Columns/Opinion, Justin Jackson, Opinion, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Only two moves left to be made to end conference realignment, both will be led by the SEC

MORGANTOWN — By now you’re wondering what’s next? As in, what’s the next move in college conference realignment?

The Big 12 made its move by adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, a solid play by Big 12 commish Brett Yormark.

The Big Ten followed by adding Oregon and Washington.

As much as the college athletics world seems to be in chaos, there are really just two moves left to be made in order to have calm.

Both are basically controlled by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in one way or another.

Before peace can be restored, more dominoes must fall.

That begins with the ACC, which you can argue started all of this mess back in 2004 when it raided the Big East of Miami and Virginia Tech and a year later did it again by adding Boston College.

Florida State, believing it’s still the national football power it once was — despite its 36-36 record over the last five seasons — is going to leave the ACC somehow.

Sankey will control that, as well as having the first pick of whoever else he wants from that league, i.e, Clemson. That’s the first move.

The ACC will fall along the same party line as the Pac-12, it’s only a matter of time.

You can have fun guessing who goes where. Will Pitt join the Big 12? Will Duke and North Carolina go Big Ten?

In the end, there will be but three power conferences with the SEC ruling the roost in football.

OK, here’s the problem. The current contract for the 12-team College Football Playoff that begins with the 2024 season was agreed upon with the idea that the Pac-12 and ACC would survive.

The champions of the Power Five would all get an automatic bid to the playoff, as would the highest-ranked champion from the Group of Five leagues.

The other six at-large teams are the six highest-ranked teams remaining.

If you only have three power conferences — the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC — that leaves the door wide open for Cinderella to have a dance at the ball.

No way will Sankey allow that.

There will still be schools out there that will be left to fend for their own once the ACC blows up.

Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State and Cal are among those left in the Pac-12 that have a choice to make.

In the ACC, it’s conceivable schools such as Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse will get left behind, too.

Maybe the remaining Pac-12 schools merge with the Mountain West. Maybe the remaining ACC schools merge with the American Athletic.

Yet Sankey — and to some degree the Big Ten, and maybe even the Big 12, too — are not going to allow both of those conferences to get an automatic bid to a 12-team playoff.

You can already hear the back-hallway discussions how an 11-2 San Diego State team and a 12-1 Tulane team don’t both deserve in the playoff just because they won their league that added the runts of what was once Power Five schools.

Not over a nine-win Penn State or a nine-win Florida.

The reason is too much money would be left on the table by allowing too many Cinderellas into the big dance.

Under the current four-team playoff, each conference receives about $6 million per team selected.

Numbers haven’t been released on the absolute value of the 12-team playoff, but you know those numbers are going up, so let’s say it becomes $8 million per team.

So, you take the champs of the new “Power Three,” which leaves nine spots left.

Are you going to give two of those spots to what would still be the Group of Five, but one that is more competitive than before? Very doubtful.

It’s quite possible the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 throw their weight around come 2025, when the current media rights deal with ESPN runs out and a whole new format will be unveiled for the 12-team playoff.

That’s the second move, one that could, finally, restore peace to the galaxy.

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