Conference realignment has taken a back seat to the scandal at Penn State lately, but its inner workings are still being sorted through in this waiting period now that we know Texas A&M and Missouri are heading to the SEC, and that TCU, West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt are all departing the Big East.
One of the areas of concern for athletic directors and league offices has been scheduling. You could make an argument — despite Mike Slive‘s comments to the contrary — that the SEC never really planned on staying at 13 teams based on the scheduling SNAFU alone. But it appears the SEC is still drawing up possibilities for a 13-team conference for 2012 just in case. In his weekly letter, Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne released the following information (down at the bottom, of course):
For our weekly SEC transition update, I’m able to give you first hand information directly from the SEC office in Birmingham where I am attending SEC athletic director meetings. The main topic we are discussing is schedules in all sports. We don’t know if we will have 13- or 14-team schedules. The SEC has developed both, because we are awaiting official word if Missouri will be able to compete in the SEC next year or not.
Upon its introduction to the SEC, Missouri made it clear they plan to be in their new conference by July 1, 2012. Mizzou nor the SEC would go into any details at their press conference about what processes they’re in right now to ensure that happens, but rest assured, Mizzou wants this move to happen ASAP. In any case, the SEC is covering all their options to make sure they can proceed with a 13-team schedule next year if need be.
Conference realignment has often been associated with TV markets, program brand names, television rights contracts, etc, but scheduling, including the financial repercussions of breaking off nonconference games, carries some weight (just not as much). Just look at the current SEC-Big 12-Big East scenario:
The SEC is planning a 13-team schedule just in case Missouri can’t switch conferences by their announced date. Missouri, when asked how WVU”s entrance will affect their move, said ”We’ve been given assurances… We are confident we will be able to erase any issues.” Remember, the Big 12 needs 10 members to fulfill contractual obligations with the Big 12 Network. Otherwise, they’ll be penalized financially.
That’s why the pressure’s on WVU to get out of the 27-month waiting period that’s dictated in the Big East bylaws, hence the school’s lawsuit against the conference.
But, this is where we come back to the importance of scheduling.
In the Big East’s countersuit against WVU, the conference claims a departure by WVU will cause the Big East and its members to be “irreparably harmed because it will be impossible to reschedule all the Conference athletic contests in a fair and equitable manner. In addition, the BIG EAST and its Member Schools will likely incur additional costs and unquantifiable injuries resulting from having to reschedule or cancel contests for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.”
Combine that financial and logistical mess with the potential for negotiations of reductions by the Big East’s TV partners and the chance (albeit slim) of the conference losing its BCS automatic bid, and the Big East could have some serious financial compensation for damages coming their way.
That’s why WVU’s main goal should be to settle with the Big East and settle soon, even if it means paying a higher exit fee.