Kirk Herbstreit Makes Bold Projection On Super College Football Conferences

Jul 18, 2022, 4:15 PM
Kirk Herbstreit, Conference Realignment, Super Conferences, College Football...
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit sees a scenario where there is three super conferences in college football. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Kirk Herbstreit is often referred to as the voice of college football. The College Gameday host and ESPN’s number one analyst has been around the sport his entire life and talks with key people. So when he makes projections, the college landscape tends to listen.

On Monday, Herbstreit was on ESPN’s First Take with Molly Qerim and Keyshawn Johnson. Herbstreit was discussing the bombshell move of USC to the Big Ten with Keyshawn, a USC great.

Kirk Herbstreit sees a scenario with three super conferences

But after discussing that move, Herbstreit began discussing what he felt could be the future of power conference football. Many have projected that the Big Ten and SEC will be the only power conferences, but Herbstreit sees another emerging.

“You mentioned two (power conferences); the more I listen and talk to people, I wouldn’t be surprised if we settle ultimately at three power conferences. You know, those teams that are left out of joining the Big Ten. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Notre Dame. But just for argument’s sake, if they eventually give in and go to the Big Ten, that would put the Big Ten at 17 (teams). You know the Big Ten is going to get one more or two more. Right? So that will change things up drastically.

“But whoever’s left when the dust settles; they don’t go into the SEC, they don’t go into the Big Ten. I think there’s a good chance we are going to end up with three power conferences with right around 20 teams. And what I want to know is what will happen to the teams that are left out of those 55 to 60 teams that are ultimately kind of going to be in this new world that we’re headed towards where the College Football Playoff is kind of dictating it.”

Which conference emerges as the third?

The idea of three super conferences makes the next moves from the Pac-12 and Big 12 even more interesting. Obviously, there is a local interest for those two leagues as Utah competes in the Pac-12, while BYU is set to join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023.

New Big 12 Conference Commissioner Brett Yormark made it clear last week at Big 12 Football Media Days that his conference was “open for business” in finding ways to improve the league. The Pac-12 is in the middle of media rights negotiations. They are looking to identify what their 10-team league without USC and UCLA can conjure up.

The ACC is locked into a Grant of Rights that keeps its members part of the league through 2036. If ACC members wanted to leave the league early, it would reportedly cost $500 million.

One element that can help shape the future of college football is what will be the next iteration of the Playoff.

The current four-team model expires after the 2025 season. There is no plan in place for the playoff beginning in 2026. So what will the power brokers put together for the sport? Will it only be centered on two conferences (Big Ten & SEC)? Maybe Herbstreit’s idea of three super leagues? Or will access still be given to the Big 12 and Pac-12 in their current forms after the bell cow brands exit to their new destinations?

Many moving pieces are left to be sorted out, but a three super conference landscape could be an interesting one in college football.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Kirk Herbstreit Makes Bold Projection On Super College Football Conferences