There is at least a conference worth of programs that will not get another power-five gig if something happens to their current one. But only some of those programs are in the cross-hairs at the moment. As the super-conferences emerge, it could become an issue for programs like Vandy, Duke, and Rutgers. There becomes a genuine issue of the super-conferences breaking from the NCAA altogether. And this is where the problem comes in; do they still need these higher-grade institutions to raise their conference's GPA at that point? The answer is likely no.
There's an immediate situation with the PAC 12 and the Big Xll with USC and UCLA headed to the B1G Ten. Oregon and Washington could be next; the PAC's future is in the air. The real question may be, will the PAC try to put things back together to maintain its power-conference status? We might be looking at a PAC / Xll merger, but it is challenging to determine which programs would be out in such a scenario. It might be a 16-team conference, giving plenty of room to absorb programs, but that would not include all of the team's on the table from both conferences. Who stays? Who gets the Ax? We could have that answer sooner than you think. Which will tell us more about which conferences remain among the power-five.
A Pac 12 / Big Xll Merger
It's challenging to analyze this with Oregon and Washington's landing place still pending, but for the sake of discussion, we will assume that the B1G takes them as well. So that would leave Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Cal, Stanford, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State in the mix. With the teams that will remain in the Big Xll after 2025, add these teams in, and it's a 20-team league. I'm not convinced that the Xll will expand to 20, though. I'd bet on 16 at the moment, so four teams from these two conferences would end up cut from the equation in the event of such a merger. I think the cuts would likely all come from the PAC.
I'd put Washington State and Oregon State at the top of the teams to be left out, but you never know exactly how something like this unfolds. Likewise, knowing precisely what a merger's administrators would be looking for is difficult. But my gut tells me that any such union would center around Arizona State and Colorado from the PAC, Oklahoma State, and BYU from the Xll. So I'd bet that Washington State, Oregon State, Cal, and Arizona are left out. But there is the basketball perspective, and that version of the merger would surely include Arizona.
Will The SEC Take A Look?
It's not totally out of the question. The SEC could look at Arizona State and Colorado for the TV markets they would bring. If the SEC attempted to get to 20 with as little resistance as possible, they might look at teams from both conferences. The SEC might even value a program like Kansas for what it would bring in Basketball revenue. The SEC knows it will need to move quickly to make any moves west of the Mississippi. So we should not be waiting very long to see something materialize if it's going to.
Could The PAC Decide To Find Replacements?
I don't think it's out of the question entirely. The eventual loss of their top 4 brands will be devastating, to say the least, but is it irreparable? Not in the academic sense, but it will be impossible for them to come out of a replacement scenario in the same place they are now. In other words, the product will take a hit any way you slice it. I'd put Boise high on any PAC replacement list. Then, you might throw in Fresno State, San Diego State, and maybe Hawaii. Welcome to the newest Group of Five conference. How can it be perceived as a power-five league under those circumstances?
The ACC Is Safe For Now
The rumors are swirling on the Atlantic Coast, but the ACC remains very much intact. There has been no movement by the ACC to join in in the expansion game yet, and maybe they won't. Perhaps they see that the end game is not favorable to their survival. So, why go through the motions of entertaining expansion to have it fall apart embarrassingly? It's the waiting game for the ACC. Where is this headed? It shouldn't take a long time to figure that out. For now, though their power-five status should be intact.
Super-Conferences As The End Game
If we end up with a couple of super conferences replacing what we call the 'power-five,' the NCAA removed from the equation; we should also expect that some will not make the transition. For example, Vanderbilt is not likely to end up as a member of a super conference. I would also expect Wake Forest and Rutgers to have difficulty landing as members in a super-conference. There is a pretty extensive list of college football programs that are not cutting the mustard. Out of the 65 teams currently considered power-five, I would expect that AT LEAST 15 would be left out of a conversation. There may also be a few groups of five programs that find homes in a super conference. So, keep your eyes open; the next few years should be interesting.