NCAA Conference Realignment: Why It Makes Sense for All Involved

Ben SullivanCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2011

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 18:  University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg speaks during a press conference following the acceptance of the University of Pittsburgh into the Atlantic Coast Conference on September 18, 2011 at Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

This weekend we learned that two more schools are going to abandon their conferences and jump to one that better suits their needs. Not their needs on the field, but their needs on the balance sheet.

On Saturday the University of Pittsburgh and the Orange of Syracuse announced that they would be leaving the Big East and joining the ACC.

This move comes as no surprise. It follows the recent move of Texas A&M hopping over to the SEC from the Big 12, as well as lots of other moves in the past few years that have drastically re-shaped the college football landscape.

All these moves have been not so subtly leading up to the alignment of four so-called Super Conferences, most likely comprising of the ACC, the SEC, the Big 10 (which now has something like 12 teams, who can really keep count anymore) and the newly re-named PAC 12. 

At first I was against the idea of four super conferences. I was in the camp that actually liked the old system of local rivalries, multiple bowl games that mattered and constant debate over who should be called the national champion.

It was different from all of the other sports. It made the regular season matter more than in any other major American sport, and it had the tradition factor behind it.

But this weekend I had the experience of attempting to explain the whole system to a friend of mine who has not been a follower of college football. He’s a sports fan overall, but being a Boston area native, his focus has always been on the professional ranks.

Texas A&M recently announced it would abandon the lame duck Big 12 conference
Texas A&M recently announced it would abandon the lame duck Big 12 conferenceRonald Martinez/Getty Images

I tried to start with how conferences came to exist and developed over time. I then tried to explain how the national championship used to be just voted on and was pretty much arbitrary, which eventually led to the current BCS system.

He spent the whole time looking at me like I was explaining an alien abduction experience. In the end I never could get him to fully understand how college football works, and how we got to where we are right now.

That experience got me thinking about how I felt about the college football system and where it’s headed, and I started to come around to the idea of just totally blowing the whole thing up like Clay Matthews in a shoe store.

The BCS bowl system was never ideal, we all know that, but with so many smaller conferences with varying levels of talent, choosing who deserved a spot in the playoff tournament would have been impossible. You would eventually have ended up with a huge bracket like they have for college basketball. This works for basketball because you can play so many games in such a short period of time. It would never have worked for football.

Super Conferences will give us a more uniform structure for how we set up the eventual playoff system, which even a die hard bowl game advocate like me has to admit is a good idea.

But the Super Conferences don’t just make sense because of how we will choose our national champ, it makes sense financially for all those involved. If you're one of the schools left on the outside of the Big Four when they’re done forming, you aren’t going to be able to compete on a financial level with those who acted preemptively (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma).

Let’s just face the fact that the sports landscape is changing and that college football is no longer a regional sport. All of the big schools are now recruiting nationally, and more importantly the television networks want a system that is easily sold to the average fan.

Times they are a-changin’, and as Brad Pitt channeling Billy Beane would say, “Adapt or Die”.

The schools understand this. It’s time for all us stubborn fans to get with the program, too.