Ever since Texas A&M announced back in early August that they were contemplating a move to the SEC, the college athletics world has been holding their breath, and waiting for the seismic shift that would blow up things as we knew it. Many thought it would happen when Mike Slive made his move to get to 14 teams in the SEC, others when either Oklahoma or Texas packed their bags out West (likely with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in tow).
Of course what no one expected is, is what happened this weekend. That’s because after all the talk of Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma, it was two long faded football powers, now known more for their basketball prowess, who would be the bomb that blew up college sports.
What was first reported by Pete Thamel of the New York Times on Friday night, then later added to by CBS’ Brett McMurphy on Saturday, became official Sunday morning: Pittsburgh and Syracuse are officially members of the ACC. Good-bye long-standing ties with the Big East, hello hoops heaven, and still average football-power along the Eastern seaboard. The two schools join former Big East brethren Miami, Virginia Tech who left the conference prior to the 2004 season and Boston College who left prior to 2005, all to join the Big East.
The move was quick and decisive, and according to reports all came together within the last week. ACC Commissioner John Swofford met with conference officials on Tuesday, and action was in place by Friday evening. There is no indication whether or not the move will take place as early as the 2013 season, or if the Big East will require the schools to wait a manadtory 27-month waiting period, per conference by-laws.
This from an ESPN.com report:
“We just felt that right now this was in our best interest,” Swofford said. “I don’t think it’s really a reaction to that, although in a subtle way, when you look over the past year or so and see the movement with the Pac-12 that could potentially have gone further, the Big Ten expanded, the SEC expanding, that all comes into play — not necessarily in a measurable kind of way, but our interest is always about what’s best for us.”
Quite frankly, for Swofford to say that this wasn’t a “reaction,” it is insulting. Of course it was reacton, but in the end, the commissioner has nothing to be ashamed about. Rather than waiting around, and hoping and praying that another conference didn’t pick off his teams, Swofford went and raided the Big East for the second time in less than a decade. Had he not, there was always a chance that a Virginia Tech or Florida State or Clemson could’ve left town as a member of the SEC, and instead now, it is the ACC, not the Pac-12 or SEC, which has taken the first big step towards a super-conference by getting to 14. The Big East is on life support, but as we’ve learned in this conference realignment process, that is not Swofford’s problem. His only responsibility is to look out for his schools (and on a more surface level, himself), and he did that.
As always, what will be interesting now is what happens next. For weeks the entire college football landscape has been playing a massive, nationwide game of chicken, with everyone waiting on someone else to move first. None of the “rich” conferences wanted to be the first to steal from the poor, as Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and SEC commissioner Mike Slive in particular have been guarded with their words. Slive has said that he was confident in staying at 13 teams (with the addition of Texas A&M) and Scott adding that he was happy at 12, but always with the additional caveat that they’d expand if the landscape called for it.
Well, consider the landscape officially shifted.
Interestingly all this happened right on the door-step of what was expected to be another potentially massive shift in the football landscape, with Oklahoma set for a meeting on Monday night to discuss their future. Does this now expedite their move to the Pac-12, along with Oklahoma State as well? At that point does that force Texas’ hand too? As many media members, including ace Texas beat-writer Kirk Bohls have been saying all day today, it appears as though the walls are closing in around Texas. There had been talk about Texas to the ACC, but that appears as though it’s entirely off the table at this point. Meaning that according to Bohls and others, Texas’ only real options are to make some concessions on their Longhorn Network and go to the Pac-12, or go independent, the latter of which could wreak havoc on their Olympic Sports.
As for the remainders of what’s left in the Big East and what would be the Big XII, well they could join some sort of conglomerate, although even that seems uncertain at this point. Already UConn has released a statement saying that they are being proactive in expansion, with many believing that they could be a 15th member of the ACC, with Louisville or Rutgers joining them as the 16th. West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck also released a statement as well today, and nowhere in it did he mention a commitment to the Big East, or even the words, “Big East,” at all. And that doesn’t even take into account what could become of Cincinnati and South Florida, or maybe even schools like Iowa State and Baylor out of what is currently the Big XII.
But as we’ve learned in this whole process, it isn’t about the Cincinnati’s or South Florida’s, the Iowa State’s and Baylor’s, at least not to the Syracuse’s and Pittsburgh’s the Oklahoma’s and Texas’.
Nope this college football Darwinism, survival of the football fittest.
When it will all end nobody knows.
But we’re much further along than we were when Texas A&M made those initial calls to the SEC in early August, huh?
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres