It seems that it is the time of the year once again for universities and conferences to get together and choose sides. In the process, long standing rivalries are thrown aside in the name of television contracts and revenue sharing. It started about two years ago with the beginning of the concept now dubbed (by me) the “merry go round conferences”.
Then, we saw Nebraska move to the Big Ten, Colorado & Utah to the newly dubbed Pac-12. At first, this seemed to be isolated incidents…but then came last year. Last year saw the following moves: Missouri & Texas A&M to SEC, West Virginia & TCU to Big 12 along with other ancillary moves. There was a huge uproar that came from these moves and because of that it seemed that there might be a break from the merry go round.
That has proven not to be the case. As of now (given how fluid this has been it could change shortly), we also have Syracuse, Pittsburgh & (recently) Louisville to the ACC, Maryland & Rutgers to the Big Ten (which will now be 14 teams), Tulane & East Carolina to the Big East & Middle Tennessee State to Conference USA. Now you can see why I dubbed it #MerryGoRoundConferences on twitter.
Like I mentioned earlier, in this new era of college football, it’s more about television contracts & money than about tradition and long standing rivalries. In the past year, we’ve seen several long standing rivalries (as in nearly a century) ended because of universities seeking the money and switching conferences.
Conferences that were known for regions are not any more. The SEC has teams not in the southeast (Missouri & Texas A&M). The Big East will have teams as far west as Idaho (if Boise State still goes along with joining the league & doesn’t bail). The Atlantic Coast Conference will have a school in a state that doesn’t border the Atlantic Ocean (Louisville). Even the numerical conferences don’t make sense. The Big Ten right now has 12 teams (and will become 14 teams) and the Big Twelve has 10 teams.
With all of these television deals for new networks (Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network, even the Longhorn Network) and more on the way, schools are scrambling to jump on the merry go round and get on the right “horse” and not be left behind. This will lead to “super conferences” and even more a disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. It also has an impact on other sports not just on college football. Volleyball, softball, soccer and baseball teams will have to travel long distances to play conference games which will put a burden on athletic budgets. This is due to athletic directors and presidents of the schools chasing the money of conference realignment.
I haven’t been a fan of all these changes. It’s sad to see but it’s a given now with college athletics (particularly college football) making the money that it does. Though there are some good changes on the horizon in college football (playoffs), unfortunately there will continue to be merry go round conferences which will detract from the history and tradition that is college sports.