This really isn’t the 17th edition of this conference realignment mess, but it may as well be. Sources reported today that, as Missouri plans to leave the Big XII for the SEC, West Virginia has applied for and been accepted to the Big XII, likely ending the Big East Conference’s participation in football. The best football school left would either be Rutgers, Louisville or South Florida; this does not get you a BCS bid. The Big East can posture and threaten to bring in Boise State or Army etc., but it seems that BCS bowls are not long for the Big East.
The question is: now what? There are probably 15-25 schools in the discussion for moving conferences, and about 4 conferences that are going to hurt thanks to moves from the ACC and Big XII. The Big East has to look toward a future where they willingly let Rutgers, Louisville, USF and UConn go to conferences that offer an automatic bid; the ACC comes to mind for all four, though the Big XII (Or event the Mountain West) could come for Louisville and USF. The Big East would return to its roots as a mostly-Catholic school basketball conference, with teams like Georgetown, Villanova and Notre Dame leading the way. These teams need competition though; more than Marquette and DePaul, at least.
This is where the collateral damage comes into play. The Big East must go somewhere for these basketball schools, and the Horizon League-bullying Butler Bulldogs, are a top choice. Also in the discussion would be Atlantic 10 stars Xavier, UMass, Dayton and Temple, maybe even Rhode Island. The poaching would wreck these conferences, making them as relevant as the NEC. Yes; the threat of Texas and Oklahoma messing with conference power may lead the Big East to destroy mid-major basketball conferences.
Which is what needs to be re-investigated: why all of this began in the first place. It all starts with The Network. ESPN signed a deal with Texas to launch the Longhorn Network, an all Texas, all the time channel and the first to serve a single college program. This upset Oklahoma, who feels they deserve their own network if Texas has one, and suddenly schools were threatening their conferences to leave for better TV contracts (and maybe better competition). We can’t forget that it all began with ESPN, because if you do, you lose a lot of perspective when watching The Network cover the reshuffling.
And now schools are worried. Baylor, Kansas and other big-time programs hadn’t known for a long time whether they would be able to stay in the Big XII as the conference’s livelihood was on the edge. Teams like BYU can shop themselves to big time conferences to gain an automatic bid, and mid-major programs may find themselves the odd men out. It’s not fair to the game, the colleges, or the athletes who want to compete on a high level, but are not big-time conference material. But TV pays, and money talks louder than the game.