The latest news on major conference realignment is coming from the Big East, which is expected to formally announce soon that it is on the rebound with the additions of Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, Central Florida and Southern Methodist University for the 2013 school year.
Boise State and San Diego State would become members of the Big East in football only. In all of their other sports, the two schools would continue to compete in the Mountain West. Houston, Central Florida and SMU are all presently part of Conference USA. If the three latter schools move to the Big East, they will become full-fledged members, competing in all sports.
Here in Big 12 country, you might say, "Good for them," to this news, but follow with the question, "So what? What does that have to do with the Big 12?"
The simple answer: Maybe nothing, but perhaps a lot.
This is good news for the Big East Conference, irrespective of the new world order in which there don't seem to be any geographical boundaries in forming conference affiliations, is that this move will apparently allow it to rebuild its football structure and remain a 12-team league. Earlier this year, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced that they were withdrawing from the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. West Virginia joined in the exit parade, accepting an invitation to become a member of the Big 12. And TCU, which was set to join the Big East next season, making the move from the non-BCS Mountain West Conference, reneged on that plan, deciding instead to become part of the Big 12.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto has said he plans to hold Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to conference bylaws that would prevent their departure from the Big East until 2013. Both the ACC and the Big 12 want the teams to move into their new leagues next football season. West Virginia has sued the Big East challenging the legality and enforceability of the two-year waiting period.
Whether adding the five new schools in football would soften or change the Big East's position on preventing West Virginia's move for at least two years is uncertain at this me. But it sure can't hurt. Neither conference wants to have to go into a season with an odd number of teams, which is what either the Big 12 or Big East is going to have to do, depending on what happens with West Virginia.
Big 12 officials said that West Virginia's move to the Big 12 is not contingent on the school joining the conference in the 2012-13 sports season. Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said, however, that the league needs 10 members to fulfill its TV contracts.
Missouri and Texas A&M are following the prior exits of Nebraska and Colorado this year and are moving from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference next year, dropping the number of league members to eight. The addition of TCU brings the number to nine, and West Virginia would return the conference size to what it is currently, but would leave the Big East at potentially 11 teams beginning in 2013.
If I were a betting man, I would say we can expect to welcome not one but two new members to the Big 12 in 2012, and one of those new schools will be West Virginia, bringing football coach Dana Holgorsen and basketball coach Bob Huggins back to the Big 12.
Fortunately, I'm not a betting man, but I think that is what is going to happen. You can bet on it.