Nowhere near the end.
Actually, the beginning of the end as college football has been known – at least for the past decade-plus.
That's the consensus of myriad coaches, senior-level staffers and administrators around college athletics and specifically college football who spoke to FootballScoop the past 24 to 72 hours in the wake of the seismic shifts generated across the landscape by the impending departures of both Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 Conference.
“The move, I don’t think, is inherently bad for the game,” said one respondent. “The responses to it may be. What other conferences try to do will determine more in my opinion."
“What the Big 12/AAC/ACC do in terms of expanding or not impact G5 (Group of 5). More so – won’t be a G5 if it falls how we think. We will see the chain reaction it causes.”
Good for the overall game – college football specifically – was a recurring theme, with hopes this first colossal step would ultimately lead to the end of the shapeshifting that has defined the sport, in large part, since the SEC first expanded to 12 teams in 1992.
“Good for the game,” he said. “It will obviously start the next and hopefully last round of realignment. Which is always good. Feel bad for those that will lose the traditional rivalries. Can't replace those.”
Added another college football staffer, “The money they are talking about over the TV rights is incredible. It will push the other leagues so far back financially, but I think it will drastically change the layout of college football. I worry about the mid-majors surviving if it just gets to super conferences.”
Once again, the rest of college football – and therefore college athletics, by and large – is following the lead of Greg Sankey's Southeastern Conference, which presumably will add the Longhorns and Sooners – and sooner than later.
“Well, I think this is the first domino to fall,” said a college football administrator. “There's no chance Texas and Oklahoma stay in the Big 12 until 2025.
“Ultimately, I predict that there will be four conferences with 16 teams in them that will make their own rules and split off from the NCAA.”
Within that framework, what might the future hold for the Big Ten? Pac-12? Can the Big 12 remain viable?
“You could see the Big 12 try to lure back Colorado and Nebraska,” said one coach. “Missouri, too.”
Said another powerful college football executive with strong experience across the country, “I think it’s tough on the other conferences, particularly the Big 12 and Pac-12. The ACC and BIG 10 will be fine, in my opinion. They have enough brand power to vet a few schools and add some strategic fits geographically and financially.
“I don’t know where this leaves the Big 12, in particular. Financially I don’t know how they survive. Do some of the schools go to the PAC? Doesn’t make a lot of sense from a geographic standpoint … and to ask student-athletes to fly back-and-forth across the country every other weekend is tough. Is there a market for some of those weird matchups? I don’t know…
“As always, I think there are some unintended consequences and collateral that no one can foresee right now that will manifest itself through the transition, but I think we are willing to live with those as the positive [overall] FAR outweighs the negative, and I greatly look forward to the opportunity and challenges as we navigate this process.”
A current college executive predicts an expanded SEC including Oklahoma and Texas could lead to a financial windfall nearly twice of what has been distributed, if the College Football Playoffs expands to a 12-team tournament as is being explored. He likewise emphasized the continued evolution of Name, Image and Likeness opportunities and their expected impact.
“With playoff expansion,” he said, “you could see that number rise to $75 million per (SEC team).
“Schools where players can earn big money for NIL will be fine. The rich will keep getting richer, with starters at high-profile schools getting upward of $500k from NIL. If all the money goes to the football players, will schools be forced to dump other male non-revenue sports? Football drives everything as you know. You might see two conferences with some Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12 and ACC teams.”
Schools, by and large, cannot facilitate NIL deals for student-athletes, but his point was that the major-brand programs – he specifically mentioned Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Ohio State, among others – would have the leveraged platform to basically assure those potential six-figure deals.
Last week, Nick Saban told Texas coaches that his presumptive starting quarterback, Bryce Young, was set to collect nearly $1 million in NIL deals – despite the fact that Young had yet to start a game for the Crimson Tide.
The onset of the latest round of realignment, opened by Oklahoma and Texas, also, according to at least eight different coaches and administrators who spoke to FootballScoop, could likely wreak havoc on both Group of 5 and Football Championship Subdivision schools and programs.
“The current FCS,” said one executive, “is going to be the equivalent of NCAA Division II.”
Added another coach, “Only downside with bigger P5 conferences is I would bet the FCS guaranteed (money) games are history. Could see three-tier D1 – about 80 teams each. Three separate national championships.”
Others still aren't sure the near- or long-term impacts.
“First, I refuse to believe that either football staff (Oklahoma or Texas) really wants to play in the SEC,” said one coach. “(The) Road to CFP is much harder.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the long-term effect on the game. I still have more questions than answers.”
How the SEC structures itself – with the presumed additions of Oklahoma and Texas and a potential 16-team footprint that spans from also is a concern. The league would span more than 1,100 miles east to west, from Columbia, South Carolina, to Austin, Texas, and already tops 1,000 miles between the University of Missouri and the University of Florida.
“I think this is critical for the SEC to get right as far as alignment goes,” said an administrator. “Competitive balance is key. Two divisions of eight makes no sense to me. It already takes 10-12 years to have a home-and-home with cross-division opponents. I think four divisions of four makes sense with a nine-game conference schedule. Play all three of your division, and two of four in the other divisions each year. That way, every four years your student-athletes have had an opportunity to have a home-and-home against every team in the conference.”
More than one coach referenced continued deregulation of college football – especially at its highest level once the landscape has stabilized.
“I think personally it’s the best thing that’s happened to coaches,” said one Division I assistant. “More money flowing in and … I think more on-field spots could come once the SEC and P5 use that autonomy, along with 'scouts' to bring coaching back and still accommodate the recruiting (component). Could bring back all those regional matchups that were lost long ago. I think the top tier pushes to 100-105 scholarships and do away with limits. Kind of like a 90-man roster in NFL. Sign what you need.”
Overall, it's the SEC out front – and everyone, including the NCAA, playing from behind.
“I think from an SEC standpoint it’s overwhelmingly positive,” said one executive. “Puts the SEC in position to continue to shape and progress the landscape of college football and sets the conference up to be the most powerful entity in collegiate athletics for the foreseeable future – both competitively and financially.
“As the NCAA continues to lose some ground and the conferences continue to ascend to positions of autonomy or control, this is a strategic move that will solidify the SEC’s position atop the collegiate landscape.”