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Texas A&M Officially Leaving the Big XII - And So It Begins

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Texas A&M officially notified the Big XII that it will seek affiliation with another conference and end its relationship with the conference on June 30, 2012. This is the last official step the school has to take to exit the conference and await its invitation join the Southeastern Conference for the 2012 season. A&M's move once again spins the conference realignment wheel for the Big East, which is also looking to expand its membership, particularly for football. So what can Big East fans expect to happen?

It's virtually impossible to predict what will happen, but here are the big questions that need to be answered before anyone can speculate with any kind of certainty:

  • Will the SEC and/or the PAC 12 expand to 16 teams. This is the single most important factor in the direction of conference realignment. If the PAC 12 expands to 16 one would assume it would mean the addition of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. If that happens, the remaining five teams of the Big XII would be fair game. If the SEC goes to 16 teams, they would likely raid the ACC for the biggest of its football programs and that would leave the ACC with eight teams, the former Big XII north teams, and the Big Eeast to try and pick up the pieces. 
  • If the SEC only adds one additional school, who will it be? If it is Missouri, then the Big East will probably escape realignment unscathed and might very well be in position to add the two Kansas schools for all sports. If the SEC adds a single school from the ACC, then one would assume the ACC will attempts to add a current Big East member to replace it. Then what would the Big East do in response and who which school would it be? Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Syracuse would likely be the first members considered, then perhaps Louisville or South Florida (especially if Florida State is the team poached and the ACC wants to get back into Florida). 
  • If the Big XII attempts to survive, will it go to 10 or back to 12 to host another championship game? If it does go to 12, who will the three teams be? BYU seems like a good candidate for the tenth position, but is there anyone else that is attainable and really moves the needle for the conference? I can't see any of the current Big East schools being a viable target for the Big XII in any scenario. 
  • Can the Big East somehow be proactive and poach some teams of its own right now? The only likely candidates would be the same three Big XII schools who might make a move out of fear of being left out. If the television numbers John Marinatto has floated are anywhere near realistic, then it's always possible that they could lure them into the Big East in time for negotiations next year to make that television deal even larger. Still, it is more likely that the Big East will have to be reactive but swift in response to the moves the other conferences make if it hopes to survive.
Until there are answers to these questions, it's a waste of time for me or anyone else to try and guess what will happen in realignment. I'm optimistic that the Big East will survive as a conference and perhaps emerge in an even stronger position than it was in last summer when this wheel first started turning.