Yeah, I know, I know--I've resisted writing on this topic given the amount of regional discussion on what's going to happen to the Big 12 should the likely occur, i.e., Missouri, and possibly Nebraska, splitting for the Big Ten and Colorado headed west to the Pac-10.
I, for one, am very worried about the consequences. Let's look at the scenarios, shall we?
Scenario One: Missouri heads to the Big Ten, thus making that league a 12 team conference. In this case, the Big 12 could continue on as an 11 team conference but would likely ask a school such as TCU to join--that would be the logical replacement for MU given the Horned Frogs' prior involvement in the Southwest Conference, from which came Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech.
Scenario Two: MU goes to the Big Ten and Colorado goes to the Pac 10. If this happens, then TCU and BYU, or Utah, become potential replacements in the Big 12. Or, does the conference make a play to entice Arkansas to rejoin their old SWC mates in the "new" Big 12?
Scenario Three: MU to Big Ten, CU to Pac 10, and Nebraska to Big Ten as well. This is where it gets interesting. Sure, there are schools like TCU, BYU, and perhaps Arkansas, who could try to fill the void. But, this shifts the balance of power in the league even further into Texas and takes away numerous TV eyeballs with the defections of the three universities. This also takes away three of the upper tier academic institutions in the league, which is not a good thing when considering national sentiment about your conference's brand.
If Scenario Three happens, the smoke coming out of the Big 12-Pac 10 "discussions" perhaps makes the most sense, for both conferences. The Pac 10 needs the Big 12 to deliver time zones more conducive to television exposure. The Big 12 needs the Pac 10 for survival, if the remaining nine schools wish to stay aligned.
If (and do you notice how many times "if" has been used in this post) the Pac 10 and Big 12 can't strike some sort of deal, then all bets are off and the extreme possibilities come into play. Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State would be attractive to the SEC and would fit naturally into that league's geography. The odd schools out are dear ol' KU, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. And, lest you think I'm smoking something, given my passion for all things Jayhawk, the ultimate currency in this is television household delivery.
Yes, fans, once again the conference realignment talks comes down to money and little that has to do with the care-and-nurturing of "student athletes." This is football money as the tail wagging the proverbial dog--and, unfortunately for those of us in the Jayhawk and Purple Nations, we don't deliver the needed audiences craved by the Big Ten and others. The school holding the most cards in this battle is Notre Dame (the Big Ten's ultimate prize) and they are, up to now, maintaining the party line of football independence. Should they stay resolute with that position, then the eyeballs delivered by the Kansas City-St. Louis-Springfield markets by Mizzou and the national program stature of Nebraska, coupled with possible expansion to include Syracuse, Rutgers and/or Pittsburgh, means the Big Ten could very easily become the Big 16...and a true super conference.