Neil Rudel on football: Texas, Sooners could cue a national college football change
If you needed even more evidence that the college football world as many of us have known it for the last 50 years is changing, it arrived this week with word that Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the already-loaded SEC.
Rest assured it won’t be the last seismic move to rattle the sport.
First off, the transition is effective July 1, 2025.
Having the two highest profile teams in the Big 12 swimming in lame-duck territory for four seasons in all sports just can’t happen so expect an accelerated timetable.
Already you’re hearing inevitable speculation that the SEC may not be done — that its 16-team conference featuring Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas and Oklahoma could form the foundation of one incredible super conference that won’t need the NCAA.
Suddenly, 16 teams could morph into 32.
Don’t think for a second that other schools and conferences aren’t nervous, their anxiety split between how all of this will affect them and whether they can be included.
Jay Bilas, one of ESPN’s leading voices, suggested the super league could produce an SEC-ACC merger.
Geographically, it makes sense, but will the ACC’s top dog, Clemson, for example, want a new schedule that replaces Wake Forest and NC State with Georgia and Florida?
For the riches that will accompany this venture, maybe.
The remaining teams in the Big 12, such as Iowa State and Oklahoma State, are already in scramble mode, their necks rubber from peeking at potential replacements or a realistic landing spot for themselves.
And where does the Big Ten fit in?
Once the trailblazer in visionary expansion, going all the way back to Penn State’s football arrival in 1993 (other sports were integrated sooner), the league could now be on its heels watching the SEC forge big-foot imprints into the national landscape.
No matter how steeped in tradition the Big Ten is, its usual patience will be tempted to not be standing when this high-stakes game of musical chairs goes mute.
Which means what if a super conference targets Ohio State and Michigan? Will there be loyalty to the potentially fledgling mini-NFL model or to its little brothers?
You would think Penn State, with its Eastern market stranglehold and national alumni following, would be an attractive option as well. Or so it would hope.
But what of Wisconsin and Iowa, Northwestern and Nebraska? How deep will loyalty run? Will conference members start stabbing each other in the back?
A super league could cherry pick the best three-four teams from each conference and laugh the whole way to the bank.
To counter the SEC and preserve its status, the Big Ten could whisper into the ears of Pac-12 giants Oregon, USC and Washington.
And where does Notre Dame fit in? Adding the Irish would make sense for the Big Ten but although Notre Dame has been successful under Brian Kelly, it’s no longer the recruiting destination it was years ago.
Notre Dame is currently tied to the ACC, but if that league’s most marquee teams — Clemson, Florida State and Miami — are poached by the SEC, all bets are off.
The Texas-Oklahoma maneuver is of particular concern to West Virginia, which took the Big 12 life raft a few years ago to solidify its schedule.
And it should be to Pitt as well, which may find itself relegated to a depleted ACC.
The old-timers among us (including me) still long for the Eastern Conference that Penn State and Joe Paterno pushed for in the early 1980s, a conference that could have included the Lions and Panthers, WVU, Syracuse, Boston College, Rutgers and Temple. Presumably, other attractive options (Maryland, Miami) could have followed.
But even that would pale next to what the SEC is building.
Out of self-preservation and opportunity, though buyouts are expensive, realignment and conference jumping could move quickly.
Penn State’s entry into the Big Ten was immediately followed by Miami joining the Big East, which triggered a slew of other schools hop-scotching around for what they thought was best for their future.
Well, what do you know: The future is upon us again so buckle up.
Neil Rudel covers Penn State football and can be reached at 814-946-7527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.