NCAA Football: 5 Reasons Why the Great Realignment Is Toxic for the NCAA
As I once learned from Baseball America, If you're not satisfied with the way the independent leagues are set up right now, just wait two minutes and you'll find that something has changed.
While meant as an obvious joke referencing the ever-shifting structure of independent baseball, it seems that the idea has now spread to the NCAA FBS football ranks.
Ever since Nebraska uprooted itself from the Big 12 to go to the Big Ten, it's set off a domino effect that has left many fans confused as to who and where their school will play next year.
While some would argue that a little change wouldn't be too bad for the nation's most popular collegiate sport, others would agree with me that everything is happening too fast—and that FBS football is developing a mind of its own.
This domino effect of schools changing their conferences is something I like to call the Great Realignment, although there is nothing great about it.
With the Great Realignment, schools are leaving their longtime home conferences for bigger and better ones, mergers are prevalent, and the likelihood of a split from the NCAA is imminent.
Without further adieu, here are the reasons why the Great Realignment is toxic for the NCAA:
Loss of Great Intraconference Rivalries
Prime Example: the Backyard Brawl (Pittsburgh-West Virginia).
Pittsburgh and Syracuse's planned exodus from the Big East would potentially end the longest-standing football rivalry in the Big East, the Backyard Brawl.
Since 1895, the Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers have battled it out for the bragging rights. Not only is this rivalry one of the best in football, but it is also, due to the recent success of both teams, one of the big rivalries in basketball too.
Having Pittsburgh let it all go just for a shot in the ACC is quite detrimental for both teams; in fact, their most-watched regular season game is the Backyard Brawl.
Losing Pittsburgh to the ACC will prove to be bad for the Big East, too, and could potentially compromise the football conferences' integrity.
Other Rivalries that could be lost:
Texas Tech-Texas A&M
Development of Superconferences
Prime Example: Mountain West-Conference USA Merger
It's been an idea that has been proposed for a long time: Superconferences are what could potentially cause FBS football to break off from the NCAA as a whole.
The idea of having a conference with more than 12 teams is potentially a hazard because the best teams will always be the best teams, while the worst teams will always be the worst.
While the idea is appealing on paper, it could result in overrepresentation in bowl games, potentially eliminating other deserving schools with winning records.
The proposed merger between the Mountain West and Conference USA is a prime example.
Mountain West schools are generally superior, thanks in part to perennial BCS contender Boise State. Conference USA, on the other hand, hasn't had a BCS Bowl representative since its inception. About the strongest team right now is Houston, who is one of many remaining undefeated teams.
Should the two conferences merge, it would prove to be disastrous. Boise State will continually dominate its competition, the geographical rivalries will be confusing and it could lead to much worse, a potential break-off from the NCAA as a whole for FBS football.
Decimation of Good Conferences
Prime Example: the Big 12 and Western Athletic Conference.
The two conferences reeling the most from the Great Realignment are the Big 12 Conference and the Western Athletic Conference.
The Big 12 originally lost two of its members, Nebraska and Colorado, to bigger conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
It's very likely that they will be losing more teams.
Texas A&M is committed to join the Southeastern Conference next year, with Missouri petitioning to follow. Both Kansas schools and Iowa State are looking to be scooped up by the Big East.
This would leave only Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor as the remaining Big 12 schools, not a promising conference.
Fortunately, the Big 12 received a much-needed boost when Texas Christian announced it was backing out of its Big East commitment in favor of joining the modified Big 12.
Still, for the Big 12 to survive, it would take a lot of incentive to keep the four potential deserters back in.
For years, the Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the small spotlight it could afford with Boise State. After the Broncos left, it set off a domino effect. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii have all decided to leave for the Mountain West.
This has crippled the conference severely, and in response, they have scooped up two new schools to play football, Texas-San Antonio, which is playing their first season of football in school history, and Texas State.
In short, the WAC may never fully recover from its losses, and may be forced to merge into a superconference with the Pac-12.
Almost No Chance for More Deserving FCS Schools to Move Up
Next year, three schools will be moving from the FCS to the FBS. Those schools are Massachusetts, who will be in the Mid-American Conference, Texas State (WAC) and Texas-San Antonio (WAC).
What's wrong with this picture?
The schools in question are not deserving of a conference upgrade—rather they are just convenient options for the respective conferences in question.
UMass isn't particularly good at football, having last made the FCS playoffs in 2007, losing in the quarterfinal.
UTSA is in its first season of college football.
Texas State has had success, but this was more than 30 years ago.
If any team were more deserving of the spots offered, it would be Villanova, who has always been a championship contender; Eastern Washington, who won the national title last year; and Montana, also a postseason regular.
The Potential Split of FCS Football from the NCAA
Even in the NCAA, the changes are becoming more and more prevalent. Certain schools are leaving their conferences to join others as "football-only" members. Others are simply uprooting from their old conferences in favor of joining a bigger and more established conference.
This Great Realignment could potentially mean one thing: Expect the superconferences to take shape, then the Great Split.
The superconferences are the first step toward FCS football's secession from the NCAA. The likelihood is that there will be five superconferences.
Here's a projection of how it would work out:
ACC will take all Big East schools and a few MAC schools (Temple, Buffalo, UMass) as well as the Service Academies (Army, Navy) to become the Eastern Superconference.
SEC will absorb the Sun Belt and part of the Big 12 (Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor) to become the Southern Superconference.
Big Ten absorbs all remaining MAC schools, Notre Dame, and a few of the remaining Big 12 schools, (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State) to become the Northern Superconference.
Mountain West and Conference USA will merge, add TCU, Brigham Young and the last two Big 12 schools (Kansas, Kansas State) to become the Heartland Superconference.
Pac-12 will absorb the WAC to become the Western Superconference.
Just the thought of the superconference system would drive the NCAA crazy, but they would be unable to do anything about it. This would lead to the Great Split, with FBS football operating as an entity completely separate from the NCAA.
In conclusion, we can agree that FBS football is definitely becoming too powerful and the Great Realignment could potentially kill fan interest. However, there is nothing that we can do about it, so unfortunately we will have to deal with the consequences—thus the toxicity of the Great Realignment will be too much for the NCAA to contain.