On Monday, a two-day meeting of the Big XII’s athletic directors got under way. At the time, there was much discussion of a potential Big XII-ACC scheduling alliance. Such a deal could conceivably delay further conference realignment for the short-term. Bob Bowlsby had said leading up to the meetings that his league had already held exploratory conversations with three different conferences. He mentioned the ACC specifically.
As for the other two leagues with which the Big XII had chatted, the vast majority of national pundits assumed the Pac-12 and the Big Ten were the other potential partners. We thought otherwise:
“We suspect, however, that Bowlsby and (Mike) Slive might have had some chats. The SEC takes a beating for its nonconference scheduling and when we move from the current BCS system to a playoff selection committee — complete with regional biases — any perceived soft scheduling could hurt the league’s chances of getting multiple teams into a four-team playoff.
Bowlsby and Slive captain the two most successful ships of the BCS era. They’ve just worked out a groundbreaking deal to partner up and split the cash from a new Sugar Bowl that’s basically owned by the leagues and run by the folks in New Orleans. What better way to further consolidate power than to reach a scheduling agreement, especially in football?”
One day into the Big XII’s meetings, the media began to focus even more closely on the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 as potential partners due to a Monday afternoon tweet put out by Kirk Bohls of The Austin-American Statesman. It stated that Slive had said that the SEC “is not involved in those (Big XII) alliance discussions at all.”
We remained a bit skeptical as that didn’t sound very much like Slive’s MO. Perhaps wires were crossed somewhere. So we wrote on Tuesday morning:
“Mike Slive has said the SEC has had no alliance discussions with the Big XII ‘at all,’ which is surprising considering he almost always keeps his options open.”
Yesterday afternoon, the story changed. Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News called across town to the SEC office and was told by SEC associate commissioner Mark Womack that the league “has engaged in limited dialogue” (Solomon’s words) with the Big XII.
Further, Womack said: “That’s a situation we would keep an open mind on, but we haven’t had a lot of significant discussions at this point. There’s a lot of different ways that could work. At this point, we’re continuing to move forward with scheduling the conference we’ve planned.” Womack pointed out that any scheduling arrangement with another league would face its share of hurdles, namely most schools’ desire to play seven home games each season.
(Sidenote — Womach also told The News that there is no timetable to finish the 2014 football schedule, that the possibility of expanding to nine league games “is probably something that will always be out there to look at,” and that it’s likely the league will only schedule the next four-to-six years rather than the usual 10-to-12-year cycle. “Given the state of everything, we’d probably look at a shorter term.”)
As we stated Monday and quoted above, it would only make sense for the SEC to consider some form of partnership with the Big XII. Those two conferences have been the lead dogs in college football for the past decade and together they control the fertile recruiting zone from the Carolinas to Texas and on up into Oklahoma.
The ACC is looking for survival. The Pac-12 wants some way to promote its product east of the Rocky Mountains. The Big Ten is looking to reach into the growing Southern states for athletes, future students, and future donors. In other words, all of those leagues want something that a partnership with the Big XII or SEC could provide. The Big XII, being the smallest of the power conferences, is the most likely to strike a deal because Bowlsby’s group doesn’t want to end up being the runt of the power conference litter.
But if you were running the Big XII or SEC, why would you aid one of those other leagues? The Big Ten and Pac-12 have their own Rose Bowl relationship. They tried to work out a scheduling agreement but failed. Let them deal with the slow growth of the Midwest and the three-hour difference between Pacific time and Eastern time.
Meanwhile, the ACC is working feverishly to protect itself from further raids. You can be certain John Swofford is putting in more calls to Bowlsby than vice versa. But if you’re the SEC or Big XII, why throw his conference a life vest? Especially if the Big XII has its eyes on Florida State and Notre Dame (it does) and if the SEC has been wooing North Carolina and Duke for years (an ACC source told The Sporting News that it has).
Our SEC sources have told us since the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M that the league does not want to expand further. But if the league feels it must expand further, well, that change things. If the Big XII feels it must grow, too, then that’s two leagues with one goal. Might they work in concert — and we’re talking about more than a scheduling alliance here — to topple a rival conference and then pick its bones clean?
First, it’s hard to imagine Slive and the SEC’s presidents taking part in such a nefarious plot. Second, even if the SEC did engage in such a plan, the Big XII would have to sign on as well.
So let’s be clear, we’re stating that an SEC-Big XII alliance makes sense for both leagues in terms of improving their current schedules and consolidating their power.
We’re suggesting that it’s theoretically possible an SEC-Big XII alliance could bring down the Atlantic Coast Conference altogether.
See the difference there? If so, put on your tin foil hat and allow us to toss a conspiracy theory at you (one we don’t subscribe to, but one we have thought about).
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