Conference Realignment: Why SEC-Big 12 Deal Doesn’t Bring On Superconferences

Many Experts Believe the New Big 12-SEC Deal Means Superconferences Are Here. But Are They Really That Inevitable?

When news broke late last week of the Big 12 and SEC‘s agreement to create “Rose Bowl South,” every pundit from coast-to-coast was quick to declare the ACC dead and announce the arrival of superconferences. The theory is/was that with the “top four” FBS leagues paired off into big-money arrangements and likely playoffs berths too, there’d be little room for the ACC (and the other leagues, which didn’t stand much of a chance to begin with). It also took this as proof that the next big domino (Florida State) would be falling shortly, ushering in the superconfernece era.

While I’m not naive enough to think that Florida State’s going to stick around (at this point, I believe that ship has unfortunately sailed), nor am I crazy enough to claim that the ACC offers a product far superior to the other leagues, I do believe the ACC will be okay. You see, this superconference theory manages to forget several extremely important factors, all of which actually help out the ACC a great deal:

1. Notre Dame‘s being threatened into irrelevance: And that means they’re looking for a conference. Not so long ago, it seemed like the ACC could still be that landing spot, and I’ll stand by the Irish being far more comfortable joining that league than the Big 12. The only thing that may change this could be Miami pairing with Florida State on the way out, giving Notre Dame two lucrative rivalries in Florida.

2. The Pac-12 has nowhere to expand to: If the Big 12 is one of the 16-team superconferences we’ve been hearing so much about for the past two years, then where does the Pac-12 go? Everyone always had the Big 12 as an odd-man out, so its remains were divided up between the remaining conferences — with its most prominent members headed out west. But if the Big 12 basically cuts the Pac-12 off from the rest of college football, then what? Short of annexing ACC schools from across the country, suddenly there’s nowhere to go, keeping them at 12.

3. The Virginia state legislature: Which may actually hold the key to keeping most of the ACC (outside of the Carolina schools) together. As mentioned repeatedly, the state of Virginia worked far too hard to get UVA and Virginia Tech in the same collegiate athletic conference. There’s no way they part ways now. And with those schools, at least three NC schools and the three-team northern contingent, that’s still eight safe institutions, which can obviously be expanded further if necessary.

4. The Big Ten’s not really looking to expand either: Their last addition (Nebraska), was a natural fit for the league that brought immediate value. But any other school from here would either be an awkward fit, a competitive disaster or both. With no real moves available to them outside of adding Rutgers and Maryland (and to be honest, Pitt and Syracuse are actually the better gets in that regard), it’s short-sighted to think the B1G will just jump at adding teams for the sake of it.

Now of course, these factors can change tomorrow, so take them for what they are right now. But to me, they’re all big parts of why the ACC — while currently seemingly like the fifth man in a four-man race — is still very much alive. One solution would be to add Notre Dame (virtually killing any and all realignment chatter immediately), while another, simpler move would be to just perform better on the field. Unfortunately now, the league needs teams beyond Clemson and Florida State to succeed. Should the Tigers and ‘Noles go scorched-earth on a league they’re considering bailing on, it’ll be terrible for perception. If we’re watching Virginia Tech and NC State in the ACC Championship Game come the fall though, then the outlook’s obviously much better for the league as a whole.

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6 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: Why SEC-Big 12 Deal Doesn’t Bring On Superconferences

  1. One issue of the so called “super” conferences that I feel is being ignored by the media is that they can never be truly “super” without getting rid of some historical members. In a lot of the current scenarios begin thrown about, legitimately successful football programs like Virginia Tech or Notre Dame could be left out of the structure in favor of athletic dead weight like Northwestern and Mississippi State. Until conference commissioners are finally willing to take a truly bold step and jettison continually under performing members, the “super” conferences will never truly be “super”. They’ll just be historical conferences with a few new parts stitched on; “franken-conferences” if you will.

  2. For a follow up to my comment check out Jason Kirk’s Realignment Value Rankings to get an idea of some of the dead weight that needs to be trimmed from the super conferences. The three least “super” super conference members are as follows. At a minimum, these programs need to be replaced with more successful ones to create true super conferences.

    #66 Mississippi State
    #70 Kansas State
    #78 Washington State


    • Thanks for sending that link along! Definitely interesting to see the schools hovering toward the bottom (including supposed Big 12 target, Louisville (and my own Syracuse Orange). In a perfect world, 16-team conferences would be as a result of redistribution (a re-draft, if you will), but of course, the issue with that would be recent vs. historic relevance, and its impact on inclusion.

      • True. The numbers aren’t perfect. To get a better understanding, you would need to include some kind of trend numbers to see which programs are on a long term upswing and which programs are on a long term downswing. The inclusion of the 100-year rankings as part of the on-filed performance gives a pretty good long term outlook for that metric, but there isn’t any included data for long term academic standing or population shifts.

  3. The thing that amuses me about the idea of superconferences is that … generally speaking … half of the teams in any conference are going to be either mediocre or bad, and I don’t see how this wouldn’t apply to so-called superconferences.

    Last year, in the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the SEC, there were a total of 46 teams. Out of those 46, a full 25 of them had a record of 7-6 or worse. 13 teams were within one game of .500, four teams were two games under .500, and eight teams were more than two games under .500 … even in the four “power” conferences.

    That’s kind of the nature of how a sports league works, ya know?

    • That note about .500 teams is actually an underrated one. No one considers the repercussions of joining a 14-team league, only to have no shot at a title. And this isn’t just a shot at FSU. Syracuse has been mediocre for a decade, and now we’re joining a better conference, where we’re even less likely to win a title. I know money’s the biggest driver in the realignment game, but competitiveness should be considered. No way everyone wants to be IU or Vandy.

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