The Big Ten poached Nebraska. The Pac-12 snagged Colorado. The SEC pulled both Texas A&M and Mizzou right out from underneath their eyes.
Thus, the Big 12, while making no moves in the immediate future, has hunkered down. The once-beleaguered conference has kept its eyes peeled, waiting and willing to strike should the other members of the “Power 5″ continue to poach profitable programs from one another.
And, after bringing in Maryland and Rutgers for the 2014 season, all signs are pointing to the Big Ten reaching out to several more in an attempt to become a 16-team ‘superconference’.
Should that happen, commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the rest of the Big 12 is not going to be caught standing around looking like the proverbial deer in the headlights. In fact, the conference, after holding discussions regarding expansion and several other topics, has set its sights on a few big-time schools should programs begin shuffling from conference to conference once again.
“…conference identified teams that would be left, including reputable football schools Florida State, Clemson and Louisville,” Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com.
Interestingly, Fowler fails to mention another football program that, while affiliated with the ACC, is not a full member. In fact, the team is a college football independant, but would make any conference a lot of money as a member.
Both the Big 12 and the Big Ten have had their sights set on one of the most recognizable and profitable football teams and athletic departments in the nation: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish football team has been an independent for more than 100 years. The rest of the school’s sports had joined the Big East years ago, and announced a move to the ACC prior to the start of the 2012 fall season. While the football team will remain officially free of any conference ties, five of its games each year beginning in 2013 must be played against ACC competition.
It is absolutely the beginning of Notre Dame’s eventual ties to a conference. Huge, wildly lucrative television contracts featuring regular and spectacular football matchups and intriguing satellite sports is simply the future of college athletics.
At some point, and probably sooner rather than later, the Irish will have to pick a conference in which to play all of their sports. If a school such as Florida State or Clemson heads to the Big 12 (or North Carolina, Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech join the Big Ten or SEC), Notre Dame may just march to a new conference as well.
At this point, conference commissioners have proven that it is all about the dollars. Jimmy Burch of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram put it succinctly.
“If expansion occurs, Bowlsby said officials would prefer to target members that could generate the same $26 million per school in revenues that the Big 12 is projected to distribute in June from bowls, TV revenues and NCAA Tournament appearances,” Burch wrote, “How many schools can do that.”
Florida State can do it, and so can Notre Dame.
But would the Big 12 pull the trigger on opening up the next round of conference musical chairs?