Most of the shock and awe of conference realignment broke this summer, but there still are a few details that need to get worked out.
The Big 12 is in talks to split the conference into two seven-team divisions starting in 2023, when Houston, UCF, BYU and Cincinnati join the conference but before Oklahoma and Texas leave for the SEC, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.
According to Dodd, Big 12 ADs met last month in Las Vegas to talk about what the league will look like from 2023 to 2025 at 14 teams. Dodd reports that the Big 12 is “operating under the assumption that both the Longhorns and Sooners will stay in the league four more years” to avoid paying a hefty buyout to the league.
What those potential seven-team divisions look like will be interesting. There are pros and cons about what to do with OU and Texas before their departures.
If you put OU and Texas in opposite divisions, the schools could meet in the Big 12 title game, making it look as if the league is losing its two best teams. But if they are in the same divisions, it means the league wouldn’t have to reshuffle again after they leave; the divisions would easily move to six teams.
Until 2011, the Big 12 was split into two divisions from its inception before the last round of realignment left the league with only 10 teams. Back then, the league split into North and South Divisions.
We’ve already taken a look at what divisions could look like when the SEC defectors are gone and the four new schools are in, but having to split with OU and Texas still in the fold throws a wrench in some of those plans.
Taking north and south literally, the Big 12 would be split in Oklahoma, sending the Cowboys to the North Division and the Sooners to the South Division. That keeps OU and Texas in the same division, meaning they couldn’t meet up for a Big 12 Championship game. However, you would have to redivide conferences after the two schools left.
Working east and west is more difficult with the two extra teams clogging up middle America. BYU and Texas Tech would obviously be in the West Division, and West Virginia, UCF and Cincinnati (and probably Iowa State) would obviously be in the East. But from there, the Kansas schools, the Oklahoma schools and the four remaining Texas schools almost all run down Interstate-35. Splitting eight schools essentially in a vertical line into East and West Divisions seems quite trivial.
The hard part of finding replacements for two big brands seems to be over for the Big 12, but these details getting smoothed out over the next months/years will be interesting to track.
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