Just when we thought things could settle down for a little while among the five power conferences and their conference expansion dreams, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had this to say on Wednesday (via CBS Sports):
“We could be proactive [in conference alignment], I think,”
Simple phrasing that could potentially mean nothing. Or could potentially mean the next dominoes start falling on January 28 and 29 when the league meets in Dallas. Personally (and yes, I understand there’s some bias), I don’t see them adding a team from the ACC. Based on the current legal battle around Maryland‘s $50 million exit fee, the soon-to-be-renegotiated-again TV contract, conference television network talks and four incoming new members, it becomes more difficult to create a compelling case for any school to exit. Further, Bowlsby himself at least hints at an unconventional add, should they decide to expand:
“Look at Maryland and Rutgers. They don’t bring programs that are of the ilk of the others in the Big Ten. The philosophy clearly is: ‘As members of the Big Ten we can grow them.’“
There’s two ways to look at that statement. First: they’re willing to take a flyer on a developing program (Connecticut, Cincinnati?) and allow them to reach their full potential within the constructs of the Big 12. For the ACC, this is obviously the ideal situation for the time being — it keeps its best schools in the fold, which at this point, is the most important goal. But for the long-term, the league loses its top two expansion candidates, should the Big Ten pick off a few more schools (not impossible at all).
The other way you can look at this statement is the one that worries ACC supporters right now. Clemson and Florida State surely don’t need to be “developed” into major programs by joining the Big 12. But neither is necessarily the “ilk” of the current Big 12 schools either. You can make similar statements about nearly every other school in the conference, save maybe Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh (solely based on their respective rivalries with West Virginia). Additionally, it’s an unknown which schools are on the conference’s rumored “quality” expansion list. This short list, supposedly built into their television contract, is supposed to enact automatic increases in per-school payouts when schools are added. I’d assume those names include Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame, with BYU as another possibility.