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On Conference Expansion

A lot of folks are talking about the possibility of Big 10 conference expansion, which the conference is apparently exploring the idea in all seriousness. The Big 10 reportedly wants to either add one team and create a two-division 12-team conference, a la the Big 12 and SEC, or possibly even to form a super conference of 14 or 16 teams. Some of the possible additions in question include the Missouri Tigers, the Connecticut Huskies, the Syracuse Orange, and the Cincinnati Bearcats. As usual, people are talking about Notre Dame as another possibility, but, as the Irish don't appear to be ready to talk, that doesn't seem likely to happen.

What does this mean to you, the South Carolina Gamecocks and SEC fan? Well, the possibilities, if you spend any amount of time browsing the sports blogosphere, appear endless. The main two possibilities in question, though, are the following:

1. Missouri joins the Big 10. This prompts a chain reaction that could cause the Big 12 to attempt to replace Missouri with the Arkansas Razorbacks. If that happens, the SEC goes after any number of schools, the most likely of which appear to be the Texas Longhorns, the Miami Hurricanes, or the Florida St. Seminoles. Those aren't the only possibilities, however.

2. The Big 10 goes for the super-conference idea. The SEC follows suit, adding some combination of the teams listed above.

So, how likely is all of this? Well, I'd say that it's quite likely that the Big 10 plans to add at least one team; they appear to be quite serious about this. If that team ends up being Mizzou, then you might very see number one above occur.

What would surprise me a bit more would be to see the super-conferences take shape. If you want to know why, check out the conversation that's percolating over at TSK. I more or less agree with a lot of the points being made over there against large-scale expansion. In particular, a 12+ team conference presents a number of logistical difficulties that would problematic.

It's worth recognizing, though, that in a world in which capital investment is its own virtue, nothing is outside the realm of possibilities, logistics and tradition be damned. Expansion means moving into new markets, and if the Big 10 expands and makes a bundle of cash by developing its already lucrative television deals, other conferences might follow suit. And the SEC has every reason to believe that it can make some cash for the conference and its member school by expanding into markets in South Florida, Texas, or even North Carolina or Virginia.

I'd personally hate it if it happened, though.