Could Big East get bigger, not smaller?
So many scenarios have been laid out in the past month, so many permutations of how college football's major conferences would change, but did any play out the way the NCAA has in the last week?
The latest wrinkle follows Nebraska's move to the Big Ten and Colorado's move to the Pac-10, with as many as five other Big 12 schools potentially heading west. There is increasing speculation that the Big East could add some of the remaining Big 12 colleges, like Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Iowa State, to offset any losses to other leagues and potentially swell the league to 12 members in football and 20 in basketball.
This column from the Washington Examiner lays out some possibilities -- again, the enormity of the league could be mitigated if Notre Dame, Rutgers and/or other schools are poached by the Big Ten. Adding Kansas would give the Big East the Kansas City TV market (32nd largest nationally), and adding Missouri on the other side would give the league a presence in St. Louis, which is the 21st-largest market.
One interesting thing to note -- Kansas' athletic director, Lew Perkins, spent 13 years at Connecticut before going to Lawrence, and the Jayhawks' senior associate AD, Larry Keating, was the athletic director at Seton Hall for 12 years. Both know the league's members and staff very well. If the Big 12's future is in question, Kansas would likely be choosing between the Big East and an upgraded Mountain West, which just added Boise State. I wonder what moving to the MWC would do to Kansas basketball, however.
Such a westward expansion would certainly give the league a much larger geographic footprint, but no more so than in adding USF in 2005. Lawrence is more than 100 miles closer to Syracuse than Tampa is, and Kansas is just 550 miles from Louisville, making it 330 miles closer than USF is to its nearest Big East rival. Missouri is three hours closer than Kansas is, making a natural corridor to Louisville and Cincinnati and the rest of the league.
And from a football standpoint, if Big East fans were OK with the possibility of adding Central Florida, East Carolina or Memphis, then they shouldn't have any objections -- other than sheer geography -- to adding solid, proven programs like Kansas or Missouri.
Missouri is 45-21 since 2005, with non-conference wins against Illinois (three times), Mississippi (twice), Arkansas and South Carolina. Even with a 5-7 mark last season, Kansas is 38-27 in the past five seasons, with wins against Virginia Tech, Minnesota and USF.
Even Iowa State, which is 23-38 in the past five years, has beaten Iowa twice in that span and won its bowl game against Minnesota last season. Baylor has struggled -- 11-53 in Big 12 play since 2002 -- and hasn't had a winning season in USF's existence, the last one coming in 1995.
The Big 12 additions could be instead of -- or along with -- adding teams from Conference USA, depending on whether the Big East loses member schools to the Big Ten.
(UPDATE: Interesting reading from East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland, who is admirably frank with his fans about the unfolding process changing college football.)