GAINESVILLE -- There was plenty going on in Indianapolis last weekend other than basketball.
Behind the scenes, powerbrokers were discussing potentially dramatic changes to the sport of college football. There was talk of the Big Ten adding five schools and forming a 16-team mega-conference. There was talk of the Southeastern Conference following suit. Nothing could happen. Everything could happen.
How does Miami and Florida State joining the SEC sound to Gators fans? How does it sound to Canes and Noles? Don't laugh. It could happen. It's unlikely, but it's not folly. (OK, maybe it is, but whatever.) Here's how it could go down ...
College athletics as we know it teetering on a knife's edge. It's an arms race, folks, plain and simple. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Big Ten presidents met in Indianapolis last weekend to discuss the possibility off adding one, three or five teams. Eleven teams currently play football in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten wants a playoff. The conference is seriously considering expansion. Let me put this the most elementary way possible, the Big Ten wants to try and be richer and better than the SEC. How to do that? There are a several ways.
1. Add Notre Dame, bringing Big Ten football to 12 teams.
2. Notre Dame chooses to remain independent in football and the Big Ten adds one school from another conference. (Big East or Big 12, most likely).
3. Add Notre Dame and two schools from another conference.
5. Notre Dame chooses to remain independent and the Big Ten adds three schools.
4. Add Notre Dame and steal four schools from other conferences to form college football's first mega-conference. A Big 16 to rule all.
5. Notre Dame chooses to remain independent and the Big Ten adds five schools from other conferences to ... you guessed it... form college football's first mega-conference to rule all.
Or maybe not.
For the fun of it, let's say the Big Ten becomes the Big 16 and adds Notre Dame, Louisville, West Virginia, Pitt and Cincinnati. (There are other possible variations, obviously, but let's stick with these teams just because, geographically, it makes for some interesting rivalries.) As you can plainly see, this would be a mega-conference that would trump even the SEC.
Would the SEC stand pat and allow itself to fall behind the new Big 16? That doesn't seem very SECish, if you ask me. The SEC (God bless Roy Kramer and Mike Slive) enjoys being the top dog of college football. Fans demand it. Alumni demand it. Heck, even politicians demand it. Ahh, politics. That's where this whole conference-expansion speculation gets really interesting.
With the Big 16 in place, the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference are now feeling the pressure. Does the ACC add the football schools of the old Big East, bringing the ACC to 16 teams? Will the SEC follow suit and pilfer the ACC and/or Big 12? This brings us to the oh-so-titillating opportunity for the SEC to make a play for four more major football schools.
From the west, the SEC adds Texas and Texas A&M. From the east, the SEC adds Miami and Florida State. Take that, Big 16.
(Before we play make believe and realign the conferences, keep in mind that Notre Dame is the X-factor in all this. If Notre Dame joins the Big Ten then things could get interesting very quickly.)
NEW BIG 16
BIG 16 EAST
BIG 16 WEST
The Big 12 could possibly add Texas Christian and Southern Methodist to take the place of Texas and Texas A&M. The remaining schools in the Big East do not play football in the Football Bowl Subdivision: Villanova, Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's, Providence and DePaul. All of Notre Dame's sports would move to the Big 16.
Bottom line: Florida, Florida State and Miami would play EVERY YEAR! And, maybe, the possibility for a college football playoff seems more likely. Wow, OK, let's not go overboard here.