What the Big Ten’s Latest Realignment Ambitions Mean for the Big 12

The Big Ten is reportedly considering expansion — yes, to be clear, further expansion — with eyes on Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and Cal after adding USC and UCLA from the ranks of the Pac-12 earlier this offseason.

Such an expansion would set the Big Ten at even — or maybe slightly ahead — in the growing arms race of the super-league formation with the SEC and put the Big Ten on a collision course to rake in mega cash in the media market.

What are the implications elsewhere?

Here’s some thoughts on what it would mean.

1. The Big 12 would be in position of strength

Pac-12 super-reporter Jon Wilner was the subject of mass discussion — and LOLs — on Wednesday after weighing on the rumors of Big Ten realignment by implying, in a roundabout way, that the Pac-12 has as much if not more value than the Big 12.

On its face his argument makes sense — the Pac-12 only lost USC and UCLA and are negotiating their media deal currently — but there’s really no rationale to the argument when you break it down. The Pac-12 distribution model is a disaster. The Big Ten stole the LA market from it. It can’t afford to lose any more and may still be relegated to mid-major status in a tier well below the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12.

The Big 12 in particular would be in a position of strength. Remember: it’s the Big 12, not the Pac-12, that reportedly walked away from merger discussions this month. If USC and UCLA are gone in addition to, say, Washington, Stanford, Cal and Oregon, then suddenly I think the Pac-12 would be looking for a lifeboat and all aboard the Big 12 train. In that scenario it may be a free-for-all as schools scramble, which could also help the Big 12 be selective (if it chose to do so because they maybe aren’t interested in, say, Oregon State).

2. College football’s tier system clarified

Clearly, in college football, it’d be the SEC and Big Ten … then everyone else.

But everyone else would start with the Big 12.

It has responded as well as it possibly could in the last year in losing Texas and OU by adding BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston to get back to 12 teams in future membership.

More Pac-12 defections to the Big Ten would only strengthen the Big 12 in the marketplace because in that scenario, it could — and I think would — be interested in adding Arizona, Arizona State and maybe others from the league as it slowly folds.

The ACC would still be in the next tier alongside the Big 12, but losing Florida State and Miami (and missing on potentially adding mega value in Notre Dame) would probably knock it down a rung on the food chain.

3. Death of the Pac-12?

Losing UCLA and USC to the Big Ten was the equivalent of the Big 12 losing Texas and OU on a lesser scale, but the league was in much worse shape when it lost its two marquee members than when the Big 12 lost its two marquee members last year. Further, it doesn’t appear as if the Pac-12 is in position to recover like the Big 12. It kinda feels a little bit like regardless of where realignment is heading — and regardless of whether the Big Ten can add more to its ranks from the Pac-12 — that the Pac-12 is in really rough shape. Like, beginning of the end type of shape. It has major problems with its distribution model, it is leaking relevance and in time its revenue distribution will be reflective of its clear tank in market value it has taken unless it can slap a very good flex-seal to stop the leaking.