How Recent College Football Realignment Will Impact 2013 Recruiting and Beyond
The college football landscape is changing as conferences start to realign and bring in new programs, and these are changes that will undoubtedly impact the world of recruiting.
The most recent change involves arguably the most traditional conference in college football: the Big Ten.
As unlikely a fit as it seems, Brett McMurphy and Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com are reporting that the Maryland Terrapins will join the Big Ten and that Rutgers is expected to be close behind them, as soon as today:
The University of Maryland's Board of Regents voted Monday to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten and begin competition in the conference in the 2014-15 academic year.
Meanwhile, Big East Conference sources told ESPN that Rutgers will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten on Tuesday. Rutgers' Board of Governors passed a vote Monday authorizing athletic director Tim Pernetti to accept the Big Ten's invitation, the New York Daily New reports.
As if that were not enough to take in, Jon Wilner of mercurynews.com tweeted that the next move we could be hearing about could be UConn to the ACC:
Realignment source: UConn to ACC could happen as soon as Tuesday.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) November 19, 2012
While details are still being ironed out and sources are being "sourced" left and right in regards to other realignment moves, there is one thing that is certain: The world of college football is quickly changing, and it will never be the same again.
How is this going to impact recruiting, both now and in the future?
The main change we'll see right away is a shift in recruiting zones. Each conference has its own "territory" that it traditionally has success recruiting in because of proximity, and while schools from other conferences can certainly try to get a foothold in those states or zones, it's normally very hard for them to do.
For instance, Big Ten schools traditionally stick to the Midwest, even though they will occasionally recruit elite players from the South, California or Texas. The majority of their recruits will come from the Big Ten region though, which is where you get the term "Big Ten Country."
With Maryland and potentially Rutgers becoming part of the conference, "Big Ten Country" is essentially expanding. That means elite programs like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and even Nebraska now have a new area that they can recruit from in a much easier manner than they could have before.
While this will help the elite programs in the conference, it's going to really hurt the smaller programs that they are now going to be able to overshadow.
The strong are going to continue to get stronger because of realignment, and that's going to be extremely evident in recruiting.
In the future, instead of Maryland being one of the main options for a highly-ranked prospect in what was formerly an ACC-dominated zone, elite Big Ten schools will start making their way to the top of interest lists in that territory.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State are going to start pulling in the elite recruits that Maryland or another ACC program would have once brought in, and in the process, they will get stronger. In turn, the big programs will continue to grow bigger and better, while the weaker programs won't be able to compete in recruiting battles—thus having to settle with lower-ranked prospects.
This could even start happening as soon as this 2013 cycle. I wouldn't doubt that Big Ten schools are getting in contact with recruits around the Maryland region now that they have "so much in common," and at the very least, these programs now have another pitch to make if they're trying to flip recruits from the region or seal the deal with an uncommitted recruit.
Recruiting is going to become college football's version of survival of the fittest as realignment continues, and while one could argue that it's always been that way, it's hard not to see what these major conferences are starting to do.
They're essentially stacking the deck in their favor by absorbing new recruiting areas that are populated by lesser football programs. In the process, they'll be getting an "in" with that region's recruits, while not having to worry about out-recruiting the programs they absorbed.
In all honesty, do you really think Maryland has a chance to out-recruit Michigan or Ohio State?
Is realignment good or bad for recruiting?
Superconferences are on the horizon for college football, and this recent burst of realignment is just the next step.
If you're a fan of an elite program, this will be great news because once a superconference is formed, the biggest schools in that conference will get all the elite recruits.
The deck is starting to be stacked, and the rich are going to get richer.
Parity as we know it will cease to exist in the world of college football, and that includes the realm of recruiting.
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