THERE ARE conference expansion rumors flying like cake in an "Animal House" food fight.Except that the rumors and reports, unlike the cake, seemingly fly every minute.What it all seems to break down to, however, is a poker game that might spill not into a food fight, but a street fight between the Big East and the Big 12.If you have a life and haven't spent hours on the Internet tracking this issue, let's touch on a few talking points that have surfaced.
First, as you might have read elsewhere on this page, the Southeastern Conference will absorb Texas A&M when legal concerns are cleared. Baylor apparently has blocked the move by claiming tortious interference. That occurs when a business contract is intentionally damaged. Call it self-preservation from a Baylor school that might be left standing when the expansion music stops.Most, however, assume that will be cleared and A&M will indeed move to the SEC. The question then is, what next?Some reports claim Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech will move to the Pac-12 to make it the Pac-16.It's been reported West Virginia's conference, the Big East, has been in contact with multiple Big 12 school representatives. If the Big 12 fails, Big East commissioner John Marinatto has reportedly said, hey, we're interested. The most mentioned names are Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State.Such a move would give the Big East 12 football teams, which would suggest two divisions and a championship game as well as 20 basketball members broken into four five-team divisions.A jolt locally, however, hit when Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com tweeted this: "Latest on SEC No. 14 West Virginia/Missouri." Translated, that means the SEC would take one of those two schools after A&M is tucked in. Another report said the SEC presidents voted 12-0 to allow commissioner Mike Slive to negotiate with the two schools.That would be big news in the Mountain State. When reached on Wednesday, however, SEC representative Charles Bloom said this:"Those are inaccurate reports. The only school that's been discussed is Texas A&M."Bloom suggested the SEC isn't to the point of having a discussion about adding a 14th school. Part of the reason must be legalities, a burgeoning issue with expansion. Remember, the Big East sued the ACC. Baylor is threatening to sue either/or the SEC and A&M.Leagues do not want to be sued and, because of the aftermath of the ACC's raid of the Big East, do not wish to be viewed as predatory.There are other reports out there. The Big Ten has been sitting on the sideline after taking in Nebraska, but could look at Maryland or Missouri.
Note that Maryland is in the ACC, one of the conferences currently seen as solid. The three BCS conferences that are rock solid are the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC.Which leaves the seemingly crumbling Big 12 and Big East. One suggestion from the West is the Big 12 should be proactive and go after the Big East's WVU, Louisville and Pittsburgh to return to 12 teams. The league could also go after BYU, TCU (which, yes, just joined the Big East for next season), Houston and SMU and move to 16 teams.Note there's no grand plan and there's no organized, civil plan in the offing. That's because the NCAA is not in charge. The head of the NCAA is not in charge. No one oversees all.Yes, conference representatives are talking to each other and asking permission. But that seems to be more in the name of avoiding lawsuits than civility.So what we might have is a street fight between the Big East and Big 12, and WVU might be a lynchpin.Insiders say schools do not want to be in a position like TCU, which could have jumped to a conference in danger. Schools are seeking stability. Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State might wait and see who wins. Or, more specifically, which league can offer the most money.
Keep in mind the Big East is set to negotiate a television deal in November of 2012. With that looming, and the showdown to survive, the conference needs to hold on to football members TCU, WVU, Syracuse and Pitt.Odds are it won't. West Virginia could ultimately end up in the SEC or ACC. Still, the Big East is holding its membership together to this point, which the Big 12 is not. Nebraska has bolted to the Big Ten, Colorado has left for the Pac-12 and A&M is steaming toward the SEC.In addition, the University of Texas is scaring schools away with its clout and new TV deal. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is seen as part of the league's problem. And Oklahoma president David Boren is on the league's expansion committee, yet has said the Sooners are exploring leaving.Where would WVU land if given an option? The thought is the ACC. The SEC loves state flagship schools situated where NFL teams don't dominate. Those in charge there would love the Mountaineer fan base.The football program, however, would have a tough time surviving the rigors of the SEC. The championships plentiful in the Big East would be few and far between. And, after initial excitement, that might affect the fan base.The ACC, on the other hand, might not be an academic fit, but the Mountaineers would certainly be competitive. See: Virginia Tech.It's a lot to digest and a lot to watch, but WVU and the Big East are certainly in the expansion spotlight.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.