big Ten to over expand.  The Big Ten is currently at 14 members.  It's expansion possibilities, aside from Notre Dame, are far less alluring than the programs that the SEC/SWC has picked up.  At a minimum, the Big Ten will have to expand to 16 with Notre Dame and a companion school but Commissioner Jim Delany will likely become over ambitious and go to 18 or even 20 by adding programs like Virginia, North Carolina, and possibly Duke, Syracuse, Boston College, Pittsburgh, or Kansas.  This expansion into new markets will no doubt dilute the Big Ten football product and unlike the SEC, with its abundance of strong programs and convenient lines by which they can divide geographically and still maintain meaningful historical rivalries, the Big Ten will have an impossible task of trying to create competively balanced, geographically harmonious divisions.  There simply aren't 10 programs that you can add to the Big Ten's 14 to do what the SEC/SWC did so that option is likely off the table.  There is no way that long time Big Ten members are going to agree to go into the sub-conference with the eastern newcomers and forsake decades of tradition.  

There is also the profitability of the television contracts that the SEC and SWC will garner to consider.  The 12 member and now the 14 member SEC was incredibly profitable and commanded a large inventory of meaningful games that people wanted to watch.  The big match ups between nationally ranked teams is what made the SEC so valuable.  Imagine its value when you add in every meaningful, high profile game that the Big 12 and ACC had into the pool? --the value of these new conferences increases exponentially.  If the two new conferences collaborate with one another when negotiating deals with ESPN/ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC the SEC and SWC will be able to name their price for their Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights.  I would imagine they would work with two or perhaps even three networks, offering each of them a combined bundle of Tier 1 and 2 games featuring a mix of games from both conferences in order to maximize profits by forcing Tier 2 games on the networks for inflated prices in order to secure the lucrative Tier 1 games.  The SEC and SWC would also be free to create a conference owned network or networks to showcase their Tier 3 rights and with the shear size of the league their should be plenty of inventory to air.  With the popularity of college football in the southern United States its no doubt that any network or networks created by these two conferences would be a must have in every Southern household and that they would be able to charge an even higher subscriber fee than the the Big Ten Network.  

The SEC and SWC should also be able to secure a large number of bids to the playoffs and the other high profile bowl games that are going to be associated with the new system.  And, as I said before, by leaving the ACC and Big 12 for dead the playoff and bowl money will be divided among fewer schools.  The remnants of the ACC and Big 12, whether they merge or rebuild by raiding the Big East or Mountain West will be relegated to the ranks of those 5 conferences vying to land their champion into the guaranteed slot for an access bowl.  The big checks will be split four ways--the SEC, the SWC, the Pac 12, and the Big Ten and the Big Ten schools will be dividing whatever checks they get 14, 16, or 18 ways while the checks the Pac 12, SEC, and SWC cash will only be split 12 ways.  

Possible Tweaks
This is simply my best approximation of how to maximize value for the SWC and SEC with the influx of new members.  There are a number of minor adjustments you could make:

If the combined SEC/SWC would rather have Louisville or West Virginia than Texas Tech (with the Longhorn and Aggies in the Red Raiders might not be necessary) Vanderbilt could easily move from the SEC TRADITION Division to the SWC EAST Division.

Kansas or Kansas St might make more sense to add to the SWC than Texas Tech too.  For one, it would give Missouri a more natural rival.

Missouri might decide they'd rather join the Big Ten if the Big Ten offered them a spot.  If they did I'd either swap them out for Kansas St (the more successful of the two Kansas schools), or move Vanderbilt to the SWC like I said above, and add Louisville or WVU to the SEC.

The SEC might rather have UNC over NC State but I think NC State is the right call for a couple of reasons.  UNC is not likely to move without Duke and by leaving UNC and Duke both available for the Big Ten it only offers Jim Delany further temptation to over-expand and add schools who are not traditional football powers.  I also think NC St fits better with the culture of the SEC whereas UNC is more snooty and academic.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Magnolia Conference

There has been recent conjecture that someday that mega-conferences of 16 to 18 members will become the new norm with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac 12, and probably the best elements of the Big 12 and ACC emerging as the only major conferences.  This would likely mean that a number of smaller, private, academically minded universities could be left homeless.  With this said I think NCAA conference realignment bloggers and enthusiasts should consider the creation of a Magnolia League.

The Magnolia League is not a new idea, in fact its a very old one.  Several decades ago a group of schools put forth the idea that the South's prestigious private schools should band together to create an athletic conference with high academic standards paralleling the well known northeastern academic juggernaut the Ivy League.

