As ESPN analyst Jay Bilas sees it, Texas and Oklahoma moving from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference — if it happens — would be a mere prelude to the even more seismic change he proposed this week: the SEC merging with the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Bilas said he first voiced this idea about a decade ago when conference realignment included Texas A&M and Missouri joining the SEC. He again voiced this idea on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” this week.
“It has a great geographic fit with all the different markets,” he said Tuesday. “And there are amazing rivalries in that.”
He noted Kentucky-Louisville, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State and Florida-Miami.
Plus, of course, such a scenario would have Kentucky playing Duke and North Carolina in conference games.
“With the way college sports is going, consolidating power is going to be the next thing,” Bilas said. “And that geographic footprint, the markets, the (television) networks and the programs, it makes really good sense to me. It did years ago, and it still does.”
In the future of college athletics that Bilas envisions, power translates as revenue.
“We’re going to do whatever money dictates we should do,” he said. “And if there’s more media rights money out there, they’re going to do it.”
Bilas spoke of the NCAA receding as a governing entity, thus enhancing conferences as the major power brokers.
“There’s going to be some bold changes in the next several years as conferences look to establish themselves as preeminent. Right now, the SEC is ahead of everybody.
With the SEC having 14 teams (16 should Texas and Oklahoma join) and the ACC having 15, organizing and scheduling in such a mammoth conference might be a challenge.
Bilas suggested this mega conference follow the example of the NFL and NBA. The teams could be divided into two conferences with divisions in each.
“You’d only have to play each other,” he said. “You wouldn’t have to play anybody else. So, they would by definition have the best schedules in the country, and they could keep all the money.”
In this SEC-ACC world, there would be few if any early-season guarantee games against nondescript opponents.
“I think people are not as interested in watching these kind of early-season directional school games that are on your season-ticket package,” Bilas said. “People don’t want to watch them on television. People don’t want to go to them. I’d rather see Kentucky play Syracuse.
“And I know the players would rather do that. . . . My teammates and I don’t sit around a table and talk about how great those games were. Those games weren’t memorable to us.”
Bilas saw one potential problem. The SEC might be so good it would not need to add the ACC.
“They could just pluck off whatever they want,” he said. “They don’t have to accept everything the ACC has to offer.
“They’re cutting the head off the Big 12 now. Why not take other places that you’d like?”
When asked how likely an SEC-ACC merger was, Bilas said, “I’m not saying it’s likely. But there’s going to be a lot of movement and a lot of discussion about things going forward.”
After Bilas’ comments aired on “SportsCenter,” they were much-discussed on social media.
“I was surprised it got that much attention,” he said. “I really didn’t see that coming because it seems like we talk about this all the time.”
His next surprise would be college athletics settling into a stable format.
Of the fluidity in college athletics, Bilas said, “This stuff is never going to end.”