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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Big 12-Big East merger might just work

By Eamonn Brennan

What options do post-realignment conferences have? If you're the SEC or Big Ten or one of the four or so conferences that everyone wants to be a part of, then your options are unlimited. Ooh, add that school! Nice! I always wanted a West Virginia!

If you're not one of the cool kids -- if you're the Big 12 or the Big East -- you've got to work incredibly quickly to find a way to keep your league alive during and after these realignment raids. As we saw with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, anything can happen at any time. It is, as they say, of the essence.

Perhaps this was inevitable, then, but it's positive to hear the two raidees talking seriously about forging a new league in this post-Expansionocalypse landscape. The Big 12 may become part of the Big East. Or vice versa. As ESPN's Andy Katz reported early Tuesday morning:
Big East and Big 12 conference and school officials have been exploring ways to merge their embattled leagues, but talks have centered on an arrangement in which what's left of the Big East schools would blend into the Big 12, and not vice-versa, multiple Big 12 sources told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

The sources said that if Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were to leave the Big 12 and the five remaining schools do not have an opportunity to join the ACC, SEC or Big Ten, the Big 12 would move to absorb remaining Big East schools -- not the other way around.

OK, OK, you win, Big 12 -- you can absorb the Big East and not the other way around. Honestly, does it really matter? (Well, besides that whole TV contract thing.) The important bit is that the two conferences are at least considering a merger, which means they have at least some shell of a backup plan in case Texas and Oklahoma (and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) decide to head to the Pac-16 and UConn and/or Rutgers (and/or Villanova!?) don't have sudden second thoughts about their desire to jump ship and join their former brethren in the ACC. Chances are, both of those things are happening. Chances are, the Big East and Big 12 won't have anybody but each other -- the two victims of conference realignment.

This is the part where I was tempted to melodramatically opine that we're all victims of conference realignment, but that's not really true. So a few leagues are moving around. Let's not get hyperbolic, you know?

Still, there's something decidedly anti-fan about the way these things are going. Even professional sports teams don't have the audacity to assume they can switch leagues, discard longtime rivals and create disparate geographic amalgamations that barely resemble competitive organizations ... and expect fans to follow along forever. College sports presidents and commissioners seem to assume that you will. At the end of the day, they're probably right. And maybe that's the root problem.

Anyway, the Big East and the Big 12 apparently have an escape plan. Thank goodness. For a while there, it wasn't looking so good.