Who would be part of the Magnolia League?

It really depends on who is left standing after all the dominoes fall. You could potentially have a membership that looks something like this:

Wake Forest (from ACC)
Duke (from ACC)
Tulane (from Big East)
Southern Methodist (from Big East)
Rice (from C-USA)
Tulsa (from C-USA)
Baylor (from Big 12)
Texas Christian (from Big 12)

Should Vanderbilt ever decide to leave the SEC (which is highly doubtful) they too would be a prime candidate for membership.

Another private school, albeit a non-southern school that could be left out of the realignment shuffle that might have interest in such a league would be Boston College.

Any state school left out of the power conferences who was a member of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of the nation's top research universities, would also be welcome to join.  This might include someone like Georgia Tech.

I think the Magnolia League could be a tremendous success.  It would stand as a bold defiance to the mindset that college conference membership should be driven by greed, television markets, and Darwinian/Machiavellian sabotage of rival conferences.  It would be a conference built upon shared values and beliefs about the role of college athletics.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Figuring Out the Big East's Future

I don't know this for a fact but I am willing to be that their have been more blog articles written in regards to the future of the Big East Conference than any other athletic conference in America.  For those who don't know the Catholic 7, Rutgers, and Louisville are all leaving the Big East and San Diego St and Boise St have decided not to come.  Pending the determination of the exit dates of those schools, in 2014 the Big East will consist of:

South Florida
Central Florida
Southern Methodist
East Carolina (fb only but presumably will be names a full member)

Navy is supposed to join in 2015 for football only but they may decide to cancel those plans.  The Big East needs to have a long conversation with officials from the Naval Academy to determine for certain whether or not the midshipmen still consider the Big East a suitable home and/or if the departure of any certain school (or schools) would change Navy's mind.

I also think East Carolina is owed full membership due to their willingness to sign on to this league in their hour of need.

Once things are straightened out with Navy and ECU the Big East needs to determine what course of action they are going to take.  Adding Tulsa seems like a no brainer--they are a competitive team that has a history with all of the western members of the Big East particularly fellow private schools Tulane and SMU.

Tulsa's addition would put the Big East at 11 members for all sports and 12 for football provided Navy is still honoring their agreement.  I think this is a tenable set up.  Scheduling for Olympic sports might be a little hectic but I think this is the best possible scenario for the Big East (unless of course Army decided they would like to be a football affiliate and then the Big East would be in the position where they would need a 12th all-sports/14th football member.

UMass keeps getting thrown into the Big East expansion conversation but the Minutemen simply are not ready for Big East play.  They were pitiful in their first year of FBS in the MAC and their average attendance was around 10,000 a game.  This simply will not be tolerable in the Big East.  The problem is that Temple is pulling for them and UConn either is agreeing with Temple or at least not vocally opposing Temple's suggestion.  Their are two schools of thought regarding UMass--one says that the best way to get UMass up to par is to go ahead and add them; the other is to wait and let them prove themselves in the MAC.  The potential problems associated with adding them now are quite obvious.  They could be a flop and the BE would be permanently stuck with them unless their were terms written into their BE contract that would allow the BE to expel them if certain performance and attendance benchmarks were not met.  the other potential problem with them is that if another if the ACC loses another member then UConn is the next school to join that conference.  Depending on how hard the ACC is hit in a future raid the BE's other northeastern member Temple might even work their way into that conversation.  This would saddle the rest of the Big East with a geographic outlier, UMass.

Rice also gets talked about in Big East conversations because they are old friends of SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa.  But Rice also has a tiny alumni base and are completely overshadowed in their own media market, a market that the Big East already has with Houston being a member.  

Southern Mississippi, a stand up member of C-USA also gets talked about in Big East talks but they don't bring any sort of media market and media markets are the driving force of expansion nowadays.

I am putting UTSA in the Big East expansion conversation because I think they are program on the trajectory to have the same meteoric rise as USF and UCF.  Their attendance is amazing even though they have only played lackluster opponents thus far.  They are also in a top 40 media market that is without the NFL.  Maybe they don't get added right now but this is a program to watch closely. Maybe the Big East adds them in a couple years alongside UMass if UMass improves.  The thing with the UTSA Roadrunners is that the MWC is also monitoring the program closely. The MWC would love to get into Texas and UTSA would be a great add for them as well. If the Big East wants them they will have to move before the MWC does.

