The 2016 college football season has officially reached the point of no return with the Power Five conferences taking part in their media days.
Many times, there is little more to a media day gathering than a social party for reporters. Very little important information is discussed in detail with coaches and the conference spouting off so many generic quotes concerning how well the offseason went and their high expectations for the upcoming season.
The Big 12 threw out that tired narrative in announcing something that everyone expected to happen much earlier. The ten-team conference has decided to begin looking into expansion. Numbers have been thrown out as high as four teams joining the conference, but the most likely scenario includes two G5 teams making the jump.
Now, we could spend a significant amount of time discussing the teams that could make the jump to the Big 12, but I don't want to. I would rather discuss just how the options affect the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, and the Sun Belt.
Here are the four most likely scenarios of Big 12 expansion.
Option #1: Two AAC Teams are chosen
Business as usual.
With so many pundits expecting BYU to be chosen by the Big 12, this is a less likely scenario than option #2. In the end, it wouldn't matter which two AAC teams are asked to make the jump in conferences. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has stated on multiple occasions that it would sit at 10 teams.
"I think if we lose a school would we add one? In all likelihood we probably would. You don’t want to be 11 in football, but on the other hand you could do it. If we lost two, which would probably be the worst-case scenario … we could stay at 10. With the new legislation, we could easily stay at 10, play a championship game, have 5 team divisions and have an eight-game [conference] schedule. We could do that if we wanted to."
Of course, everything changes when things become real, but there is no reason for the AAC to rush into adding programs. The conference could easily sit at 10 teams since it would be allowed to continue a conference title game and have all the benefits of a 12-team conference with only ten teams.
A majority of the teams would be in favor of this option for the short term while making a long term decision whether to transition to a 12-team league in the future.
Option #2: One AAC Team is chosen
This is when Conference USA comes into play. The most common theory is the addition of BYU and Cincinnati to the Big 12. That would leave a huge hole in the east division. While location may come into play, it shouldn't as Navy could easily move to the east after currently sitting in the west division.
Picking a Conference USA program is a tougher choice than many expect. In my humble opinion, a single team move would come down to a choice between Southern Miss and Marshall. Programs like UTSA, FAU, and other Texas programs could be secondary options.
The selection process is much tougher to determine than in previous seasons as the decision to base expansion on TV markets did not work out well for CUSA.
Other options include UMass (independent) or a MAC or MWC team joining the AAC. I do not foresee a situation where a team from the MAC or MWC are added, but UMass could be an interesting possible addition. The Minutemen could also come into play as an option to become team #14 in Conference USA if one defects.
Just say that Southern Miss, a program with history among AAC programs, gets the call. They would certainly accept the invitation, dropping CUSA to 13 teams once again (7 east, 6 west). The conference has proven this past season that a 13-team conference can work.
Looking at it from a Sun Belt perspective, is there a reason for Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, or other teams to consider a move to CUSA? The benefits of staying in the Sun Belt seem to be better long term than joining a conference that just signed a very iffy TV deal.
Option #3: Three AAC teams are chosen
There is the (tiny) threat of the Big 12 jumping from 10 to 14 teams when they decide what to do. This is the nightmare scenario for G5 conferences as it almost guarantees movement all over. We could see poaching at a higher level than ever, something that could be good for independent programs New Mexico State, UMass, and Army.
If this crazy scenario somehow starts to look like a real possibility, it deserves its own article with all of the possible options broken down in detail.
Option #4: No AAC, Sun Belt, or CUSA teams are chosen.
The Big 12 could throw a curve ball and take a team like Colorado State to join BYU in making the move. Other than hurt feelings, there is nothing about this move that would change the AAC, CUSA, or Sun Belt.
The AAC would still have 12 teams, Conference USA would have 14, and the Sun Belt would have 10 programs. It is basically option #1 with the AAC not considering any expansion in the future.
I'm sure the CUSA and Sun Belt fans noticed that I did not offer an option of those programs joining the Big 12. That is because the likelihood of any programs in those conference jumping the AAC and MWC as Big 12 destinations is slim to none. I will eat my words if it does happen, but I can't see that scenario unfolding.
What do you see happening? Could the Big 12 actually spur BYU and come hard after the AAC? Am I off base and the Big 12 would skip the AAC to choose a CUSA or Sun Belt program? What do you think will happen moving forward?