Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 2012 Conference Realignment Season in full swing!

image Remember how much fun the 2011 Conference Realignment Season was?

The Big 12, the SEC, the Big East, even Conference Jambalaya were reshuffled to one extent or another during a months-long ride on a dizzying carousel. It broke longstanding regional bonds, ended traditional rivalries and tested the trust of conference commissioners, university presidents and fans.

The 2012 season is just beginning.

Yesterday, Navy and the Big East announced that the service academy would end its status as an independent and join the conference beginning in 2015 for football only.

And in another development, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brad Wolverton reports that sources say that the Big 12 will also reopen conference expansion talks, with the possibility of expanding back to 12 members on the table.

Wolverton was told that possible candidates for admission are Louisville, a Big 12 candidate last year, and current independent Brigham Young.

Further Big 12 expansion is “very possible,” two high-ranking sources told The Chronicle. An expansion committee, dormant for months after the conference accepted West Virginia and TCU into league play, will meet today to discuss its options.

While conference officials stressed that no decision is imminent–and there is some opposition to moving beyond the current 10 member institutions–two schools are at the top of the list, should the league make a move.

Louisville, which the Big 12 considered adding last year, is the likeliest choice, according to people with knowledge of the talks. And Brigham Young, another university the conference has considered, continues to be a possible target. One official said the league was open to adding just one institution. “The Big Ten made 11 work for a number of years,” the source told The Chronicle.

Geography played only a backup role in the 2011 round of reshuffling. It’s a coin flip as to whether commissioners and university officials incorporate that novel concept in 2012.

It’s also worth noting that the conference commissioners have already met once to discuss the future of the BCS, with more meetings to be held in the months ahead. Ironically, the BCS’ system of automatic qualification for the five major conferences is on the table at the same time that AQ status is driving conference realignment.

The period between spring drills and fall camp is normally a very quiet time for college football enthusiasts. That all changed with the 2011 season and it looks like the 2012 season will be just as interesting and just as unpredictable.

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