I am also going to slide an FCS program on this list but only because I think they have the potential to make the same kind of FCS to FBS jump that UConn did.  The school I am talking about is Delaware.  They are a perrenial Top 5 school in FCS attendance so they can draw enough fans to support an FBS program (which UMass has yet to prove).  They are also a highly competitive conference, the CAA, and they are an FCS playoff regular.  

In my mind, the 2015 Big East should look like this:

East: UConn, Temple, Navy*, East Carolina, Central Florida, South Florida
West: Cincinnati, Memphis, Tulane, Tulsa, Southern Methodist, Houston

by 2017 UMass or Delaware could be added to the East and UTSA to the West.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is 16 C-USA's target?

C-USA has been one conference that has not shied away from radical expansion recently.  In total they have lost six of the twelve members from their 2005 line up.  It is expected that they will soon lose a seventh as Tulsa has set it's sights on the Big East and a reunion with many of its old conference mates.  C-USA has not only restocked but raised their status quo from a 12 member league to a 14 member league.  They've taken a fairly balanced approach to expansion--adding for both television markets and taking into consideration on field performance---North Texas, UTSA, FAU, FIU, Charlotte, Old Dominion, and to some extent Middle Tennessee augment the league's media presence in large southern cities while LA Tech and Middle Tennessee bring very competitive programs into the fold.

Tulsa's departure is probably going to necessitate adding at least one more member but they could go for three and bring league membership to 16 and in doing so probably cripple their less affluent rival the Sunbelt.  Personally I am a fan of the Sunbelt and I would hate to see C-USA kill them just for the sake of eliminating rivals but college sports alignment is a cut throat world where only the most Darwinian and Machiavellian survive.

The options for C-USA are fairly obvious--there are the 8 Sunbelt football schools and New Mexico St available for discussion:

Western Kentucky--WKU is first on this list because they are the one of the most likely to get a call up.  They have a good relationship and healthy rivalry with nearby Middle Tennessee and I think the Blue Raiders will campaign for, rather than try to block the Hill Toppers' inclusion.

UL Lafayette--The Ragin' Cajuns are among the top tier of the SBC.  They have great attendance and they make bowl games most years.  What they lack is a strong media market.  There is also the fact that LA Tech styles itself the third best (if not 2nd best) school in Louisiana and may want to fend off competitors.  For years the Bulldogs played in the far flung WAC rather than join the SBC because they felt they were superior to their instate rivals.

UL Monroe--Despite recent strong seasons the Warhawks prospects at getting a C-USA are even worse than UL Lafayette as they are the weaker of the two ULs and in LA Tech's backyard.  They also have no television matket to speak of.

Arkansas St--the Redwolves don't have much of a market but their attendance and on field performance has been solid.  On the bright side, C-USA has no schools within the state that would try to block them.

Troy--Good football, decent attendance, lousy location.  UAB already gives them a presence in the state and I doubt the Blazers would want them in.

South Alabama--On the contrary, South Alabama is in Mobile which is an alright market.  Including them probably means landing the GoDaddy.com Bowl and UAB is probably less likely to oppose their inclusion because unlike Troy, the Blazers are better than the Jaguars.

Georgia St--Great television market, lousy team, lousy attendance.  People in Atlanta have yet to get excited about the Georgia St Panthers.  Then again, expansion is often market driven so they could sneak in.  They are just a start up and will hopefully get better...then again people said that about UAB two decades ago.

Texas St--The Bobcats could quickly become UTSA's little brother.  Letting them in would give them in would solidify the san Antonio market and maybe get a sliver of Austin but the Bobcats are probably a superfluous add unless UTSA (and UTEP) are actively campaigning for them which I don't expect to happen.

New Mexico St--The lone non-SBC candidate.  The only reason I see them getting in is if UTEP is pushing for them but UTEP is eying MWC membership so I am not sure that NMSU to C-USA is a realistic possibility.  I'm under the impression that both UTEP and the MWC's New Mexico want to keep the Aggies down and I don't see either school having a sudden change of heart.  It would also be silly for C-USA to replace a departed UTEP with NMSU because the loss of UTEP would allow the league to significantly shrink the conference footprint and eliminate some long and costly flights.

WKU is probably the first school to be taken by C-USA.  If the idea is to indeed go to 16 then I think the next two call ups are Arkansas St and Georgia St.  Should UTEP also leave necessitating 4 additions to get to 16 then either South Alabama or UL Lafayette would be the next in line.

What is the Sunbelt to do?

