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Big 12 Expansion: On Florida State, Clemson And College Realignment

If Florida State and Clemson leave the ACC for the Big 12, it could potentially set off major conference realignment -- something that the University of Texas might not support.

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Florida State. Clemson. The Big 12.

Ever since Chip Brown mused in May that Florida State might have interest in the Big 12, and a move by the Seminoles to the Big 12 might make sense, we've been exposed to a month of rumors that have more fiction than fact, athletic directors denying reports and various university boards meetings to either fuel or quell rumors.

In addition to Florida State and Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami and Georgia Tech have been linked to the Big 12, with Texas' athletic director DeLoss Dodds essentially openly courting the Fighting Irish to join the Big 12.

Since then, Miami has refuted any interest in leaving the ACC, Georgia Tech never seemed to gain traction and Notre Dame, well, the Irish are simply too complicated to deal with in terms of realignment, while they have an exclusive television contract with NBC.

So, we've been left with Florida State and Clemson, with kind-of-sort-of-maybe mutual interest between the Big 12 and the two ACC institutions. Despite the fact that the Big 12 A.D.s came out and said they're happy with 10 schools and are ‘committed' to 10 schools in the conference, there's no reason to think they wouldn't be equally or more committed to 12 schools.

Let's assume for a few minutes that Florida State and Clemson leave the ACC and join the Big 12. The move would make the Big 12's name appropriate again, giving the conference 12 teams. Once again, two divisions could be set up, and a proper Big 12 title game could be held to determine the conference's champion.

This, however, would potentially set off a domino effect around the collegiate landscape.

If the college conference merry-go-round starts up again, do you really think the SEC and PAC-12 will stand pat? Probably not. Virginia Tech and North Carolina State have had an on-again, off-again flirtation with the SEC -- and the SEC could definitely use another two teams to help make scheduling easier.

Such moves probably would either end the Big East or ACC as we know them. If the ACC lost Florida State and Clemson, there's no guarantee that Syracuse and Pittsburgh would join the conference. If they did, then the Big East would be on the ropes even further, and Connecticut could be a candidate to leave the Big East for the ACC -- should Boston College allow such a move.

As Brent Musburger would put it, it would be BCS chaos, with all sorts of schools looking to join either the Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 or Big 10.

What would happen for sure? There's no way of knowing, and it's merely just speculation. But the point is what would ensue if Florida State and Clemson left for the Big 12 is likely exactly the opposite of what Texas would want -- at least right now.

Peter Bean explained it a few weeks ago over at Burnt Orange Nation. If Texas wanted to start the chain reaction for super conferences, the Longhorns would have done so last year, and joined the Pac-12 with Oklahoma, letting the Big 12 effectively fail. They didn't. Instead, the Longhorns stayed in the Big 12, even with 10 teams.

It's impossible to forecast what will happen a year, two years or three years from now. A lot depends on the new BCS playoff system that has still yet to be determined. If the system ends up favoring big conferences, it will likely serve as a catalyst to super conferences.

What we do know now is that there appears to be a little mutual interest between Florida State, Clemson and the Big 12. We know that it would have to make financial sense for the current 10 members to invite either or both of Clemson and Florida State. We seem to have a decent idea that such a move could set off major college conference realignment.

It's unknown how much the University of Texas, which has plenty of clout within the Big 12, would support Florida State and Clemson coming to the Big 12 -- if at all. The chain of events that it would set off might just begin the super conference era in college sports -- something that Texas might not support at all.

The next month and year will be telling. Once the BCS playoff system is hammered out, dominoes should begin to fall into place. Both Syracuse and Pittsburgh have a year to wait before joining the ACC -- and it is unlikely they'd leave the Big East for a conference that could be on the way out.

One thing is for sure, though: money talks. And if the money is right for the Big 12, Florida State, Clemson, and Texas, something will eventually happen. When something happens, though, is anybody's guess.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.