Conference realignment has been a hot topic for several years, and now it’s bubbling up again. There is talk that a Power 5 conference itself could dissolve: the Big 12. Recently, as Fox Sports Knoxville’s own Nick Davis points out, Oklahoma has been rumored to be looking for a way out of the Big 12 and may very well land in the SEC.
If that were the case, what other teams may follow? How many would the SEC take? What about division realignment? As I see it, there are three realistic scenarios:
[Arrows show cross-divisional matchups]
Scenario 1: The Big 12 Dissolves
In this scenario, the Big 12 has dissolved and Texas has swallowed its pride to make a move to the toughest conference in the nation. Geographically, Texas and Oklahoma belong in the West. In order to preserve rivalries, this would lead to Alabama moving to the East division.
With this move, the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry is preserved. In addition, the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry is rekindled, even if it is to Texas A&M’s dismay. And frankly, who wouldn’t want to see Alabama play Texas every year?
Scenario 2: Meet Virginia(s)
In this scenario, the SEC has decided that it has expanded far enough westward and focuses on expanding the Southeastern region northwards. In order to do this, the conference looks to the Virginias.
While UVA’s academic prowess and strong basketball program would be solid additions to the SEC, Virginia Tech offers a competitive football team paired with a strong academic record. Virginia Tech has been rumored to be a potential candidate for SEC expansion for years. This would likely only come about if the ACC suffered serious losses or just went kaput.
As for West Virginia, the Mountaineers offer a new geographic footprint and a strong athletic department. This scenario also preserves all cross-division rivalries and adds a new “Battle of the Virginias.”
Scenario 3: The Compromise
Why not get the best of both worlds? In this scenario, the SEC gains expansion territory in North Carolina and Oklahoma while adding powerhouse schools. North Carolina has an elite basketball program and has had a strong football team under Larry Fedora.
While the academic scandal and the ACC’s buyout fees may prevent this from ever happening, it would be a strong addition for the SEC. UNC would likely be incentivized by the monetary gains from the SEC Network as well as the increased exposure, which could outweigh the negatives. Like the others, this scenario preserves all current cross-divisional rivalries.