When speculation surfaced of a potential shakeup in college sports in regards to conference realignment, it seemed to be just that: pure speculation.
The idea that fans would see teams bolting conferences left and right to create several super-conferences seemed far-fetched at best, yet a week later, not only does the idea seem plausible, it seems probable.
With news that Colorado intends to make a move to the Pac-10 and Nebraska is likely to join up with the Big Ten, it will become very interesting to see when, not if, the rest of the Big 12 powers take off for greener pastures.
While, at first glance, the idea of several college football power conferences seems intriguing—and we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing realignment is applicable to any sport other than football—this type of shakeup is exactly what fans should be majorly against, especially at a time when each season brings new critics of the current BCS system that rules the sport.
The move is meant to boost television ratings, nothing more, nothing less. Nebraska has always been a storied school where football is concerned, and the school knows that fans will remain loyal regardless of conference affiliation. In adding Nebraska, the Big Ten will automatically boost its reputation, although it will take some bowl wins to convince the sports world that the conference is full of anything but big-game chokers. While Nebraska has certainly improved in recent years, the school won’t bring a current reputation of being title contenders.
The Pac-10 is looking to follow by poaching a total of six teams from the Big 12 conference. In addition to Colorado, five more teams including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are rumored to be joining the party, and may have already joined by the end of the weekend.
With an addition of such enormity, the Pac-10 would surely throw a wrench into the forgone conclusion of recent years; the SEC would no longer be the de facto favorite in college football. Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oklahoma State, and USC in the same conference would almost certainly trump the SEC combination of Alabama and Florida. Even if you consider Arkansas or Georgia an elite program, the Pac-10 will still rule, at least on paper.
The shakeup would leave Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri all scrambling for a conference home. A likely scenario could leave the schools joining up with others such as TCU and Houston, yet will leave every one of those schools wondering what hit them.
One aspect that has made the NFL great has been the constant parity within the league. All one has to do is look at how many Super Bowl losers go on to have poor seasons the next year. Do teams really go from good to bad in one season? Sometimes, the answer is yes, but many times, the competition within the league is so intense that two or three close games can mean the difference in winning the division, and not making the playoffs at all.
In college football, without any tangible measuring stick with which to gauge head-to-head performance between many of the football powers, the system in place has resorted to strength-of-schedule and computer rankings in order to determine which teams are most deserving. With realignment, this can only get worse.
Sure, the big powers will have more opportunities to prove themselves against one another, but what happens to the little guy that has already been stripped of the opportunity to truly compete?
Many people often forget that it was less than three years ago that Kansas and Missouri were competing for Big 12 supremacy, in football nonetheless. While Kansas has maintained itself as a basketball powerhouse, basketball simply isn’t football, and the basketball team only gets the stage during the annual NCAA basketball tournament.
Even further than the issue of the little guys, one or two miscues could cost a perennial powerhouse the chance at a big bowl game, or worse yet, the opportunity to play for a national title. If the college football powers beat up on each other more than in previous years, the system in place will still rely heavily on intangible evidence to determine the outcome of the season. If you thought the clamoring and bickering was bad before, wait until Texas, Oregon, USC, and Oklahoma all beat up on one another.
Could a massive realignment spark a change in the BCS system that has been desperately needed since its inception? It could happen, however I’m more inclined to believe that everything has to get worse before it can get better.
Brandon Land is the founder and columnist for View from the Bench Sports, found at viewfromthebench.com