Monday, September 19, 2011

Dude, What Conference Are We In?

This is an extremely dangerous post to write because by the time I’m done with this sentence- everything will have changed. However we cannot ignore the fact that the major conferences are changing faster than Europe after World War II. So here’s how it looks at the moment.

Make no mistake, this is about nothing other than money. The talk is that four, 16-team super conferences would allow for bigger TV deals and for the sport to have a real national championship game without the hassle of a playoff system.

This is not about fans or rivalries or tradition and that’s too bad. But the fact is that “amateur” athletics is all but gone. These are essentially minor league football teams. How else do you justify your football coach being the highest paid state employee in many states? Don’t take it personal, its just business.

Here’ the breakdown by BCS Conference.

Atlantic Coast Conference – Have just added Pitt and Syracuse. They are now the leader in the clubhouse with 14 teams and reports are that Rutgers and UCONN may be the final 16.

My take: It makes sense in the super-conference era to raid the Big East and strengthen the whole Atlantic seaboard vibe they have here. It’s still a basketball league.

Southeastern Conference- Have added Texas A&M and now have 13 schools. They claim that they are fine with 13; I call B.S. Why would they stop at an uneven number of schools? Candidates: Missouri, West Virginia and Baylor. Its awful tough to raid anyone other than the Big East and the Big 12 right now, which means they don’t have great options.

My take: I honestly don’t get it. A&M was a good first step and Missouri is their next best option. Baylor doesn’t get you much and West Virginia is well, a state. It’ll still be the best football conference in the country.

Pacific 16- Having just added Colorado and Utah, the PAC-12 now looks to add Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State according to reports. In fact, they are now talking about 4 pods of 4 teams instead of 2 divisions. I don’t even know what that means.

My take: It’ll be interesting to see how they handle Texas and its network. No one had a better deal in their conference than Oklahoma and Texas, but apparently it wasn’t enough. My sense is they will look back on this decision 10 years from now and wish they had not broken up the Big XII band.

Big 10- Have made no known movements. Its all about eyeballs here and the big fish is Notre Dame. Do they feel anymore pressure to join a conference? If not, the B1G probably does not make a quick move. If they do, then its Notre Dame, Missouri, Kansas and Rutgers. The problem with waiting though is they may lose Rutgers to the ACC and Missouri to the SEC. In that instance, the other teams are not obvious. They have to bring eyeballs and a national presence (sorry Iowa State and Kansas State, that’s not you). Maybe if BYU is still hanging around or Baylor? But they are not AAU schools. It’s a little murky, but the B1G will not move unless it has too.

My take: First of all, change the name to “The Historic Big Ten Conference” so that people stop mocking the conference. I like a MU/KU rivalry that brings all of St. Louis and Kansas City. I would not wait and go get them now! Notre Dame would be a home run, but do you stay at 14 and wait? Or do you just fill out to 16 with lesser teams?

The Big East- This might become a basketball only league. TCU is headed there just as Pitt and Syracuse leave. If Rutgers and UCONN bolt- it’s over. That leaves TCU, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia and USF. Maybe they target some C-USA schools- Memphis, SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa. Maybe they merge with K-State, Iowa State, Baylor and Mizzou and Kansas if they are available.

My take: The Big East as we know it is all but dead. If they go the C-USA route, I’m not sure they keep their automatic qualifier status.

Big 12- Two options. It all seems to rest on Texas and Oklahoma. If they go West, the conference is over. If they stay- you can simply add BYU to get to 10 and then frankly whoever you want from the Big East.

My take: I think in an ideal world, the Big 12 and Big East would merge and be the 5th super conference. Without Texas and Oklahoma though, it’s a pretty unimpressive league in terms of eyeballs and money.

What’s next? Who knows? This is uncharted territory and no one seems to know what it will end up looking like when the wheel stops spinning.

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