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Why Mike Gundy Thinks Conference Realignment Will Happen Again Soon

Don’t be surprised if 2021 was just the start of another seismic shift in conference realignment.

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College conferences just realigned this summer with OU and Texas accepting invites to the SEC, and the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC forming a loose alliance to combat the SEC’s power vacuum. So it’s unlikely realignment will take place again anytime soon.

Or is it?

With the Big 12’s TV deal nearing an end, and the Pac-12 seemingly still struggling with a visibility problem, OSU coach Mike Gundy said on his weekly radio show Monday that he thinks realignment could be a real possibility in the not-too-distant future.

“That’s going to be your conference realignment again in 2024,” said Gundy. “That’s what is going to happen again in my opinion. They’re going to realign again.”

Gundy explained his reasoning for another round of realignment might be, at least in part, because the Pac-12 has thus far either been boxed out or struggled in the playoff picture. That, Gundy surmises, is partly a visibility problem being on the West Coast — which realignment could help rectify.

“They’ve got to get some central time zone teams [in the Pac-12] in my opinion in order to keep the level of a power-something conference to continue to put forth television money,” he added. “The central time zone teams that were discussed the last couple months with all this realignment, this whole thing could realign in three, four years, don’t kid yourself. I think you will see someone in this time zone trying to go back and forth to put it all together. SEC’s not going anywhere, ACC feels comfortable and the Big Ten’s got a ton of money. At some point I would think [the Pac-12] will feel like there could be some realignment to gain strength and momentum. That’s just my opinion. … I’m just telling ya at some point they’ll have to see it that way.”

The Big 12’s television deal is up in 2025, OU and Texas will likely be in the SEC by then (if not sooner), and the race to gain strength in the market for power programs — in particular the Pac-12 — seems predictable, as Gundy alludes to here. So realignment again in a few years seems possible, if not likely.

The Pac-12 this summer opted not to partake in realignment in this round, announcing publicly that instead of expanding it would stand pat and move forward with its current 12 teams. But in a few years the landscape could change significantly, making what’s left of the Big 12 — or other teams in the central time zone — potentially appealing.

Imminent playoff expansion could play a factor here, as well. Growing from four teams to eight or 12 could change the calculus for every major conference including the Pac-12, which already has a distribution and visibility problem, so by 2024 or 2025 the league may be in dire straits to do something to improve, which could then lead to expansion.

All of this is conjecture at the moment, of course, and nobody can predict realignment. But if you follow the money and the motivations, it definitely seems like Gundy could wind up being a soothsayer here.

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