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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
June Jones sees conference chaos brewing

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- With Texas A&M's renewed efforts to join the SEC, SMU coach June Jones now sees the future alignment of college football as inevitable: Four 16-team super-conferences.

"It seems to me that’s where it’s headed. It still has to happen. I think, though, within the next 15 to 24 months that will take place," Jones said Monday at SMU's kickoff luncheon at the Hilton Anatole. "Money drives all those decisions and those are all BCS schools, and if that’s what they want to happen, that’s what’s going to happen."

Jones said he believes A&M "jumped the gun" with last week's bold attempt to quickly exit the Big 12 for greener (think dollars) SEC pastures free of shadow-casting Longhorns. Jones said he believes the SEC slowed things down only to allow itself time to secure four schools and make one major announcement instead of doing it one-by-one.

Once it does, the domino effect will unleash chaos across the land. Non-BCS schools such as SMU will be on the outside looking in and pushed further down college football's caste system. They will potentially have no gateway to a BCS bowl such as the one that has methodically and painstakingly been ushered in through the years, but one which requires the non-BCS team to go undefeated simply to achieve BCS bowl consideration.

"We better think about ways to entice them [the BCS] to do it," Jones said of securing a future path to a BCS bowl in a super-conference world. "If we sit around and wait for that to happen, then we’re going to be left behind and I think we’ve got to be pro-active in our thinking."

One idea that surfaced last summer when the Big 12 was teetering on collapse and college athletics was on the brink of major realignment was a championship game between non-BCS conferences, say the Conference USA champ against the Mountain West champ with the winner earning a BCS bowl bid.

"And, I’m not sure they will do that," Jones said of college football's ruling powers. "Unless we’re pro-active, thinking out of the box as a non-BCS participant, I do think we’ll be left behind."

Over in Fort Worth, where TCU thinks it's sitting pretty with next year's move to the Big East Conference and its coveted automatic BCS bid, the Horned Frogs are no doubt quite interested observers.

Picture this shakeup as a potential realignment scenario -- and, mind you, this is pure speculation -- in which A&M and, say, Missuori, Clemson and Florida State complete a 16-team SEC. The Pac-12 adds Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas (if The Longhorn Network issue can be resolved; if not Texas goes independent), or perhaps BYU for a 16-team league. With the Big 12 and ACC raided, the Big Ten and Big East swallow those major-conference schools left behind and a small, way-out-of-region school like TCU is suddenly squeezed out of a Big East that has now doubled its football-playing member schools to 16 (think additions of Kansas, Kansas State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, North Carolina and North Carolina State -- or some mix that includes Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest and Duke).

Again, this scenario is pure speculation, but the point is that in such a massive shift, plenty of orphaned major-conference schools will be scrambling for new affiliations in the money-driven conferences and anything can happen.

"The cat is out of the bag," Jones said.