Shemon & Sheppard – In The Afternoon

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College athletics are changing at a rapid pace. Texas and OU to the SEC, USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, and even the Big 12 adding UCF, Cincinnati, BYU, and Houston is changing the landscape. One this is for certain; this is not done yet. The SEC and Big Ten are in an arms race- you can even bet on it (in states where it’s legal of course). The ACC, Big 12, and PAC 12 are going to fight for relevance. It’s important to know the one thing that matters; FOOTBALL. Duke fans can thing their basketball program brings value to a conference, but it just doesn’t.

There are two categories of teams; local and national. Schools like Notre Dame and Clemson don’t bring a large local or regional market, but they move the needle nationally. Schools like Virginia and Washington might not do much nationally, but can bring in large local markets. The national teams create their value based on the national deals done with ESPN, FOX and CBS (for now at least). The smaller schools can sell their value as more homes for the conferences TV markets. Think Missouri in the SEC. They don’t move the needle nationally, but they bring the SEC Network into millions of homes in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The realignment news might be done for this offseason with news that the SEC won’t respond to the BIG Ten’s moves, but money talks, and college athletics is a money business. Here are the ten schools to keep an eye on as conference realignment ultimately heads towards the Super Conference model.

  • 1. Notre Dame

    Notre Dame Football

    Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    This is the ultimate prize in college football. If the Fighting Irish ever decide to go to a conference they would add tremendous value immediately. Their affiliation with the ACC gives them a punchers shot at landing the Golden Domers, but the Big Ten is the conference that makes the most sense- both geographically (although that matters less and less these days) and with the payouts for television contracts. Speaking of television contracts, Notre Dame’s contract with NBC runs out after 2025. That deal pays ND $15 million annually. Last year the Big Ten paid out $31.4 million per school, and  they’re in the middle of a new TV deal.

  • 2. Miami

    Miami Hurricanes with Mario Cristobal

    Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

    This is a program that should be as desirable as any program outside of South Bend as conference look to add firepower. They bring in a national program that has a top-10 local television market, with as much history as any other program, and a recruiting bed that might have the most talent in the country. The SEC should be chomping at the bit to get the Canes. Doesn’t Miami in the SEC East with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee just feel right? The U would immediately upset the SEC apple cart with their brashness and swagger not seen anywhere else in the conference.

  • 3. North Carolina

    North Carolina Football

    Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    UNC might be the truest free agent in the country. The previously mentioned schools have one obvious landing spot. The Tar Heels straddle SEC and Big Ten country. The football program is on the come up, and they bring the Charlotte and Raleigh markets to the conference television networks. There are real reports that the Heels, among other ACC programs, are in discussions with the SEC. The Big Ten is reportedly mulling a move for the Tar Heels that would expand their footprint into the country’s tenth largest state. The ACC has an archaic television deal that makes any move for an ACC school difficult, as their television rights remain with the ACC regardless of where they play. But as we’ve seen the last few off-seasons; nothing is impossible.

  • 4. Oregon

    Oregon Ducks Football

    Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    This is too good of a program in recent history to be left without a seat at the table. Maybe the ACC tries a hail Mary and bring in the Ducks with a few other PAC-12 programs, or if the SEC is looking to become a national conference like the Big Ten, they could do the same. The point is this football program is just too good and too big of a brand with the backing of Phil Knight and Nike to be on the outside looking in. Like the Seahawks in the NFL they will lead the country is distance traveled every year.

  • 5. Clemson

    Clemson v South Carolina

    Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    Shouldn’t this picture be a conference game? It makes too much sense. Clemson doesn’t bring a new television market to the conference that already has South Carolina, but they’re the national product the Gamecocks are not. They’ve already been linked to the SEC by the voice of the conference, Paul Finebaum.

  • 6. Washington

    Washington Huskies Football

    Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    This is the perfect partner for Oregon as they look at all of their options. Whether it’s the SEC, ACC, or Big 12- adding Washington and Oregon would be big time additions to the conference profile. If the ACC can keep all of their current members and add the Huskies with the Ducks and two other schools out west (Stanford, Utah, Colorado just to name a few) this makes sense and could keep the SEC and Big Ten from running the show every year.

  • 7. Florida State

    FSU Football

    Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    The Noles have fallen on hard times since Jimbo left them for Texas A&M, but this is a program that when it’s rolling can compete with anyone. They are right in the middle of SEC country, and honestly, don’t add a ton of value off the field for the conference. I have not seen this reported anywhere, but if I were the Big Ten I would consider looking into the Noles. If the ACC gets pillaged and the Noles are looking for an unexpected move, could the Big 12 be in play? Again, I have not seen this reported anywhere, but it could be an interesting idea.

  • 8. Virginia

    UVA Football

    Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    This feels like Big Ten or bust for the Cavaliers. UVA fits the academic profile the conference would love to hide behind while bringing in a television market that the Big Ten Network is not currently in. Regionally it makes sense as well. If the Big Ten decides to go to 20 UVA feels like a shoe in.

  • 9. Virginia Tech

    Virginia Tech v Virginia

    Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    Opposite to their in-state rivals as previously mentions, it feels like SEC or bust for the Hokies. For all the reasons UVA makes sense to the Big Ten, Va. Tech makes sense for the SEC. They can expand their footprint, add new television markets for the SEC Network, and they would just make sense in the SEC.

  • 10. Oklahoma State

    PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma State v Notre Dame

    Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This is the biggest question mark for me. They feel like an option if the ACC or Pac 12 look to expand. I don’t think they’re an option for the SEC as they already have big brother in the state, and why would the Big Ten want to have little brother and share the state with the SEC. If enough teams bolt out of the Pac12 I could see Ok. State moving west.