Nebraska invades Penn State. Colorado battles Oregon State. TCU takes on Providence. These are some of the exciting new match-ups that we will see as the latest round of NCAA musical chairs takes effect. What do these pairs of newly acquainted conference foes have in common?
A) Separated by less than 1,000 miles
B) Situated the same time zone
C) Can easily find direct commercial flights between nearest airports
D) None of the above
The correct answer is, of course, D.
As the Power Conferences continue to hog more power, their regional namesakes have become less and less relevant. How does one gerrymander a map such that the Big East can claim Milwaukee and Fort Worth as eastern cities? What exactly does the view of the Pacific Ocean look like from Colorado and Utah?
More important than the geographic inconsistencies is the travel toll on the student athletes. In the current configuration, teams such as Boston College and Louisiana Tech are already a flight away from every conference road game; there will now be several other schools whose representatives will carry the same burden. If Missouri or Texas A&M joins the SEC, they too will have a painful travel schedule. There must be a better way to keep the airlines in business.
The NFL, NBA and NHL have all realigned divisions within the last 15 years for improved scheduling efficiency and reduced travel for players. The NCAA needs to consider a similar measure, and here is a proposal for review.