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Expansion is...Inevitable, Again.

Where should the B1G go as shuffling around the country continues?

The ink has hardly dried on the deal to bring two west coast powers into the fold of the B1G in USC and UCLA and there are already talks about who else the B1G should be bringing in. That is in large part due to the continued shuffling that is going on throughout college sports as TV revenue continues to grow and dominate college athletics. The ACC seems to be in a bit of a precarious position as they struggle to get the money they want out of ESPN and the PAC-12 (10) is struggling to stay afloat after two of their dominant programs left for the B1G. The question begs to be confronted then: Where does the B1G go next?

Well, let’s start with what might happen to the PAC-12 after USC and UCLA bolted for the bright lights (and big money) of the B1G. First to take a dip outside of the PAC-12 has been Colorado who has been having substantive talks to return to the Big 12 following their departure back in 2010. This would be a huge boost to the Big 12 as they are looking to replace their powerhouse programs of Texas and Oklahoma who have already agreed to leave for the SEC in 2024. More than likely Colorado won’t be the only PAC-12 team to look at entering the Big 12 as Arizona and Arizona State have been rumored to be interested to see what happens with the rest of the PAC-12. However, I have to believe Arizona may already be one foot out of the door to the Big 12 given their basketball program may be a driving force. Those two may be waiting to see what Washington and Oregon may end up doing, but more on those two later.

Right now, the Big 12 has eight member schools with four more joining in 2023 in BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston. That makes for quite a conglomerate of schools but does push the needle for them in football and basketball, but adding to that with Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State would help them get on near the level of what the B1G and SEC appear to be doing. That conference would likely need to look to add 3 to 5 more schools in the coming years and that would likely come from the ACC.

The ACC is the interesting piece to all of the current state of expansion talks. They appear to be in a very precarious position as schools like Clemson, Florida State, and Miami (FL), who drive that conference, are seeing massive numbers in TV revenue for the SEC and B1G. Let’s be honest here, do you think those schools are going to be okay with seeing Purdue, Northwestern, and IU raking in nearly $60 million in revenue on a yearly basis (this will go up and could be near the $80-$90 million mark at some point in the near future), while they get only $35 million? I don’t think that would sit well with those institutions, so it appears as though unless numbers can get close to what the B1G and SEC are getting, the ACC may end up seeing a massive loss of their driving schools. Who would go where, though?

It would seem Clemson would be destined for the SEC. It just seems to fit what what they have built there under Dabo Swinney while there are plenty of other schools that would jump to the B1G immediately, if given the chance. With the additions of Oklahoma and Texas, the SEC sits at 16 member schools. If they were to add Clemson, they would likely also like to add at least one other school but in all likelihood would push for three more. These would likely come from the ACC as well but who remains quite the mystery.

The leaves us with the B1G and what they would need to do in all of this mayhem. It appears that Washington and Oregon have been quite open to the idea of jumping to the B1G with USC and UCLA at some point. Let’s be honest, having four teams out West makes a whole lot more sense than only two and those would be the two other schools out there that would interest the B1G. That would mean the B1G would likely like to get themselves to twenty teams if the ACC begins its’ trend of being poached. The biggest remaining domino in that scenario would then be Notre Dame. Yes, the ever hated Fighting Irish who appear to think they are above the need to join a conference full time. However, this might be the time to do it or get left out in the cold.

You would have to think the B1G would welcome Notre Dame with open arms if they finally decided to join a conference and I think this is the time that it finally happens. Longtime Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced he will be stepping down and replaced by NBC Sports Group chairman Pete Bevacqua. Now, who did the B1G just get done negotiating their broadcast rights with? Oh yes, NBC was one of those entities and I don’t think it is a coincidence that Notre Dame brought in Bevacqua at this point in time. Notre Dame will need someone who has first hand experience in negotiating to see where they best fit from a TV rights deal. If Notre Dame does join, they will likely ask for some unique aspects to their deal but I’m not sure if that will happen as we may have come to a point where Notre Dame needs the B1G or the SEC more than those two conferences need the Fighting Irish.

If Washington and Oregon do join the B1G and the ACC starts to crumble, one would have to think a number of ACC teams would reach out to new B1G Commissioner Tony Petitti about their interest. Notre Dame, UNC, Florida State, Virginia, and NC State would all fit with the B1G with their high academic standards, although the B1G recently was reported as stating that AAU (Association of American Universities) membership wasn’t a disqualifying aspect to membership, via Brett McMurphy. Adding two of those schools would be a big boost for the B1G in terms of their reach into the Southeast.

There are going to be some big winners in all of these moves that will inevitably happen between now and the next couple of years but there are going to be some schools struggling to find their place in this new era of college sports. Stanford, Cal, Duke, Wake Forest, Washington State, Oregon State, Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College are just some of the schools that should be very worried about what they will do moving forward. They might be the ones left on the outside looking in but it may end up helping the Big East get themselves back into playing football again if they could entice some of those east-coast schools to bolster their numbers again.

But for now, it appears as though the B1G and the SEC will continue to march themselves and college athletics where they want to go and the Big 12 appears to be the one who will be the one to hang on after it truly appeared like that conference was set to die out just a few years ago. This most recent round of expansion appears to be nearing an end but will resume when many of these deals start to end around 2030. At that point, we may see as big of a seismic shift in college sports as we have ever seen.