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The Domino Effect of Big 10 Expansion, Will it Affect the Mountain West?

The recent big college football news is that the Big 10 is finally considering expanding to grab a few extra million bucks in a championship game and to extend their season to the first week of December instead of pre-Thanksgiving.  The search is to take between 12-18 months before any decision is made and the search is going to be extensive and 'nation wide,' but expect the usual suspects to be involved.


Teams of interest are and in no order: Pitt, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, Nebraska, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, Iowa State, and Maryland.  The Domers are the obvious and most coveted choice, but most likely will not join because their NBC contract goes for another six years.   Even if Notre Dame says yes and the search takes 18 months which is the summer of 2011 when the invite will come Notre Dame will not begin play until the 2012 season.  At that time if the current deal with NBC is not extended there would still be three more years left on that deal, and unless the Big 10 wants to let them finish out the deal and let the Irish keep the money no way the Irish will join.

Team Speed Kills brings out a very good point if the Big 10 goes after someone else just to get to twelve:

2. Saying yes to someone else means saying no to Notre Dame forever

Conferences larger than 12 members don't work well with football. The WAC tried having 16 and couldn't make it work. The MAC has serious scheduling problems with its 13 team format. A 12 member league works. More than that really doesn't.

If the Big Ten adds another member, it will have 12 schools. Since more than 12 is untenable, if that twelfth school is not Notre Dame, then the Big Ten will never have Notre Dame. Adding Missouri or Pitt functionally closes that door forever.

That is a real good point, because if the Big 10 wants to hurry this along and take someone else just to get a championship game; they can then seal the Irish's fate forever as an Independent.

Back to how this could affect the Mountain West.  The MWC is desperately trying to gain BCS status and Boise State has been the rumored team for years, and most recently there was a rumor that would bring in Nevada, Fresno State, as well as Boise State this summer to gain BCS status.  That was just a rumor, but realistically at least Boise will get the invite this summer.

The Big 10 expansion could mean every thing or it could mean nothing to the Mountain West, however the Pac-10 made the same statement as the Big 10 but back in July about a 12-18 month time line and wanting a title game.  Utah from the Mountain West and Colorado from the Big XII were at the top of new commissioner Larry Scott's wish list to form the Pac-12.

The scenario that will have the minimal impact is that the Big 10 invites Notre Dame and then there is no domino effect what so ever, but we all know that has a slim chance of happening.

The two most likely candidates to join the Big 10 are Pitt and Missouri.  Starting with Pitt they are one of the 'old money' teams on the east coast and are comparable in all aspects that the Big 10 wants.  They are a state school with a large enrollment, a good educational institution, and are good at both money sports. 

The Big 10 Network would not get a huge bump in viewers since it all ready covers the Pennsylvania with Penn State all ready in the league, so Pitt does not add much on that front.  Now, if Pitt were to join then the Big East would be in for a real hurt because that would leave them with only seven teams and not eligible to be an FBS league, or more importantly a BCS league and all the bling that goes with being a cartel member. 

The Big East would either need to crawl back to Temple and beg them to come back to the league they were kicked out of or go rampage the MAC or C-USA for an eighth member. Or somehow promote a basketball playing school that has an FCS program like UMass, Villinova, or Georgetown; but with that they may lose their BCS status since their league would be even more watered down. So, Pitt moving to the Big 10 would not really have any impact on Mountain West.

The biggie is Missouri because they are currently in the Big XII and fit nicely with all the Big 10 wants in its member institutions.  Here is how it will or could affect the Mountain West: Missouri leaving opens up a spot in the Big XII and more importantly the Big XII North.  TCU and Arkansas would love to get back in the old South West Conference rivalries, but they are not a geographical fit to be in the north division.  Plus, moving Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to the north would disrupt their rivalries as well as the Red River Shootout if Oklahoma were to move.  Those two are out of the question because of locale, now saying that the ACC has no real geographical lines they have Florida State and Miami, FL in separate divisions.

The next choice falls back to a former potential member when the Big XII was being formed and that is BYU.  If it were not for government influence by the former Texas Governor Ann Richards who oh just happens to be a Baylor alum pushed and won the fight to get Baylor in the Big XII.  BYU would be on the list and make the thousands of Cougar fans very, very happy to be in a BCS league, and be in a very winnable North division from day one.

However, if you go by the time line of expansion the Big 10 has which is the 12-18 month time frame the Big XII may be left scrambling for a different team.  Now, why would BYU turn down a chance to be in the Big XII?  The reason that could happen is if as I have expected for a while that Boise State will be invited this summer and begin play in 2011.  That would give the Mountain West a very strong case to be a BCS league for the 2012 season because the league all ready has had three teams in the BCS top 25 final standings, and adding Boise would bring that number to four over the past two years.  The Mountain West does not show any signs of slowing down, and with the Boise rankings counting while in the WAC the MWC looks almost a shoe in to begin play as a BCS league in 2012.

An invite coming from the Big XII to BYU -- if the Big 10 does expand with Missouri-- will most likely come in the summer of 2011 which is the last year of the four year BCS cycle.  The reason a summer invite is mentioned is that any league that moves conferences must give a one year's notice.  Now, that 2011 season would be the first with Boise State and give college football a chance to see if the Mountain West is a BCS league. 

Here is the caveat with that the Mountain West may not know until after the 2011 football season, or possibly later if they are to be a BCS league.  That would occur after an invitation would have been handed out to BYU, so I could see BYU jumping ship to the Big XII because of the uncertainty of the Mountain West becoming a BCS league.  Quite frankly BYU would be stupid not to jump to a better league with a guaranteed BCS bid and realistically could win the Big XII North in year one.

The only way BYU would not join is if the BCS where to make some announcement about the Mountain West becoming a BCS league prior to an invite from the Big XII.  That seems doubtful since the 2011 season will needed to be played.  Now, a move by BYU to the Big XII would not affect the Mountain West and their BCS aspirations since all four of their playing years in the MWC would be in the four year cycle so BYU would not lose them.

The Pac-10 is also looking to expand about the same time as the Big 10 and they have mentioned Utah and Colorado as their top choices.  Now, there is no need to run through the Utah scenario because it is exactly the same as BYU as far as the time line for invites go.

This Big 10 trickle down effect towards the Mountain West all boils down to if Missouri goes to the Big 10 to form hopefully either a) numerical correct league name, or b) a regional name makes sense, but since the Big 10 is obsessed with tradition do not be surprised if the name stays the same. 

The best choice for Utah and BYU would be to stay in the Mountain West as a BCS league, because they are all ready on the top of the league and a move to a current BCS league would mean a few years of building up to the level -- that goes more toward Utah then BYU since the Big XII north is not as difficult as the Pac-10.  Utah would be upper middle pack and be fitting Oregon, USC, and Cal to get a conference title.

Since the timing could make things go hay wire and if either league makes their expansion threat a reality the Mountain West could be in a world of hurt.  An invite to a bigger league will come the summer prior to the last year of the BCS evaluation cycle so the Mountain West will not know for sure if they are included to the table or not.  Why should Utah or BYU not go to a larger league if invited, I know I would.

Here is the real kicker that could be very odd and bizarre.  The Mountain West could be a BCS league without BYU or Utah if they do happen to get plucked away.  It is possible since both schools would have been in the Mountain West for the four year evaluation cycle, and if Boise gets in the last year of the cycle their WAC rankings are now shifted to the Mountain West.

Now, that would be weird.