Follow the flying flags
You think realignment is crazy now?
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Nov. 14, 2011 College Basketball Preview.
Peer five years into the future and you'll get a scary glimpse of how the college landscape will look -- and the newly named conferences are the least of it.
The Moneyed League
In 2014, Texas agrees to share 25 percent of the proceeds from the Longhorn Network with the Pac-12, upon joining the conference. The Big 12 dissolves in 22 hours; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State follow UT to the West Coast. Intrigued and a little desperate, Boise State asks to join too. "Why the hell not?" commissioner Larry Scott says. Between the Pac-12's pre-existing $3 billion deal with ESPN; $4 billion from its own network, launched in 2012; and The Longhorn Network loot, the conference decides to rename itself the Moneyed League. Any objection from the remaining conferences is stifled by the threat of lawsuits from Scott's highly paid lawyers.
The Atlantic Coast (and Kansas) Conference
After the Big 12's collapse, Kansas heads to the ACC, which, with the entries of Syracuse and Pitt, is suddenly a hoops powerhouse and the NBA's best developmental league. But because the NCAA still controls March Madness money, the ACC tries to boost its brand, marketing and revenue-generating power by renaming itself the Atlantic Coast (and Kansas) Conference. The rebranding doesn't help, nor does adding West Virginia in 2015. By 2016, the AC(&KU)C reports that it's barely breaking even.
The Big Ten Conference
Because of the Moneyed League's and the AC(&KU)C's moves, Notre Dame realizes it must align or die. The Big Ten seems a natural fit. Notre Dame keeps its TV deal with NBC; its games are broadcast the next day on the Big Ten Network. "Win-win," commissioner Jim Delany says. Kansas State and Baylor join up. Then the Big Ten poaches USF to expand to the Eastern seaboard and issues the following statement: "No, we're not changing our name. We've gone nearly two decades with more than 10 schools and we've always called ourselves the Big Ten. Tradition stands for something, damn it."
The Screw-You-Guys-We're-Going-to-Win-Every-Football-Championship Conference
The SEC is amused by realignment. Football accounts for 85 percemt of many schools' budgets -- and it has the best programs in the country. Texas A&M joins in 2012 and the SEC goes after more pigskin-powered schools, picking from the carcass of the Big 12 and Mountain West: Missouri, Texas Tech, TCU. But alas, the SEC's name no longer applies; Texas is in the Southwest. So the conference decides on a new name: the Screw-You-Guys-We're-Going-to-Win-Every-Football-Championship Conference. The SYGWGWEFCC is indeed a powerhouse. It claims every BCS title from 2012 to 2016.