When it comes to conference realignments in college sports, Football is always the driving force. The moves are assessed almost entirely by their implications for the future college Football seasons.
Back in 2004, the ACC expanded for the first time in years when it absorbed Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East. As for Syracuse, despite winning the national championship in Men’s Basketball, they did not have the strength in Football to be included in that deal.
But of course, when a school joins a new conference, all of its programs go with it. This means that following the recent SEC expansion, College Basketball is set to undergo major changes.
This lack of consideration for Basketball was, as was the case in 2004, put on display when Oklahoma and Texas were added to the SEC from the Big-12. Leaving behind perennial Basketball powerhouse Kansas, Baylor, and recent final four team Texas Tech in a diminishing conference.
If the Big 12 were to lose its status as a Power 5 conference, something that is very possible given the recent changes, the remaining schools would lose a lot of appeal to top Basketball recruits.
As Baylor’s Athletic Director Mack Rhodes put it,
“[Being in a Power Five conference is] critically important to recruiting students. You just can't buy that quality of publicity. ... If we are no longer a member of a Power Five conference, we will sell less tickets, we will sell less merchandise, we will raise less money”.
It is hard to imagine programs like these losing status amongst the top Basketball schools. But it seems that the potential of no longer being in a Power 5 conference carries enough weight to make it happen.
The future for these programs hinges on the status of the Big 12 moving forward. The schools have publicly voiced their intentions to remain with the Conference and continue to compete at a high level. But it is hard to believe that if given a chance to join the ACC, Big Ten or any other major conference that any of these schools would pass up the opportunity.
Another scenario that could save these Basketball programs is if the Big 12 brings in some schools from the ACC or elsewhere that have enjoyed recent success. Schools like SMU, Memphis, and Houston have had impressive TV ratings and have been putting together strong teams for a few years. This could be the only way the Big 12 survives, albeit as a lesser version of itself.
The Big 12 still has the potential to be a major Basketball conference with the addition of the above-mentioned programs. But given the lack of emphasis on Basketball in regards to these decisions, it will be interesting to see if that will be enough to keep the Big 12 a power 5 conference.
Already a major powerhouse with schools like Florida, and Kentucky, the additions of The Longhorns and Sooners will make the SEC one of, it not the stop conference in Men’s Basketball.