Just a few years ago, conference realignment was the hot topic in college sports. Schools seemed to change leagues as frequently as most people change their socks. New rivalries were created, while old ones disappeared.
After a dizzying stretch that saw over a dozen schools on the move in a 10-year span, things have quieted down. But it's just a matter of time before the realignment wheel starts spinning once again.
The question remains: what will the next round of conference realignment look like? Will we see the quartet of"super" conferences, containing either 16 or 18 programs each, that have been predicted? Will the Big 12 finally expand and establish itself as a long-term player after many have predicted its eventual demise? Time will tell.
For now, we're going to polish off our crystal ball and look a decade into the future. Here's our list of 10 major college football/basketball programs that will be in different conferences in 2026. Let's get started.
Texas to the Pac-12
Everyone knows that Texas is the linchpin in the Big 12. If the Longhorns aren't optimistic about the future of the league, they could bolt for greener pastures. Those pastures won't be located east - so forget about the SEC or the ACC. In this scenario, it's either the Big Ten or the Pac-12 who will be assuming UT. Texas won't want to compete with fellow juggernauts Ohio State and Michigan for popularity, so the Pac-12 it'll be.
Texas, in the Pac-12, would instantly be the most prominent football program. That doesn't mean the Longhorns would win the league every year - we've seen recently that Texas is having trouble dominating its own state on the field - but in terms of revenue and power, there'd be no competition.
Texas' move to the Pac-12 wouldn't be a solo move, either. The Longhorns would bring a few friends along...
Texas Tech to the Pac-12
No, it isn't going to be called the Pac-12 anymore, as you're guessing. It's going to be the Pac-16, and Texas Tech might be the school that benefits the most from the situation. The Red Raiders will be joining the Longhorns in their journey west. The conference will be fine with it too - you do what you need to do to get Texas. For the record, Texas Tech isn't exactly a slouch either when it comes to program revenue.
Back in 2011, ESPN reported that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were exploring the idea of joining up with the Pac-10 to create a superconference. So we already know that the Pac-12 is fine with the idea of bringing in both the Longhorns and the Red Raiders. This time around, however, it's going to be a different foursome on the table.
Texas, Texas Tech, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and two other schools will make up the new Pac-16 South. Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Cal will represent the North.
Kansas to the Pac-12
Yes, the Pac-12's dream scenario is probably to have Texas bring along Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to bolster its football roster. But the Sooners aren't going to let that happen. We'll go more into OU's future in a bit.
The Pac-12 likely won't want Baylor or TCU - small private schools that lack national fan bases and aren't tied to the Texas public school system. Iowa State isn't the answer either - especially since they don't have a natural partner. West Virginia makes zero sense, given its location. That leaves Kansas and...spoiler - Kansas State.
Kansas has an abysmal football program, but that hasn't exactly stopped the Jayhawks from remaining part of the Big 12 for years. One main reason - they have one of the best college basketball programs in the country. Kansas in the Pac-12 would instantly make the league more interesting. It'd also give the conference some marquee contests that aren't played three hours behind east coast time.
Kansas State to the Pac-12
Kansas State, obviously, would be Kansas' partner in expansion. If the Big 12 does implode, it's likely that the two schools will be picked up by either the Big Ten or the Pac-12. We think the B1G will go in a different direction, though.
K-State brings a solid-but-not-elite football program and a serviceable basketball program. The school's sports program ranked 43rd in total revenue in 2014, according to a report by USA Today.The Wildcats aren't the biggest draw out there, but combined with Kansas, they're part of a somewhat intriguing package deal. The Pac-12 would rather have KU and KSU than Boise State and BYU - that's for sure.
The Pac-16, now a superconference, will have much more power at the negotiating table when it comes to television contracts for both football and basketball. It'll also get much higher viewership numbers.
The league will have its competitors, though. At least two other conferences are going to match their numbers.
Georgia Tech to the Big Ten
The Big Ten has made it clear that it wants to conquer new territories - and preferably ones with big city markets. The league recently added both Maryland (Washington D.C.) and Rutgers (New York City) for that reason. Nobody believes that the league's brass actually thought that the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights would compete for titles on the football field. This was a money move.
With that in mind, the Big Ten is likely going to look east again - and it'll want some new markets. Syracuse, UConn and Boston College won't be lucrative enough. Clemson and Florida State don't fit the culture. SEC programs aren't really attainable. But Georgia Tech, a great academic school located in Atlanta, a southeastern hub, makes a ton of sense. In fact, it's been rumored before that the Yellow Jackets have been in talks with the league.
Remember - the Big Ten is interested in both athletics and academics. Georgia Tech, somewhat of an also-ran in the ACC at this point, isn't even a founding member of the league. They might really like the idea of being the Big Ten's southeastern representative. Well, one of two.
North Carolina to the Big Ten
The Big Ten will go after the ACC again, poaching one of its prized programs. North Carolina, another public school with solid academics and athletics, will be chosen over Virginia to join the B1G - because of the Carolina market. UNC and GT will be put in a division with Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State.
The idea of North Carolina leaving the ACC - given the longstanding association - may seem crazy. But it's been reported in the past that UNC has had offers to join the league. The Tar Heels will eventually give in, knowing how well-positioned the Big Ten looks to be for long-term stability.
Yes, Duke would be upset, and it would be hard for fans to swallow. But remember - Texas A&M left the Big 12. Maryland left the ACC. It isn't unthinkable.