Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where will Cincinnati land in during conference realignment?

The Cincinnati Bearcats are facing a big crossroads at the moment. The Big East conference it looking quite unstable at the moment following the defections of Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, and Rutgers to other either the ACC or the Big Ten, and the announcement that seven of the conferences' basketball-only schools would be departing to form their own hoops-only conference. Cincinnati is going to have to make a decision of whether it should stay aboard or leave a sinking ship.

The big question is of course is where Cincinnati  will land if it does bolt. Going independent doesn't even seem a possibility at the moment, so it's going to have to find another conference to join. Here are the options:

1) Cincinnati remaining in the Big East.
The Bearcats could simply decide to ride the storm out and stay with the Big East. The problem of course is that the conference is about as stable as a relationship in a Taylor Swift song. So staying put could could come back and bite the school in the rear.

2) Cincinnati moving to the ACC.
Everybody else is doing it, so why can't we? Defecting to the ACC has become standard operating procedure for teams looking to move up to a more higher-profile conference. By 2015, in fact the ACC will almost be half-comprised of former Big East schools (including member in everything but football Notre Dame). The result is the ACC has gotten pretty diluted as a football conference (stop laughing), to the point of speculation that it could become the next Big East with major defections. The Bearcats might want to break the cycle here.

3) Cincinnati moving to the Big Ten.
The Big Ten recently added Big East school Rutgers and ACC school Maryland to it's ranks. And that was reportedly to stave off a speculated-upon defection to another conference by Penn State. With that mission accomplished, it doesn't seem likely that The B1G is ready to grab any additional schools into its Big Tentacles unless absolutely necessary.

That said, the Big Ten is the most geographical logical place to move to inside the BCS conference schools. But does Ohio State really want an in-state rival inside the Big Ten? Probably not.

3) Cincinnati moving to the SEC.
(I'm so tempted to add an image of the Joker laughing maniacally here, but I'm not.)
Southern Ohio has been said to be more culturally aligned with the South than either the North or the Midwest. Despite that most Southerners consider Ohioans of any sort "Yankees," as that Ohio was a Union state in The War of Northern Aggression. Add on to the SEC still trying to figure out how to make a 14-member conference with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, and a further addition to complicate things even more seems to be a remote possibility.

4) Cincinnati moving to the MAC.
The MAC is the new non-BCS conference flavor of the month. That said, Cincinnati joining the MAC would be a step backward.

5) Cincinnati moving to the Mountain West.
Future Big East members Boise State and San Diego State may decide to call the engagement off and return to the MWC. Would Cincinnati decide to go back with them? Again, it's a step back in a conference who might have stability issues in the future.

6) Cincinnati moving to  Conference USA.
Again, this is a step backward.

7) Cincinnati to the Sun Belt Conference. 
Child, please.

8) Cincinnati moving to the Big 12.
Now this could work. The Big 12 still could use an extra member or two. Let's say the Big 12 snatches SMU and Houston from the clutches of their future Big East landing spot. The conference might want to balance out being even being more Texas-centric than before by adding two non-Lone Star State schools to the mix. Plus, Cincinnati could renew a rivalry with new Big 12 member West Virginia.

Add to that giving the Big 12 access to Ohio's media markets, and this could work.

In the end, the Big 12 may make the best sense for Cincinnati to move in the direction of. There's a win-win for both sides with minimal negatives.