UPDATE 5:06 p.m. — Here's a great expansion primer from SI.com's Stewart Mandel.
Long a favorite topic for fans and media speculation, conference expansion could soon become a fact of life in college athletics.
The Big Ten could inform other conference commissioners of its intention to expand during this week’s BCS meetings in Arizona.
Though expansion is not on any official agenda, it promises to be the most important topic discussed.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is expected to address the media Wednesday afternoon.
It is not only a question of expansion for the Big Ten and Pac-10. It is a question of survival for the Big East and possibly the Big 12. Some think that college athletics will have four Super Conferences when the dust settles. I am beginning to lean that way.
Those four 16-team super conferences would be the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-10.
Notre Dame and Texas hold a lot of clout in the coming months, with Texas being a wild card that could go to the Big Ten, Pac-10 or SEC. Any league would love the Longhorns.
Where would that leave Boise State, Idaho and other non-BCS schools? The Honolulu Advertiser speculates that lots of movement would hurt Hawaii. I totally agree. A lot of movement would hurt nearly all of the non-BCS schools.
Boise State's best hope is for limited expansion and an invitation to a still-intact Mountain West Conference. The Broncos second-best bet is for mild upheaval that puts them in the same league as BYU and Air Force, either an expanded WAC or Mountain West. Massive movement is bad for the Broncos and Idaho.
Here’s one radical guess at what the landscape could look like in 2012:
Remember it’s all about getting cable companies to pick up your conference's regional television network and then charging subscribers to line the pockets of your conference members.
Notre Dame (currently Independent) — National player
Connecticut (Big East) — Going after NYC market
Rutgers (Big East) — Going after NYC market
Syracuse (Big East) — Going after NY market
Missouri (Big 12) — Locks down St. Louis/Kansas City markets
North Carolina State
Louisville (Big East) — Best team in region
West Virginia (Big East) — Next best team in region
South Florida (Big East) — Another Florida market
Pittsburgh (Big East) — Could be Navy instead
Texas (Big 12) — Home run
Texas A&M (Big 12) — Got to if you take Texas
Oklahoma (Big 12) — Triple, plus Texas wants them
Oklahoma State (Big 12) — Got to if you take Oklahoma
Nebraska (Big 12) — A no-brainer
Colorado (Big 12) — Big market, good rival with Nebraska
Kansas (Big 12) — Big television market
Utah (Mountain West) — Big television market
BYU (Mountain West) — For the exposure
Houston (Conference USA) — To get into Texas
That would leave the rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision in scramble mode as those four conferences may want to go off on their own and create a new partnership free from the NCAA.
Who needs all those pesky rules and regulations from the NCAA? Who needs to share money with smaller schools that aren’t carrying their weight or bringing in revenue?
Not sure what would become of the other leagues or independents such as Army and Navy, which have storied college football histories. The ACC could grab Navy instead of West Virginia, South Florida or Pittsburgh.
And Boise State? Maybe the Broncos join a league with the remnants of the Mountain West and whatever WAC members decide to keep playing football.
Sure, it’s an apocalyptic future for college football. But something like this is entirely possible.