To me, the most fascinating thing about conference expansion is the ripple impact of every move. It's extremely unlikely that Team A can move to Conference X without a corresponding move by Conference Y. So what does the end game look like?
Many pundits have speculated for over a year that we'll end up with four 16-team Super Conferences. That's probably true, but it looks like we'll see an incremental approach to that destination as only Larry Scott in the Pac-12 has put forth a real 16-team plan.
So...what happens when Texas A&M accepts the invitation to become the 13th member of the SEC? Here's my thoughts on the ripple impact...
What if Team 14 is Virginia Tech?
If the Hokies are the 14th team in the SEC, who will the ACC pursue to fill that spot? The best geographic/TV fits which generate the most revenue are Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia. In fact, if I were the ACC, I would try and replace Virginia Tech with all three schools and jump to 14 teams.
The problem...taking three teams from the Big East virtually eliminates that league's existence. Without a scheduling partner in the form of the Big East, and with the ACC (at 14 teams), Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 all at 9 conference games each, how does Notre Dame still fill out a schedule? Doesn't that finally give Jim Delany the Notre Dame pitch he's always wanted? Then Big Ten will need a 14th team. The Big Ten would go looking for a 14th team before the ACC could lock down Pitt, WVU and Syracuse.
What if Team 14 is Louisville or Missouri?
Then Mike Slive needs to be terminated immediately. Plus , if Louisville is the 14th team, that could be enough to destabilize the Big East enough for Jim Delany to make a move on Rutgers and get Notre Dame in the process. In other words, adding Louisville could end up strengthening the Big Ten. If it's Missouri...who knows.
What if it's really 16 teams with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and someone else?
Look at how difficult it is to get one team to jump. It creates contractual problems, TV partner conflicts and most importantly political problems for the members. I just don't think a 16-team league can happen all at once. It'll take a few seasons to get there.
What about Oklahoma?
The Sooners are in a tough spot. They can't leave Oklahoma State behind for political reasons, and they need to play Texas every year for recruiting purposes. Texas will end up being forced to play Texas A&M by their state legislatures. There's no way Texas is going to play a nine game conference schedule plus Texas A&M and Oklahoma out of conference every year. OU isn't in a good position for leaving Texas' side now that the Aggies are gone.
So who do you think Team 14 will be? What unseen consequence of adding TAMU could be out there?