How Conference Realignment for Football's Benefit Is Hurting College Basketball
While schools are trying to figure out how to realign themselves in conferences that maximize the money they can make from college football, school presidents are forgetting about the pageantry and significance of college basketball rivalries.
Or they don't care.
These schools and the conference commissioners are putting the bottom line, and the enormity of the checks from football money ahead of the student-athletes and what's best for the game.
The result will be a severely diminished level of quality in college basketball. Let's look at how basketball will be hurt by the attempt to make football programs better and more profitable.
What Are We Going to Lose?
"The Border War," the 105-year rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, has likely come to an end with the Tigers' departure to the SEC for the 2012-13 season. Just like that, one of America's most passionate and historic rivalries will disappear from the basketball landscape.
Texas and Texas A&M will have their 118 years of unbelievable history and memories ended next season when the Aggies move to the SEC, thus ending the era of the "Lone Star Showdown." These schools will still compete for Texas recruits, but won't compete against each other on the football field.
With Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC possibly as early as 2013, the nation's top basketball conference, the Big East, won't be the same come conference tournament time when fans pack Madison Square Garden in New York to see some of the best basketball of the year.
Syracuse will no longer play in the Big East Tournament, leaving fans with no more epic battles with UConn.
"The Backyard Brawl" between West Virginia and Pittsburgh is another casualty of conference realignment. This intense 108-year rivalry could also end by next season, further taking away from the excitement college basketball has to offer.
Can you imagine a college basketball season with zero games between North Carolina and Duke? No, of course you can't.
Fans of Missouri and Kansas will know what that's like next season.
Schools Will Form New Rivalries: Is It a Valid Argument?
Many of the people who approve of all the realignment affecting college sports often argue that even though some long-standing rivalries may come to an end, new ones will inevitably be formed.
That may be true, but building rivalries takes time, it's a process that doesn't happen over a few seasons.
Even if new rivalries are formed, and Missouri can find another hated opponent in the SEC, the passion and level of hatred won't be the same as it was between the Tigers and Jayhawks.
It's like moving to a new home and having to meet new friends. Eventually you will form new friendships, but the memories and love for your old friends never goes away.
The same will apply in college basketball over the next few years. Missouri will find new rivals in the SEC, but they won't be the same as the Border War.
When the ACC expanded in 2004 and 2005 with the additions of Miami (FL), Boston College and Virginia Tech from the Big East, the ACC stretched the entire length of the East Coast.
When Syracuse enters the ACC, their players will be angry when they realize how much more travel they will endure by moving to the ACC.
Boston College will be the Orange's closest ACC opponent, but that distance is about four-and-a-half hours.
Asking college kids to travel that much on a consistent basis when very few of them are used to that could negatively affect their on-court performances.
Show Me the Money!
Television contracts and the money they generate for schools and conferences rule college athletics, and sadly, this scenario likely isn't going to change for a long time, if ever.
With the amazing success the SEC has had in football, winning the last six BCS National Championships and making a ton of money, it's not surprising that schools like Missouri and Texas A&M want a piece of that pie.
With media money generating BCS conferences as much as $236 million last season, there's no question that football rules college athletics.
Some schools pour as much as $30 million into their football programs, which means they must find ways to generate as much revenue as possible. With TV contracts getting richer and richer, schools will take all steps necessary to earn this media money, even if switching conferences is the way to accomplish that.
Football is one of the biggest sources of revenue for many colleges and universities. If you don't believe me, take a look at this chart of the most profitable football programs in 2010, with numbers from CNN Money.
What They're Saying
New Mexico head basketball coach Steve Alford isn't a fan of the recent conference realignments, and expressed that it hurts schools whose top athletics program is basketball.
Via the Albuquerque Journal:
“It’s totally football-driven, and it’s obviously very frustrating and there’s not much we can do on the basketball side except sit back and wait,” Alford said. “It’s a very unfortunate thing that’s happening throughout our country. They’re messing with college athletics that have been pretty special for decades upon decades.
“What we’re doing to the landscape of college athletics, in my mind, is not good.
“Everybody is trying to jump at all the TV money and that kind of thing. I hope everybody gets paid. I think down the road, four or five years from now, we’re going to sit back and say, ‘what in the world happened?’
“You’re just tearing up all the rivalries built over the last century.”
As schools look for the best way to make the most amount of money in football, they are tossing basketball and everything that's awesome about it to the side.
Conference realignment is ruining college basketball and no one seems interested in stopping it.
Nicholas Goss is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report, follow him on Twitter.
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