Too many people have been talking about FSU and Clemson being a "done deal" to the Big 12 for it not to be a pretty realistic possibility. Assuming that is going to happen, and that there will ultimately be 4 "super conferences" each with 16 teams, here is how I see the possibilities for the rest of the conference expansions playing out. Most of this is based upon geography and fit, but will most likely depend on which conference is the most aggressive in moving forward. What do you think?
Below are the current/future conference affiliations. (If you see I’ve made an error, please let me know. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about some of these teams and when they start conference play, etc.)
Big 12 (Current Membership – 10 – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia)
Given the reports of FSU and Clemson to the Big 12, that would give the Big 12 14 current/future members, and they probably would be looking to add 2 additional teams. It would make geographical sense for them to look to acquire additional eastern teams to help balance the footprint with the addition of WVU, Clemson, and FSU. The addition of FSU also gives them a sizeable piece of the Florida TV market.
Possible targets – Virginia Tech (TV markets, rival with WVU), NC State (TV markets), Georgia Tech (TV market), USF (TV market, recruiting), UCF (see USF).
Given the proximity to other "super conferences" I don’t see the Big 12 having a lot of options of expansion outside of the southern ACC/Big East teams. While those schools would probably prefer an invite to the SEC, they might not be willing to take their chances on waiting. The Big 12 leaders did apparently have the foresight to approach (or at least consider) FSU realizing that they are one of the few "name" teams out there for the taking and appear to be taking the lead in this round of expansion. The addition of VT and NC State does create a nice regional pod with WVU and Clemson. I cannot see a situation where UNC and/or Duke would join the Big 12. From this group, I could see them realistically taking any of them, depending on who is available at the time.
SEC (Current Membership – 14 – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt)
There supposedly is an agreement, or at least a "gentlemen’s agreement" that the SEC will not allow schools from the same states as its current members. If not for this agreement, FSU and likely Clemson would have probably been SEC members some time ago, or at least during the last round of expansion, so I’m willing to believe such an agreement exists. That excludes a number of ACC/Big East schools from the beginning.
Possible targets – Virginia Tech (TV market, football success, proximity), Maryland (TV market), NC State (TV market, proximity), UNC (name, TV market, proximity), Duke(name, proximity).
Each of these possible targets gains the SEC footprint some additional TV markets, with the exception of Duke. I don’t know how willing UNC would be to separate itself from Duke. I see them going as a package if they go anywhere at all (see below). From this group I would predict they would pick NC State and VT (if the Big 12 doesn’t strike first).
Big 10 (Current Membership – 12 – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin)
Possible targets – Notre Dame (TV markets, proximity, natural rivalries), UNC (TV market, name), Duke (name), Georgia Tech (TV market), Maryland (TV market), Virginia (TV market), Pitt (TV market, rivalry), Syracuse (TV market)
Depending on how quickly they act, the Big 10 probably has the most options available to them. I think this time they get Notre Dame to pull to 13 members. I also think they could get a UNC/Duke package to add to their basketball lineup. The final team could be anyone. GT/Maryland/Virginia would help out with UNC/Duke in a pod scenario.
Pac 12 (Current Membership – 12 – Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Southern Cal, Utah, Washington, Washington State)
Most of the major west coast universities already belong to the Pac 12, and the Big 12 and Big 10 pretty much prevent them from moving east, so I’m not sure who they would add. I’m sure teams like Boise State would be attractive options to get to 16 teams.
And there you have it conference commissioners, I’ve done all the hard work for you. Make it happen, and don’t forget to forward the royalty checks!