Conference Realignment to Ensue
That certainly escalated quickly. Bet nobody (aside from Greg Sankey) saw a 16-team conference curveball coming all this way from left field.
It looks like it’ll have to be the SEC way or the highway from here on out.
But seriously though, weren’t we just talking about an expanded playoff a few weeks ago? Getting the NIL and an increased playoff is one thing, but now conference realignment too? That’s a whole new ballpark.
It seems like the sport is changing at an alarming rate, with nothing stopping the rich from getting richer.
And while the evil Greg Sankey continues to sit upon his thrown of growing money, it’s time to put up or shut up for the rest of the college football world.
How Conference Realignment Could Affect Cincinnati
Alright, alright, don’t worry. You’ve finally reached the part where we start talking about the Bearcats. This is when we’ll go over what the program could and should do to take part in this year’s realignment cycle.
The most recognized options for Cincinnati are to A: stay put in the AAC and wait for a handful of remaining Big 12 teams to join the conference, or B: consider exploring options such as the ACC or Big Ten.
Both seem good. Both come with their opportunities. And both will still give the Bearcats a shot at reaching the playoff.
But let’s take a detour from the national perception for a minute. What if Cincinnati, along with a few other AAC teams, were to join the Big12? And not the other away around.
How would that pan out in the college football landscape?
The Case for Cincinnati to Join the Big12
Remember when the Big East fell from its throne as a power conference?
(Of course you do. After all, the Cincinnati Bearcats were in the middle of the whole fiasco.)
It was the AAC (the remains of the Big East) that went on the offensive, poaching a handful of C-USA teams to reinstate itself as a complete league.
Who's to say the Big12 doesn’t follow suit? Multiple AAC schools, including some of the more notable ones, have repeatedly shown interest in joining the conference before.
Houston and SMU stand out as two programs who in the past would do just about anything to hop aboard the Big 12 ship. Sure, Texas being in the conference was part of that desperation, but just the thought of qualifying as a “power five” school should be enough to sway either program.
And after all, joining the “tag-along eight” still looks a whole lot more of an attractive option than keeping the AAC logo and competing against a USF or Temple.
That’s not meant to say the AAC is bad. The top half of the conference is in all likelihood better than that of the remains of the Big12. It’s just that the several bottom members stand out as iffy, to say the least.
(No offense USF or Temple fans, but your schools are a real resume destroyer right now.)
And that’s why Cincinnati and a handful of their other conference foes should consider joining the Big12. Instead of competing in a mixture of really good and really bad programs, they’ll be in a true power conference, where everyone (but Kansas) will be on a fairly similar level competitively.
Furthermore, let’s take a moment to pause and put this into perspective. What if the six best teams from the AAC (Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulsa and UCF) were to join the Big 12 along with, say, BYU.
(Aside from it’s location, BYU would make sense due its long-expressed interest in joining the conference.)
It would look something like this:
East: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Oklahoma State, UCF
West: Baylor, BYU, Houston, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Tulsa
(West Virginia not included due to the extreme likelihood that they move the ACC.)
Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but that seems like a pretty attractive looking conference.
You’d be getting quality in both divisions, top to bottom. Those who don’t contribute a whole lot on the gridiron-such as Kansas-likely have other strong athletic programs to cover up their faults.
And even with that said, why stop there?
After all, there are plenty of other teams eyeing a potential move, and with the recent admiration of future super conferences, maybe it’s best to go to 16.
Maybe a Boise State or App State type-program shows a little appeal in joining. Maybe you merge the entire AAC with the Big12. Or maybe you add back Colorado.
(Okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch.)
The point still stands that there are plenty of options on the table. And while Cincinnati is a loyal member of the AAC, an opportunity like this might be too hard to pass up.
Cincinnati Needs to Act Swiftly
Ok, now that was certainly a lot to take in. You might be tired, confused or left wanting more, and that’s ok. College Football is supposed to be chaotic in the first place.
ANYTHING can happen possible in this day age. We are likely only seeing the beginning of a chain of realignment proposals that will shake up the sports world as we know it. Cincinnati just happens to be in the heat of it all.
The Bearcats own all the options in the world, and with everyone on the edge of their seat, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see them make a move.
Just promise us one thing AD John Cunningham:
Promise us that you won’t just sit around when everyone else starts to make moves. Promise us that you’ll inquire with your options. That you’ll value everyone else’s word.
That you won’t make the same mistake Cincinnati did last time: stay put.
And that you won’t remain dormant.
Because doing something is better than nothing.