The 2012 realignment cycle has hit the Sunbelt Conference hard.  About a year ago the Sunbelt looked poised and well positioned going into the future with 10 football members and 12 members overall with the additions of football playing members Texas St and Georgia St and non-football school Texas-Arlington.  Conference USA has gone to the Sunbelt to replenish its depleted ranks, taking Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas, and Middle Tennessee from the league (as well as WAC refugees LA Tech and UTSA, FCS upgrade Old Dominion and Charlotte's football program which will play its first down this fall).

These leaves the SBC in a precarious position.  It has just 8 football playing members---
Western Kentucky
Georgia St
South Alabama
UL Lafayette
UL Monroe
Arkansas St
Texas St

and non-football members---
Arkansas-Little Rock

Tulsa's imminent departure from C-USA to the Big East will likely deprive the SBC of yet another member and should other shifts occur (another C-USA school to the BE or UTEP to the MWC) the situation could become even worse.

The SBC desperately needs to get commitments from FCS programs willing to upgrade to the FBS level if they are going to continue as a conference.  Fortunately for the SBC, the Southeastern US has plenty of potential candidates that could make the jump.  They should also consider bringing in New Mexico St in as a full member and maybe even Idaho as a football affiliate.

Georgia Southern is a natural addition--they would be the easternmost member of the SBC but they have a natural rivalry with Georgia St as they have long fought over which university owns the initials "GSU".  Georgia Southern is an FCS powerhouse too.  Georgia Southern is also feeling somewhat threatened by their upstart rivals in Atlanta which could prove as a motivator for the transition.

Appalachian St would be a dream addition but courting them seems to be a challenge.  They seem comfortable where they are in FCS in the elite SoCon but if their rival Georgia Southern announces they are moving attitudes in Boone, NC could change.

Jacksonville St is an Alabama school with some history with Troy.  They are one of the Ohio Valley Conference's top programs and they have solid attendance.  They aren't a sexy pick put they are an available option.

James Madison is a school in Northern Virginia that is equipped to make the move provided they are willing to commit to traveling the SBC's Deep South conference footprint.  Their attendance, facilities, and on field performance are all top notch.  There is also the fact that their current home in FCS, the Colonial Athletic Association is very factionalized and the conference's commitment to playing FCS football at a high level is waning as only 4 full members currently sponsor the sport.

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia would be a natural companion for the James Madison Dukes.  The university's chancellor has already expressed his desire to take the Flames up to college football's highest level of competition and styles his school as the Evangelicals' Notre Dame.  They too would have to commit to some serious increases in travel expenditures by moving to the SBC but their FCS home, the Big South, is currently in shambles and is down to 6 football members.

Encouraging Texas-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock to revive their dormant football programs would also help the SBC's woes.  Texas-Arlington has a suitable on-campus stadium already and I've suspected that an expressed interest in reviving the program helped get them included the last time the SBC expanded.  UALR could play in War Memorial Stadium, where the Arkansas Razorbacks play when they make their annual visit to the state's capital city.  I suspect that that the Razorbacks will be resistant to any attempts by their little brother to play college football however.

There are also options within the Lone Star State that the SBC could explore.  Schools like Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston St, and Lamar come to mind.  These schools would struggle to meet FBS attendance requirements (but them again Georgia St has yet to prove they can get their average over the 15,000 mark and over half of the MAC meets that requirement.  Sam Houston St has appeared in back-to-back FCS title games so they could definitely come in and make a respectable showing in the SBC.

An honorable mention should go out to UT Chattanooga. UT Chattanooga of the SoCon could attempt to make the jump with Georgia Southern and Appalachian St.  The Mocs aren't at the same level as some of the other candidates but they could turn to them if others pass on the SBC.

Missouri St could also work their way in to the conversation if they are willing to part ways with the Missouri Valley Conference.  They are in Southwest Missouri and not a terribly long trek from Arkansas St.  Their name change to Missouri St a few years ago seems to indicate to me that they are looking to go to a higher level.  It also fits with the "Fill in the blank" St theme the conference has going (i.e. Arkansas St, Texas St, Georgia St).

That's a total of ten programs that they could pursue to make the jump up to FBS.  And that total does not include New Mexico St or Idaho, nor the revival of football at UALR or UT-A.  I also heard a rumor that the University of North Florida in Jacksonville was considering adding football; presuming they want to follow the same path as FAU and FIU the SBC would be the perfect place to start.  Another idea floating out there is that SBC should recruit some of the bigger HBCU's to join their league--Florida A&M, Alabama St, Tennessee St, and Jackson St.  Bringing in the HBCU's would certainly elevate the quality of SBC halftime performances.

