In 2010, the Big Ten made an announcement that would cause tidal waves across college athletics, adding Nebraska as the conference’s 12th team. This was just the first of many swaps that shook up every major conference, and while the dust settled a few years later, it never felt like a finality.
Realignment rumors have not fully died out, even though movement has been limited in recent years. While every whisper must be taken with a grain of salt, the Houston Chronicle dropped a big one on Wednesday afternoon:
We are a long way away from this becoming anything close to certain, but it is not unfathomable for Texas and Oklahoma to join the SEC. The Big XII simply cannot compete financially, and all signs indicate the Power Five eventually transitioning to four groups of 16.
Should the SEC add these two blue bloods to reach 16 members, it is all but guaranteed that the Big Ten would follow suit. Knowing exactly who the additions would be is anyone’s guess, but below are the four schools I believe would make the most sense. I tried to be as realistic as possible, looking at geography, athletic caliber, history and tradition, and ease of movement.
Just to address it up front, I do not think Notre Dame is a feasible acquisition; rumors of full-time ACC membership plus lack of any agreement with the Big Ten across many decades gives me no indication of future reconciliation.
- Notre Dame: see above
- North Carolina: too hard leaving Duke
- Pittsburgh/Syracuse: no added tv market
- Oklahoma: apparently claimed by the SEC
Bordering Iowa and Illinois, Missouri is a perfect fit geographically, emphasizing the St. Louis and Kansas City markets. While the Tigers are a little down in both football and basketball right now, they should offer more all-around competitiveness than the prior Big Ten additions. The only issue would be luring Missouri away from the SEC, but finding a replacement would not be too hard for them.
Cincinnati football has been on the rise, and though the Bearcats currently sit outside the Power Five, there would be no drop in quality should they join the Big Ten. Ohio State would surely protest, but inching the conference’s footprint south could be a wise decision. Cincinnati will be desperate to find a seat before the music stops, and there is unlikely to be a situation more desirable than an invite to the Big Ten.
Perhaps the best comprehensive fit of any school is Virginia. Adding another East Coast campus would help bring some balance for the newer members, and academically this is a perfect match. The Cavaliers would help strengthen the conference’s dominance in basketball, and Virginia football has had some decent seasons. It could be tough leaving the ACC, but when paired with another exciting newcomer, the pathway should be there to make the move.
If Oklahoma and Texas do indeed move to the SEC, then the Big XII is dead. The best remaining asset would easily be Kansas, who would be coveted for one thing alone. While academics and football leave something to be desired, adding the Jayhawks to the conference would elevate Big Ten basketball to another level. The geography fits here as well, and this one feels like a no-brainer should realignment come into play again.