Superconference apocalypse now: BC’s future if football reshapes


The rumors are swirling at hurricane force about Texas A&M’s future in the Big X(II), and they all seem to point in one direction: to the Aggies joining the SEC as their 13th team.  What’s more is that now, ESPN reporters have gotten word that the SEC is going to also pick off Missouri and try to launch a tactical nuclear assault on the ACC, taking Clemson and Florida State.  Note, we’ve been down this road before with the massive realignment that wasn’t last summer, it has not been finalized as of yet, and existing SEC schools might not be too keen on in-state competition, but one way or another, unfortunately, I regard the superconference apocalypse as largely inevitable.

Here is what we know:

The Big X(II) is on borrowed time. After Colorado and Nebraska left, they were weakened. Everybody knows that when the 2010 offseason was flooded with expansion rumors, Big X(II) schools were a popular target of poaching, and poached they eventually will be. If Texas A&M leaves, they will have to replace them (Texas – Dan Beebe’s puppet-masters – have indicated they will try), but I think what they would get in return would not be as good, if they get anything in return at all. It might not go kaboom in 2011, but as Scotty on Star Trek might say, “I canna hold ‘er together much longer, Cap’n! She’s breaking up!”

The Big East isn’t very strong to begin with. As a football conference, there’s no “there” there. BC knows, because they left.

If one of the big-boy conferences decides to supersize, all of them will. It’s all about the Benjamins. If the SEC goes to fourteen or sixteen and other conferences are already in a position to have to replace teams who are switching and therefore alter the composition of their conferences, none of them are going to say “nah, we’re good.” They’re going to look out for their own bacon and will most likely be proactive, picking off programs where they can. When the gravy train starts rolling and conferences expand, none of the big ones will want to miss out on potential coin. With rumors now that the SEC is trying to go to 16, not one of the big conferences is going to sit back and watch while Mike Slive takes over college football.

Anyway, if Texas A&M goes through with a rumored move to the SEC, the Big XII will be more like the Semi-Big IX, Mizzou leaving would make it Big 8 v.2.0, and they may try to reach for members #15 and #16. They may well turn to the ACC to do it, and their likeliest target would be Florida State, but now Clemson is coming up as one of the teams rumored to want out. This would leave the ACC at a weaker 10 and the Big X(II) as a mess. Texas/Beebe could try to fill in the cracks in their conference and get back to ten, but who would those other two be, and what makes you think they’d be better than the teams they lost? A reporter for a newspaper in Austin, TX said that the Big X(II)’s top targets are Notre Dame, Brigham Young, and Air Force. Yeah, OK. There’s a better chance of Notre Dame converting from a Catholic school to Shintoism than there is of them going to the Big 12, I don’t purport to know what BYU would do, and Air Force wouldn’t be a big-time replacement.

Meanwhile, if the SEC was to take a big ACC prize like Florida State and also swipe Clemson away, the ACC would have to respond because it goes without saying that the conference would take a big hit. Frankly, I think we would be in a similar situation as the Big X(II): we’re probably not going to pick away any program better than the one(s) we lost. Still, Swofford would go raid the Big East and get himself schools like Pitt or Syracuse (just for the purposes of the example; those may or may not be the top two teams they would target). Now you have Big 8 v.2.0, a 16-member SEC, an ACC back at a weaker 12, and a virtually non-existent Big East. This may lead to some other effects, like the residue of the Big East and Big 8 v.2.0 to say “screw this, we’re outta here” and tack on to other conferences or go independent. With the SEC seeming more proactive and trying to go for 16, that would make a bunch of the other big conferences want to do the same. What you’re left with is the superconference apocalypse that we all thought was going to happen last year. Dan “Baghdad Bob” Beebe can say the Big X(II) would be fine at nine all he wants (or eight for that matter): they’d have lost at least three teams in two years and are getting smaller while other conferences get bigger and better. They could hold it together at eight or nine for a little while, but eventually, the glue is going to come apart.

It may not seem like a big deal to Boston College fans if Texas A&M switches conferences, since the two are normally unrelated, but it is. In fact, every team in FBS football will be touched by it if it sets off the superconference apocalypse. This, if it happens, would affect a significant change in the ACC’s composition. Whatever schools left this Atlantic Coast Conference would have to be replaced, and you can bet your sweet ass that the Big East will have a big bullseye painted on them. There’s not much they can do about it, either, as college football prowess becomes densely packed in a few conferences like a neutron star and some Big East programs decide they want to hang with the “in” crowd. It’s not just the ACC that would go after them, either: it’s no secret that Big Ten(+2) commissioner Jim Delany covets a 16-team superconference, so he would have his chance in getting to vacuum up some of the left-behinds in the Big East and elsewhere. Maybe this is why the Big East has been whispering about trying to win us back: they’re trying not to be cannibalized and want to shore up their numbers, but it seems like it may be too late, and they’re going to get eaten with fava beans and a nice Chianti, anyway. The as-yet unmentioned Pac-12 will also not sit on the sidelines for too long.

The Big X(II), then becoming a nine-team league if the Aggies leave, and maybe eight if Mizzou skips town, may blow up if other programs flee the sinking ship. It wouldn’t be official, however, until Texas pulls the plug, deciding that going the route of Big 8 v.2.0 is not viable. The Longhorns will be faced with what is realistically a choice between serving in Heaven and ruling in Hell: getting with a superconference (if they can, given their TV network deal) or striking out on their own as an independent, or continuing to prop up a weakening conference while all the others of note blow past them at 100mph. Texas seems perfectly content to keep up the charade right now, but one has to ask just how long it will go on.

If the SEC’s tentacles reach into our conference, and I suspect they’re going to try with all their might, then we could be left in what essentially amounts to an ACC-Big East leftovers “super”conference. The Big X(II) and the Big East would all but cease to exist and you will have nearly all college football power concentrated in approximately four conferences. Boston College will most likely be in one of those superconferences, but if it loses some star power like Florida State and has to gobble up Big East refugees, it won’t be as football-prestigious as some of the other mega-conferences that will form.

This, of course, is all in theory. It’s kind of hard to imagine that one school out of over 100 could touch off a major realignment of college sports, and yet, that is where we find ourselves now. If it comes to pass, the ACC will have to remain as proactive as possible. When the superconference apocalypse comes, it will be dog-eat-dog and the ACC will have to poach or be poached. For Boston College’s part, it’s not so much that we’re going anywhere, because at the end of the day I don’t think we are (though you can’t rule anything out, especially if the ACC really declines in quality), but the matter would be who surrounds us in our conference when the chips fall, and that will mean a lot as far as the program’s outlook. It also means that in spite of all of our best efforts, part of the Big East might come back to us after all. At least it will quiet the “we need to go back to the Big East” crowd, right?