The moral of this blog post is that the Sunbelt Conference can survive but to do so they need to start bringing in new blood and do so quickly before C-USA returns to pick them clean once more.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The MWC should add Gonzaga

The Mountain West Conference would love to reclaim BYU as a member of their conference.  However there is a slight problem--BYU seems content as an FBS independent and the West Coast Conference has proved to be an excellent conference of convenience for BYU.  BYU is one of 3 stellar basketball programs in that conference--the other two being Gonzaga and St Mary's, and that great triumvirate will guarantee the WCC at least two bids for the foreseeable future.

When it comes to MWC-BYU affairs there are a few things to consider.  BYU has television clout and can command a few million dollars a year for their home games in television revenue.  What BYU lacks as an independent is ample access to the new playoff system--something that the MWC has so long as their champion is ranked higher than the champion of the Big East, Sunbelt, MAC, and C-USA.  BYU on the other hand has to be ranked in the top 4 to be guaranteed a spot in one of these elite games.  So far in discussions BYU has taken the attitude that the MWC needs them more than they need the MWC.  For the most part this is true--so long as BYU has a stable home in the WCC for their Olympic sports.

Should the MWC create instability within the WCC this could all change.  The MWC currently has 11 full members and Hawaii as a football only affiliate.  This was due to an arrangement with Hawaii when the WAC was collapsing where the MWC would take in their football program if Hawaii parked the rest of their sports in the less prestigious Big West.  11 is an awkward number for scheduling purposes; 12 would be more ideal.  This is where Gonzaga fits in.  Gonzaga, who does not sponsor football and has no aspirations to do so, could even out the MWC and take Hawaii's spot in Olympic sports.  Gonzaga has already demonstrated that they would be willing to knife their private school WCC brethren in the back when they announced that they would be willing to join the Catholic 7 if the Catholic 7 wanted to become a nationwide conference (and presumably St Mary's would come too).  The MWC is a better basketball conference than the WCC.  According to ESPN's Joe Lunardy's Bracketology for 15 January 2013 the MWC is a 6 bid league--5) San Diego St, 5) New Mexico 7) UNLV, 8) Boise St, 10) Wyoming, and 11) Colorado St.  Meanwhile only BYU and Gonzaga of the WCC are currently predicted to make the tournament.  If Gonzaga could be convinced to jump to the MWC it would severely weaken the WCC and might give the MWC the leverage needed to land BYU.

If they were successful in pressuring the Cougars into returning another football school would be needed to balance out the league at 14 and UTEP would be a natural fit.  They have a decent football pedigree and a strong basketball program.  The MWC also has another strong basketball program coming in for 2013--Utah St.  If this gambit was successful it would make the MWC the undisputed top basketball conference in the West and reduce the WCC to a one-bid league.  The addition of BYU to the MWC for football would likely give the MWC a stranglehold on the bid for a big money bowl in the new playoff system.  As far as divisions go Boise St would anchor the Western Disvison while BYU would anchor the Eastern (Mountain) Division:

Mountain (East)
Utah St
Colorado St
Air Force
New Mexico

Boise St
San Diego St
Fresno St
San Jose St
Hawaii (fb)/Gonzaga (Olympics)

Another side effect of this move is that Gonzaga would be a convenient travel partner for Boise St.

With all of this considered the Mountain West should make a gutsy attempt to lure Gonzaga and BYU into the conference.  Even if bringing in Gonzaga isn't enough to lure BYU it would still bring the MWC some basketball revenue and relieve a few scheduling headaches for the commissioner's office.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What's the hold up with San Diego St?

If you've been following college sports realignment than you know that San Diego St was part of a package deal with Boise St to become football only members of the Big East Conference.  Since then the Big East has lost Automatic Qualifying status to the BCS, which is being replaced by a 4-team playoff and a system of "access" bowls, as well as a few members--Rutgers to the Big Ten, Louisville to the ACC, and the seven non-football schools to a new yet-to-be named conference.  After considering all of this and the travel subsidies that they were going to have to pay the Big West for being their conference of convenience Boise st opted to renig on the Big East and stay in the Mountain West, which gave them a sweetheart deal to stay.

Part of the deal the MWC made with Boise St is that San Diego St has the right-of-first-refusal until January 31st.  What this deal didn't specify was what terms the MWC had to offer San Diego St.  So San Diego St is sitting in limbo.  The MWC schools are being childish and trying to take the Aztecs to the cleaners for their transgressions (which Boise St encouraged them to make but somehow has gotten forgiven for).

