In the last installment of "Conference Chatter," you were left tied to the train tracks with the Big Ten conference expansion locomotive bearing down on you. What a horrible situation to leave you in! Let's see if we can't imagine a better scenario.
First, let's assume that the Big Ten expands to 16 teams, and that Notre Dame is one of them. The other four in this scenario are two from the Big East, Pitt and Rutgers, and two from the Big XII, Nebraska and Missouri.
What happens then? There could be a conference gold rush to get to four 16-team super-conferences....
1.) The SEC almost immediately responds by scooping up Texas and Oklahoma, with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State coming along as part of the package to placate those two prized pigs. That effectively kills off the Big XII.
2.) The Pac-10 finishes off what's left of the Big XII by grabbing highly valuable Kansas and their little brother Kansas State, taking two strong market teams in Colorado and Utah, and making a claim to what's left of the Longhorn State by inviting Texas Tech and TCU. Baylor and Iowa State get left out in the cold.
4.) The Big XII disappears with the wind on the plains, and the Big East goes back to its roots as a Catholic basketball league. With TCU and Utah moving on to greener pastures, the Mountain West is no longer a factor in major college football. It, along with the WAC, C-USA, and the Sun Belt are forced to reconfigure in order to reduce traveling costs, and to generally be as frugal as possible. The MAC remains mostly as is, living relatively comfortably off one-and-dones from the Big Ten and SEC. The remaining minor conferences and independents are forced to go with the same approach. Programs like Boise State, USF, Cincinnati, and BYU have to content themselves with being spoilers. Perhaps some Football Bowl Subdivision schools have to drop to Football Championship Subdivision status to reduce their costs.
In this scenario, the new Big Ten (which they'll still call themselves even though there are now 16 members) and the SEC would be the undisputed top dogs in terms of both revenue and level of competition, but the new Pac-16 and ACC would have more than enough rabid fan bases, major TV markets, and big-time programs to hold their own and make plenty of profits to keep everybody happy.
A 16-team ACC that would include WVU, Syracuse, UConn, and Louisville would be just as sick on the hardwood as the Big East currently is. In football, the ACC's new Atlantic Division (or maybe the Coastal Division) could consist of WVU, Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. That lineup of eight schools would be great for WVU's football schedule. Just imagine this slate:
Keeping the Backyard Brawl alive would be in the interests of both WVU and Pitt. That rivalry shouldn't go away. In fact, it could get even testier.
The future conference situation for WVU doesn't have to be gloom and doom.