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Realignment Never Dies

Oklahoma President David Boren stated recently that he would like to see the Big 12 add two schools and get back to having a 12-team league. This would obviously set off a domino effect that would impact other conferences.

Memphis has a chance to move up in the world next time realignment strikes.
Memphis has a chance to move up in the world next time realignment strikes.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Theory #1 - Keep it Simple, Stupid

First off, let's look at what would happen if the Big 12 simply added two schools from the AAC.

Houston believes they belong in. However, with four conference schools already in Texas, it seems like a long-shot for the Cougars to make it. BYU is another strong candidate, but these Cougars represent a western expansion that would create an island opposite the eastern one the West Virginia Mountaineers are on.

To bridge the gap to WVU, Memphis and Cincinnati make a ton of sense.  They are in large media markets, they have the facilities, and they would add strong basketball programs to the mix. Cincinnati would give WVU a natural rival as well.

The AAC would backfill with two schools from CUSA, the MAC, or the Sun Belt. UAB and USM would be strong candidates in the past, but their recent fortunes deem them unlikely targets. Rice fits the profile, but does Houston want them around? Marshall makes a ton of sense, but will their lack of academic prestige keep them away? The AAC could simply stay at 9 members for all sports and Navy as a 10th member for football only.

Theory #2 - It Can't Be That Easy

Expansion might not cost the Big 12 schools much at all. Outside of Houston, Memphis, BYU, and Cincinnati there aren't a whole lot of likely candidates on the radar. UConn is a million miles away, but USF and UCF bring Florida recruiting with them and two more giant markets, so they have to be in the conversation.

Texas and Oklahoma seem to have a pretty good setup in the Big 12 and they may not want to bring in any more competition to their perch on top of the mountain. TCU and Baylor have given them enough to worry about in recent years.

It makes sense for the Big 12 to add a couple of schools that expand into new markets, but also give current schools more access to fertile recruiting grounds. Memphis helps the Big 12 move into SEC territory, USF and UCF duh, and Cincinnati still come out on top in this case. Memphis and USF have the least amount of football success over the years, maybe Texas and Oklahoma see them as less of a threat?

Tulane makes the most sense in this scenario, with the Big 12 moving directly into SEC territory. Throw in South Florida and the Big 12 just moved into two talent rich states.

Theory #3 - The 4 Super League Theory

The Big 10, SEC, and ACC all have 16 schools. What if one of them moves first and the Big 12 breaks up? Missouri and Kansas have been rumored to the Big 10 before. That would create shockwaves through the nation.

Big 10: Current 14 schools plus Kansas and Missouri.

SEC: Current 14 schools, minus Missouri, plus Memphis, Baylor, TCU.

Pac 12:  Current 12 plus Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State

ACC: Current 14 schools plus UCONN, WVU

The trickle-down effect would create not as much movement as you would think. While Cincy still gets left holding the bag in this scenario, UCONN gets promoted, and Kansas State and Iowa State get screwed.

The Mountain West would scoop up Kansas State and Iowa State in a heartbeat, and this may be enough to get BYU back in the fold.

As with the first two theories, the AAC would be down a team or two (this time losing UCONN to the ACC and Memphis to the SEC) and would look to steal a Marshall or Rice possibly.

Would Memphis really get into the SEC?

We must like Memphis a lot to keep putting them in bigger conferences. Maybe Kansas State or Iowa State would work their way into the conversation. Another possibility is WVU to the SEC and then Cincy takes the last spot in the ACC.

This alternate outcome makes sense because Cincy fits in the ACC with Pitt and Louisville, while WVU makes a little more sense with South Carolina and Kentucky in the SEC.

So what happens to CUSA?

If CUSA loses Marshall and Rice to the AAC, they could stand pat at 12 teams. If they do go to 14 teams, Georgia State, South Alabama, and Texas State all make a ton of sense.

CUSA West: UTEP, UNT, LA Tech, UTSA, USM, UAB, plus either USA or TX State

CUSA East: FIU, FAU, WKU, MTSU, Charlotte, ODU, Georgia State

Conference USA is all about media market, media market, media market. They can't pass up Georgia State and both South Alabama and Texas State bring a lot to the table in the west.

The Ultimate MWC-AAC Mega-Conference

In response to the Super 64 getting together and leaving everyone else behind - The AAC and MWC could form a mega-conference of their own. This would be a 32 team league that together might be strong enough to keep a seat at the table.

This is assuming UCONN and Cincy to the ACC.

West Coast Division:  Fresno, San Jose, SDSU, Hawaii, Nevada, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming

Mountain Division:  Colorado State, Air Force, Boise, New Mexico, UTEP, Kansas State, Iowa State, Tulsa.

Central:  Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane, USM, UAB, LA Tech, Memphis

East Coast: USF, UCF, ECU, Marshall, Temple, Navy, Toledo, Old Dominion

This would probably create a merger of the Sun Belt and the remaining CUSA schools.

Charlotte, Georgia State, FIU, FAU, Georgia Southern, App State, WKU, MTSU

Texas State, UNT, UTSA, ULL, ULM, Arkansas State, Troy, South Alabama

So what will happen in the end?

The Big 12 is likely to add two teams in order to get back to 12. Cincinnati appears to be a lock, given their proximity to West Virginia and that their athletic budget is more in line with those of Kansas State, Iowa State, and Texas Tech.  After that, it's anyone's guess. Memphis, UCF, Houston, BYU, and to a lesser degree USF, Tulane, and East Carolina could all be in the conversation.