There is going to be an earthquake in college athletics. That much is certain.
We pretty much know the epicenter. It'll be in the upper Midwest, somewhere between Columbus, Ann Arbor and Chicago.
What we don't know is the magnitude.
It could be mild, localized around, say, South Bend, Ind.
It could extend farther, maybe to Missouri or Pittsburgh, but still not a major catastrophe.
Or, this could be The Big One.
It could reshape the East Coast. It could cause a tsunami in Miami.
If this is The Big One, expect aftershocks that alter the landscape from coast to coast.
Colorado or Utah could slide toward the Pacific. Oklahoma might wake up next to Alabama.
There's no telling which direction Texas might be pulled.
In plain speaking, every major conference commissioner and athletic director is waiting to see how far the Big Ten Conference goes with its proposed expansion.
I can't recall a time when speculation was more rampant about changing the face of major college sports as we know it.
If the Big Ten adds only one school to its current 11, then the status quo probably remains more or less intact - even if that school is Notre Dame (which it probably will not be).
Other prime Big Ten candidates would be Missouri, Nebraska or any of several Big East Conference candidates. The ones with sizeable TV markets, that is. You think they'd want Rutgers for its wrestling tradition?
"I don't think anyone can dismiss anything out of hand,'' Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman was quoted as saying recently.
Anything includes a Big Ten surge to 14 or even 16 teams. If that happens, stand back and get out of the way. Every BCS conference will be wheeling and dealing.
The grand prize in any realignment scheme is the University of Texas. The powers that be in Austin could choose to move west to the Pac-10, east to the SEC or north to the Big Ten.
Or, of course, stand pat in the Big 12, whose revenue-sharing formula favors marquee programs like the Longhorns.
So what does it all mean for the SEC, and by extension for Tennessee? The SEC has stood pat since South Carolina and Arkansas joined to make a 12-team league in 1991-92.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton deferred comment until after he attends an upcoming AD meeting.
Only the Big Ten distributes more revenue among its schools than the SEC. Between the white lines of competition, the SEC has no equal. They may play a mean brand of water polo in the Pac-10, but football drives the expansion train.
Thus, there's no pressing need for the SEC to expand. Unless, that is, the Big Ten opens the "super conference" door by going to 14 or 16.
Commissioner Mike Slive is maintaining a posture of watchful waiting. But don't think for one minute he will let the SEC play second fiddle to any other league.
If the day comes for the SEC to grow, Texas and Oklahoma should get the first calls. Then give Miami a ring.
Failing that, it might be a case of expansion for expansion's sake. Here's a look at the other candidates likely to come up.
n Florida State: Makes sense but doesn't push the boundary.
n Georgia Tech: Convenient road trip for most SEC schools but no real gain in TV sets.
n Virginia Tech: Only if Arkansas bolts for the Big 12.
n Clemson: Only if Mississippi State leaves for the Pac-10.
n Texas A&M: Only as a package deal to get Texas.
n Oklahoma State: Only as a package deal to get Oklahoma.
n Memphis: Don't laugh. You'd gain great basketball and a sure "W" in football.
n Louisville: Good basketball, a casino across the river and maybe box seats at the Kentucky Derby.
n Virginia: Academic boost and new TV markets.
n Maryland: See Virginia.
n Connecticut: Sure, it's a reach, but you gain a big TV market and the Lady Vols would have to play Geno again.
n Southern Cal: The SEC already misses Lane Kiffin.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6276.