Eight Ways Conference Realignment Will Erode College Football
It's going to get worse. The dominoes have already started to fall, with Colorado headed to the Pac 10 and Nebraska reportedly joining the Big 10. Whether the Pac 10 becomes a 16 team super-conference remains to be seen, but don't bet against it.
While there may be something gained from a massive realignment of the nation's powerhouse teams, far more will be lost in translation. Let's bid farewell to college football as we know it.
1) Unnatural Rivalries
Nebraska and Penn State sound like a great tilt, doesn't it? For a January 1 bowl game in the 1980s, it sounds perfect. It has a different feel for the third week in September, or whenever they schedule their soon-to-be-annual showdown.
It's not like these would be bad games.
Who wouldn't want to see these perennial powers play each other?
Maybe someone who really enjoyed the Nebraska/Oklahoma games of the past...
To be certain, conference realignment will bring some exciting new games. It also has the potential to flush some of the great rivalries into a footnote on Wikipedia.
2) The Rich Stay Healthy, the Sick Stay Poor
Whatever the new super-conferences end up looking like, it won't hurt the University of Texas, who can sign with whatever league they want. The Longhorns won't be losing any money in the deal either.
That's great if you like the Longhorns. What if you're a Red Raider? What if you are affiliated with one of the other teams in the Big 12 fallout left to fight over the scraps and have to go to whatever conference will take you?
It has to be tough to recruit a player when you have no idea what your conference schedule will look like in two years.
Texas can do as they want. Colorado already has. Nebraska may have as well. Some of the have-nots are hanging in the balance.
3) Severely Unbalanced Conference Schedules
Let's face it. There will be a 16 team superconference in college football, possibly before June 15.
When you have 16 teams in a conference, 12 games on the schedule, and a few of those outside of the league, something has to give.
Will eight games in the conference still be the norm? If it is, then you only face half the field in any given year.
Depending on how they draw the divisions, Texas and USC could be in the Pac 10 and theoretically never play each other.
It's still early in the process and there may be a way to schedule it right. It's just a lot easier to rotate 12 teams through the schedule (over a few years) than it is to alternate 16.
4) This Won't Push College Football Towards a Playoff System
If anything, it will strengthen the hold of the BCS.
The mega conferences will just continue to get multiple teams in, increasing the payouts to the big boys, which will only serve to confirm their reasons for expanding in the first place.
It's all about money. The BCS provides it. The expanded leagues will keep more of it at the top.
Why switch to a playoff system and crown a real champion when the old, fatally flawed system does a great job of paying the bills?
It's only what virtually every football fan in the system wants to see.
5) Unholy Travel Times and Expenses
It's only 1,074 miles from State College, Pennsylvania to Lincoln, Nebraska. Austin, Texas to Seattle, Washington is just a bit further at 2,217 miles for the storied Washington/Texas matchup.
Sure the athletic departments can afford it. What about the fans that travel to road games?
Let's hope they all have unlimited income, or a least frequent flier miles.
At some point someone might want to mention that these players are student athletes as well. Can they study on flights and in airports?
6) Other Conferences are Having Their Hands Forced
The SEC is just not going to sit and watch the Big 10 and Pac 10 expand into monsters. They will absorb four teams as well (eventually) to keep pace.
In turn, the ACC will need to replace what the SEC prized away, and the Big East will probably get raided. Didn't that just happen to the Big East seven years ago?
Where does it stop?
7) Non-Conference Scheduling Practices Will Have To Change Immediately
With the superconferences virtually assured of two berths into the BCS chaos, why bother scheduling a "risk" game out-of-conference?
2010 is going to see Oregon-Tennessee, Ohio State-Miami, and Clemson-Auburn early in the frame. When these conferences expand, will games like that still make the schedule? Why take the chance of destroying your BCS (and big payout) disappear before October gets here.
Expect eight conference games and four creampuffs on the docket in the new era of college gridiron.
8) What About The Mountain West, Big East, and Conference USA?
Good luck to TCU, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Utah, ECU, and Houston. Too bad the memo reads that no one cares about you anymore...
These conferences probably aren't expanding anytime soon. They are going to be stuck exactly where they were before, with little hope of BCS glory, national recognition, or big television contract dollars.
At least we can still watch your games on ESPN3. That may be the only exposure you get outside of your respective stadiums...