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Expansion and USF - Where Are We At Right Now?

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There's still a lot of waiting for Bulls fans until we find out how (or if) this round of college expansion/realignment will affect USF. I have to say, though, I don't have a real good feeling about how everything has gone down so far.

The biggest problem I see so far is that only the Pac-10 seems interested in going whole hog and trying to expand to 16 teams, and even that might not happen. That by itself is not a bad thing. In fact, the status quo reigning in the BIG EAST would feel like a victory right now. The problem is if the SEC decides to grab Texas A&M and some other Big 12 team, reaching out to the west instead of picking off the best teams left in its footprint (who all happen to be in the ACC). That moves the geography crunch right to our doorstep, and our palatable options shrink dramatically.

Here's what I think we as Bulls fans need to root for if we don't want to be staring this guy in the face in a couple of years:

- Everyone goes to plaid after all. We've already been through this a couple of times. You know that it works out well for USF. I won't go over it again.

- The Big Ten decides 12 teams is enough - or if they decide that 14 is enough, that Notre Dame is one of the teams they take. I think if they were really interested in Missouri, they would have already pulled the trigger on that when the Tigers turned into a drunk coed who wants beads at the Sant Yago parade. So that basically leaves Notre Dame, Texas (yeah right), and Big East teams.

Here's where things could get spectacularly ugly. If you've been following Frank the Tank's Slant, you might have seen this nugget in his latest entry:

A source with knowledge of the agreement that was entered into by the Big East schools following the ACC raid of 2003 states that in the event that 2 football members leave the conference, the football and non-football members can split the league without any penalty and retain their respective revenues, such as NCAA Tournament distributions. What is surprising is that the Catholic non-football members comprise the faction that is pushing the issue. If you recall, those schools met back in March to discuss "contingency plans". Apparently, the Catholic schools have decided that they will exercise the split option if 2 Big East schools leave the conference (no matter who they might be) and have informed Big East commissioner John Marinatto as such.

Well then, that kind of sucks, doesn't it. Assuming that clause is true, if Rutgers and Syracuse leave, then all six remaining teams -- Pittsburgh, Connecticut, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, and us -- would be orphan programs. (It would also explain why Marinatto has the basketball schools' back, but none of ours.)

- If Texas A&M ends up going to the SEC, the Pac-10 decides to take Utah instead of Kansas. The reasoning here is that if the six stranded BIG EAST teams need to hastily form some kind of quasi-BCS league with the charred wreckage of the Big 12, having Kansas along for the ride (along with Kansas State, Missouri, and I don't know, Memphis and their $50 million bribe incentive?) would add some badly-needed legitimacy. If they're off the table, then that hasty league is going to look pretty shabby on paper and likely in practice. And that's assuming the Mountain West doesn't claim them all first, which could happen and might even be a better choice for them.

- The ACC doesn't lose anyone and stands pat. Whether that means the BIG EAST stays intact, or there are six orphan schools, that would be good for us. The fewer orphan programs, the less leverage you have and the more likely you are to get stuck in a weak-sister league.

- Florida State gets picked up by the SEC. This seems wildly unlikely, but barring a major upheaval that results in the ACC swallowing the Big East football leftovers whole, it's pretty much the only chance USF would have to get into that league. USF would be the tool they could use to hold on to the Tampa TV market. I don't think the same kind of setup would be on the table if Miami left - their influence on Tampa is not nearly as strong as FSU's.

- The SEC loses their goddamn mind and invites us. I know, this one's utterly insane. The odds of this happening are somewhere between zero and 0.000000001%, but if it did, I would be on the next flight to Tampa. I would Grand Theft Auto someone in the passenger loading area at TIA, drive straight to the athletics building and leave the car running on the sidewalk out front, run in the door, and barge into Doug Woolard's office so I could physically drag his right hand across the paperwork to sign it while yelling "YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID" over and over again. It would be totally worth spending 15 years* in prison.**

That's where we personally stand right now. It's safe to say that things are not off to an ideal start if you're interested in preserving all of the progress USF has made in the last 10 years, but we're far from the end of this whole episode.

* - conservative estimate.
** - would actually not be worth it at all. I am badly suited to prison life.