Ah, conference realignment talk.
The subject that gets college sports fans riled up unlike any other is back after a bombshell report from the Houston Chronicle’s Brent Zwerneman Wednesday said that both the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners “have reached out” to the SEC about membership.
Numerous national outlets confirmed the report, and indications are that things could move quickly in terms of the two schools getting and accepting invitations to the conference, even if it’s a while before they would actually start competing in it.
With the news, fans around the country are in a frenzy trying to figure out if “their team” could be impacted, for conference realignment really never affects just a few schools. The ripple effects could be wide, especially with huge programs such as Texas and Oklahoma potentially on the move.
It’s within the realm of possibility that those ripples could reach the BYU Cougars and Utah Utes. As an independent in football (let’s be clear — all sports at a university are impacted in realignment, but football drives the discussions), there’s seemingly always talk that BYU would be a prime candidate to fill a conference spot somewhere, and the ripples within the Power Five conferences could be especially big, meaning Utah, as a member of the Pac-12, could be impacted.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the possibilities that could await the two Beehive State schools if Texas and Oklahoma do in fact leave for the SEC. Note that nothing has been reported regarding these things happening. They are just possibilities that logic dictates could happen.
BYU, Utah both get calls from the Big 12
There’s no denying that Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC would be a gargantuan blow to the Big 12, and even that is probably understating it. The Longhorns and Sooners bring in the most money to the conference, and any replacement schools would be there just to try to salvage something.
That said, if the Big 12 takes the approach it wants to remain relevant, surely its leaders will call other Power Five and strong Group of Five schools in its general geographic region to see if they want to join.
If the Longhorns and Sooners were to leave the conference, there would be three teams from Texas (Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech), two from Kansas (Kansas and Kansas State) and Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia.
Both BYU and Utah would be strong candidates.
Things didn’t materialize for BYU the last time talks got serious about it joining the Big 12 in 2016. Things haven’t changed for the university in regard to its Honor Code, which was reportedly at least one reason why it didn’t happen. But if the Big 12 finds itself in need of a new member, the Cougars make sense as a solid program with a good following.
Utah makes sense, too, if the Big 12 wants to try to steal it from the Pac-12. The Utes have become a very good program in the Pac-12, and the geography of being in one of the easternmost states in that conference could make it appealing for the Big 12. Maybe the Big 12 would add both Utah and former member Colorado at the same time?
For Utah, going to the Big 12 would give it a chance to be more in the middle of the country, and it already recruits the state of Texas very well. There have also been rumblings that USC could want to go independent at some point, which would severely weaken the Pac-12.
Could superconferences really become a thing?
Since Wednesday’s news broke, many have recalled how Texas was incredibly close to leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-12 a decade ago. Back then, the concept of “superconferences” was all the rage.
The thinking was that “BCS” teams would band together to create fewer conferences with 16 or so teams in each. As it stands, the Big Ten, ACC and SEC all have 14 teams. Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC would obviously bump that up to 16.
Is it time for superconferences? If this were to happen, it could be mass chaos around the country as conferences realign in a big way.
There’s no telling where Utah would end up (the Pac-12 or Big 12 would probably make the most sense), but it could also open the door for BYU to join one of these conferences and the Cougars would present a solid option.
Pac-12, Big Ten steal from Big 12
While the Big 12 would surely try to save itself if Texas and Oklahoma left by adding other schools, other Power Five conferences, maybe even the G5 American Athletic Conference, could try to take other schools from it.
This, in a lot of ways, would mean the end of the Big 12 as a power conference (maybe that would already be the case with the departures of Texas and Oklahoma regardless of who replaces them). That would be somewhat reminiscent of what happened with the Big East. It was once a very strong league, but various rounds of realignment since 2003 have severely weakened it.
It could also mean that Utah is impacted if some current Big 12 schools go to the Pac-12 and Utah ends up staying there. The impact wouldn’t be a whole lot more than having additional opponents in conference play, but it would be an impact nonetheless.