NCAA Conference Realignment - What Does This Mean To the Average College Sports Fan
College Athletics May Never Be the Same
For many college sports fans, we are used to seeing our favorite teams in conferences such as the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 12, and PAC - 10. This landscape may change and fast.
Months ago, the Big Ten started off saying that it would expand from the current eleven schools to upwards of sixteen member schools. Notre Dame has always been on the Big Ten expansion radar for a long period of time. In 1999, the Big Ten offered Notre Dame membership to the conference but they ultimately said, "Thanks but no thanks". It is 2010 and Notre Dame along with Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri are in a fierce battle of whether to join a conference in Notre Dame's case or switch conference allegiances.
Two weeks ago, Yahoo Sports reported that the Pac - 10 was set to offer Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State invitation to join the new Pac - 16 Conference. The Pac - 10 is currently comprised of Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, California, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. The Pac - 10 just like the Big Ten announced it would look into expanding the conference. If you look at this from a football perspective, the new Pac - 16 would become the best conference from top to bottom even better than the SEC. Just yesterday (6/10/10), the University of Colorado made it official and joined the Pac - 10. Now one week later (6/17/10), you can pencil in the University of Utah as the twelveth team to join the Pac - 10. Utah will not have spoil the BCS party as a non-BCS member. In the last several years, Utah has went to two BCS Bowl games undefeated. Current University of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer coached one of the teams before going to Florida.
The conference that looks like it will no more or complete different is the Big 12. If half of the member schools bolt for the Pac - 10, look for the other remaining schools to go elsewhere. It is looking more and more like Nebraska and Missouri could join the Big Ten. The Big Ten is also courting Texas to join the conference. Also, the Big Ten could reach to schools such as Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, Syracuse and UConn. Today (6/11/10), University of Nebraska was formally invited to join the Big Ten.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Big 12. Now, since two member schools have left, this conference is on life support. With the defection of Colorado and Nebraska, it makes it more likely for the three or four Texas schools either to join the Pac - 10, SEC, or Big Ten. Look for this same scenario in the Big East. If the Big East loses some of member schools, look for the ACC or Big Ten to capture them to join their respective conferences.
Potentially, we could see four major football conferences in the next year or so with an expanded Big Ten, Pac - 10, SEC, and ACC. The Big 12 and Big East as we know it will be gone. The center of the debate is money. The Big Ten has its own television network. The SEC sort of has a network with working agreements with ESPN and CBS. Notre Dame has its own television deal with NBC for the next few years. All of these schools are trying to get the most amount of revenue that they can squeeze in a tough economy like today.
The best link I have found to help make some sort of sense of the NCAA realignment is http://collegesportsinfo.com/conference-realignment-grid/. The site has been regularly updated especially in the last few weeks.
I know growing up in Big Ten country that my favorite conference will be changed. My favorite school, Illinois, has some great natural rivalries with the likes of Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the rest of the conference. Illinois has always had a great rivalry with Missouri no matter what conference Missouri is playing. Illinois will have a new rivalry created with Nebraska as it has joined the Big Ten.
One thing as college sports fans is that we must embrace the changes. I, like many others, will not like some of these changes. From a geographical standpoint, some of these changes make no sense. How many Minnesota fans will travel to the New York area to see their favorite school battle Rutgers or Texas fans traveling to Seattle to play the University of Washington? All I know is that I will still bleed my orange and blue for the Fighting Illini regardless of who they are playing. You probably about need a PhD to explain the upcoming realignments but in the end, we will still watch college sports because there is something about these student athletes giving there all for their school.