Don’t look now, but super conferences are forming in the NCAA, paving the way for a pseudo-playoff system in football on the FBS level.
On the heels of Sunday’s report that Syracuse and Pittsburgh will leave the dwindling Big East to become the 13th and 14th teams in the ACC, respectively, serious talks are now ongoing for Big 12 powerhouse members Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to leave the Big 12 for the ever-expanding Pac 12.
Other reports offer the possibility of Texas A&M, Missouri and West Virginia joining the SEC and rumors of Connecticut and Rutgers courting the ACC.
This shifting of powers among conferences seems to be the way universities are taking the power of the BCS championship in their own hands after BCS officials repeatedly refused to institute any sort of end-of-season football tournament despite popular demand.
The new setup would in essence offer tournament results while not taking away from the importance of each regular season game, one of the few criticisms of NCAA basketball’s setup.
Proponents of the so-called super conferences say this realignment would allow for a greater strength of schedule for members of each conference. This would mean that each conference team would have to play a greater number of quality teams each year.
Such realignment would theoretically provide the competitive advantage to each of the super conferences.
The probability is four conferences, currently the SEC, Pac 12, Big 10 and the ACC that would end up with 16 teams each. The idea is the attrition of the regular season schedule would produce a worthy champion from each conference who would then be eligible for the BCS championship game.
This would effectively limit the current advantage of the SEC, which has fielded the last five BCS national champions and has come to expect its regular season champion to compete in the national championship game each year.
The arrangement would also allow teams like Boise State, who have been snubbed from the BCS championship game on an annual basis despite quality seasons, to be more in the mix should they choose to join a super conference.
There is a reason universities are moving so quickly. As more schools switch conferences, others will move fast so they won’t be left out in the cold. If the college football landscape shifts to 64 teams in four super conferences, schools will rush to be included until all slots are filled.
Don’t forget the money in all this. Never forget the money. It appears the only reason Texas is not already a Pac 12 team is the financial windfall it is set to receive every year from the new Longhorn Network. Texas is currently negotiating TV rights with the Pac 12 if it is added as a member.
The Longhorn Network, which put Texas at an advantage in TV profits and in recruiting over rivals such as Texas A&M, is one of the main reasons Texas A&M originally sought a move to the SEC, which has the top TV revenues of any conference.
The significant point not to be lost here is that major universities are showing a willingness to reshuffle their sports programs all for the sake of football dollars.
Although there have been a couple of basketball coaches recently quoted speaking to how a realignment would help NCAA hoops, this conversation is undoubtedly focused on football. The fact that Syracuse and Pittsburgh would leave the stacked Big East is proof.
This widespread scrambling of schools boils down to two things: money and money. Schools don’t want to be left out of TV revenues that super conferences will bring each year, and they want to continue to have a reasonable shot at playing in BCS bowl games, which bring in buckets of cash for each participating university.
This restructuring should result in more competitive conferences in men’s basketball like the Big East in recent years. It could mean that NCAA schedules will be more competitive in men’s and women’s sports across the board.
But make no mistake. This reshuffling of conferences is all about football. More specifically, it’s all about football dollars. The fallout will be interesting, and hopefully in the end, the fans will be the winners here.