San Diego is stuck in this bad situation where they are stuck in between the Big East and Mountain West.  The Big East deal wasn't incredibly awful for SDSU.  It meant paying a ton to fly the football team to the other side of the country but in the long run the athletic department was set to save $100,000 a year compared to what they would pay as an all sports member of the MWC by having the rest of their sports in the Big West which is essentially a California bus league (+Hawaii).

San Diego St is in a position where the MWC makes the most sense but the MWC has opted to be dicks about the situation and make San Diego St pay for a move that was ultimately Boise's idea.  Where on the other side you have Mike Aresco of the Big East begging you to stay in his league.

Personally I would like to see the MWC wisen up, drop the air of pretension and recognize that SDSU is essential to the health of the MWC.  San Diego is one of the MWC's biggest television markets so it makes sense to hold onto the Aztecs.  Also, it seems in poor taste to be creating bad blood with San Diego St.  If these schools are going to coexist peacefully in the same league then they need to drop the threats of not admitting SDSU and let them in and waive their MWC exit fees and MWC entrance fees.  Leaving the Aztecs in the Big East is bad for business.   A Jilted Aztec program is going to be looking to get back at the MWC and potentially deprive it of Frenso St or UNLV by working with the Big East and Big West to bring them into a football membership in the former and all sports member of the later.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

(Big) EAST or (Mountain) WEST?: The Waiting Game Continues

The fates of several schools' athletic programs are hanging in a state of limbo right now.  Ultimately a handful of schools have the power to make or break conferences, one conference commissioner is trying to orchestrate a double play that could cement his league as the undisputed 6th best, and another desperately tries to hold onto what his league's western assets.

The MWC has the power to court 2-4 schools from the states of Texas and Oklahoma--namely from the pool of Houston, Southern Methodist, Tulsa, UTEP, and UTSA and if they are successful in attracting the right schools could strike a major blow to the Big East.

On the other hand Mike Aresco is trying to keep the Big East intact and secure its future albeit a diminished one in the new world order of college football.  Aresco's Big East is down to 10 members in 2014 and presumably 11 in 2015 if Navy follows through with their plans to join.  He desperately needs to keep both Houston and Southern Methodist in the league to keep it alive.

Fortunately for Aresco, it seems Southern Methodist prefers life in the Big East than the western frontier.  SMU would be very comfortable with fellow private schools Tulane (already in the BE in 2014) and Tulsa (presumed to be the next BE target), and would like to see Houston honor their commitment and be a Big East member as well.

Houston on the other hand seems to be more open to the MWC's overtures.  No one from Houston's administration has made any statements affirming their loyalty to the BE only that they were unhappy with Boise's decision to forego their BE plans.

The other schools in the region are essentially pawns in this chess match between the MWC and BE:

Tulsa seems to be in a good position no matter what happens.  They will no doubt end up in either the BE or the MWC when all the dominoes fall.  The best case scenario would be to be with both Houston and SMU in the BE.  Going with them to the MWC wouldn't be bad either nor would ending up in the BE with SMU (and Tulane and Memphis) but without Houston.  There's even the chance of going to the MWC with Houston too.  In the worst case scenario they end up in the BE with the aforementioned Tulane and Memphis and probably some other Texas school while Houston and SMU end up in the MWC.

UTEP's future is somewhat more tenuous.  The Miners need at least Houston to decide that the MWC is the way to go.     This could give them an opening into the MWC and a lifeline out of the much depleted C-USA.  UTEP would have to beat out other suitors to get the spot though---Tulsa, UTSA, and even BYU if they are interested, could be in the mix for that spot.

UTSA is in a bit of a bind.  They clearly have loads of potential but they seem to be overlooked by both leagues at the moment.  If the MWC decided to go to 16 they could slip in while in the BE it seems as though academic snobbery could prevent UTSA from even becoming part of the conversation.  It looks like they are probably going to have to bide their time in C-USA for a few more years until conference shifts occur elsewhere.

Rice has the potential to slip into the Big East if Houston passes on Big East membership.  despite being a program living in the past and far removed from their glory years they have powerful friends in Southern Methodist and Tulane that could help them make them to jump.  Tulsa is no doubt the BE's first choice but they could be the BE's second pick.

Southern Miss would love to get a BE call up but Southern Miss cannot even be considered by the BE until they get their Texas situation settled.

While not in the same region as the others, UMass is another school eying the BE.  They too are left playing the waiting game.