Mack Brown may get what he wants after all.
The longtime Longhorns head football coach has repeatedly expressed his desire to keep the Big 12 Conference intact and maintain regional rivalries. That seemed less and less likely with the Pac-12 Conference becoming a probable destination for Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. But after Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s announcement that his conference won’t expand, the Big 12 could be saved in the 11th hour yet again.
Even if Missouri follows Texas A&M into the SEC, the Big 12 won’t be beyond salvaging. The Big 12 has proven it can make things work with 10 teams but may soon be stuck with eight. Fortunately for the Big 12, the Big East is in an even worse spot with Syracuse and Pittsburgh headed to the ACC (and Connecticut and Rutgers eager to join them).
The Big 12 needs to go after Texas Christian University and West Virginia. TCU is set to become a member of the Big East soon but would be a better fit in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs would make sense geographically and would quickly become one of the Big 12’s most competitive teams.
West Virginia, who was rejected by the ACC and SEC (possibly for academic reasons), clearly wants to leave the Big East for a more stable conference. The Mountaineers would, unlike TCU, provide another television market to explore, as well as great football and men’s basketball programs.
If either of those two teams isn’t willing to come to the Big 12, Louisville is also a viable option. But TCU and West Virginia would put another Band-Aid on the Big 12’s wounds and keep the conference around a bit longer.
Oklahoma’s recent demands for a new Big 12 commissioner and new rules regarding the Longhorn Network (which may be responsible for this whole conference realignment mess in the first place) could be problematic. But the Sooners lost all their leverage when joining the Pac-12 was eliminated as a possible destination. Problem solved.
The ACC is also a potential landing spot for Texas. It’s handled this conference realignment chaos beautifully by realizing it’s not a football powerhouse and playing to its strength: basketball. Look for Connecticut, whose men’s basketball team just won a national title, to join Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the ACC, along with Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish have made it clear they want to stay independent in football, but the ACC would be their first choice if they gave it up. The ACC should let them keep their TV deal with NBC, especially since Notre Dame meets its academic standards.
Texas is beginning to look more and more like Notre Dame now that it has its own network. And, like the Fighting Irish, the Longhorns could go independent. It would make scheduling difficult, especially for teams playing Olympic sports. So, like Notre Dame and the Big East, Texas would likely have to join a conference for its non-football squads to compete in anyway.
Only 24 hours ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Texas was going to the Pac-12. That’s no longer the case, but such is the nature of conference realignment. Just when you’ve finished packing your bags, you find out you’re not going anywhere.
You’re welcome, Mack.
Printed September 22, 2011 as: Big 12 to remain intact, Pac-12 says no to expansion