The Big 12 Conference is looking more like a countdown for a space shuttle launch than it is a football conference these days. The 2011 season will be the first year since the inception that, despite still being called the Big 12, the conference will only have ten teams.
Over the last few days, there are more and more rumblings of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, which would likely be straw to break the dwindling Big 12′s back. But the move to college football’s most powerful conference won’t go through without the Big 12 Conference pulling out all stops to maintain the status quo (if there is one).
Regardless of what the Big 12 officials and the state of Texas choose to do, in the end, A&M would be crazy not to jump at this opportunity. The SEC has long been the best conference in all of college football, and with their recent contract with ESPN, their recent dominance of the BCS National Championships (an SEC team has won the National Championship in each of the last five years), and recent talk of courting Florida State or Virginia Tech to create two, separate 7-team divisions, the SEC shows no signs of looking back.
When the dust settles, we take a quick peak at where the other teams in the conference could end up:
Texas: The Longhorns should be kicking themselves for not jumping at the opportunity to join Colorado when the Pac 10 came calling last year. Instead, Utah jumped at the chance to get out of the BCS purgatory known as the Mountain West. Look for the Pac 12 to become the Pac 14 in an attempt to rival the SEC 2.0 version in 2012 or 2013.
Oklahoma: Like their hated rivals, Texas, there was a lot of talk last year of the Sooners joining the Pac 12, despite the fact that Texas and Oklahoma are nowhere near the Pacific coast, which was the original geographic concept of the conference when they were the Pac 8. You lost yet? Anyway, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to continue their rivalry within the same conference, which will likely be the Pac 14.
Missouri: Like the Huskers, the Big Ten courted the Tigers last season, but Mizzou opted to stay, especially once it was confirmed that Texas was staying. The Big Ten would love to bring on the Tigers and bring a great rivalry with Nebraska inside the conference. This would make the Big Ten’s thirteenth team, and maybe at this point, they really should think about dropping the “Big Ten” name, even though they have retained that name despite having eleven teams since Penn State joined the conference in 1993.
Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State will have to scramble to find a home. These programs have had flashes, but unlike Mizzou, Oklahoma and Texas, they haven’t quite been able to crack or stay in the Top 25 for more than a year or two at a time. And that will hurt them and possibly leave them with no choice but to join a new version of the Mountain West, but for basketball, Kansas may have to pull a Notre Dame and go independent. Confused yet?
Rumors and scenarios will run rampant in the coming months, but one thing is for sure. The Big 12 was already on life support, and A&M’s likely departure will be the death of the conference.