By Akiem Bailum, host of TRST’s “10 Minutes on the Clock”
The classic Yogi Berra line “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” has been repeated time and time again in the sporting lexicon.
This is where the specter of conference realignment in college sports enters the picture.
Yesterday, this became true when the University of Maryland announced that they would be jumping ship from the ACC over to the Big Ten. Rutgers also announced similar intentions to ditch the ACC in favor of the Big Ten.
It wasn’t an entirely bad day at the office for the Atlantic Coast Conference, though. The University of Connecticut announced themselves that they are planning on leaving the Big East in favor of the ACC. This same conference is said to be in conversation with Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati (two of which are basketball schools) about replacing Maryland.
And if that wasn’t enough, Boise State, BYU, and San Diego State are now reconsidering the Big East to remain in the Mountain West Conference.
Let’s face it, though. The only way Boise State, BYU, and San Diego State should be considered east is if the NCAA is considering adding a conference for any schools in the Pacific Ocean. We already have the Pac-12. What about the Poc-12?
There’s even talk of Georgia Tech and North Carolina leaving for the Big Ten.
Conference realignment is like the significant other whom you just had a bad breakup with and don’t see for a year. And then, you see that person out the corner of your eye for about 10 times in a month. Then it becomes obvious that the person with whom you broke up with is stalking you to try and get back in your good graces.
Or, it could be to even get back and start anew with a new relationship.
Conference realignment is back and it’s not going anywhere until all of the pieces are in place. It may not be the rumoured mega-shift that was supposed to happen last year when the Big 12 was supposed to be absorbed into 3 conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC), but these colleges are looking at one thing and one thing only.
Green. As in dead presidents with green faces.
This whole thing is all about money. Let’s take why Maryland is jumping ship to the Big Ten. There hasn’t been much money stashed away in the turtle’s shell as of late, so the Terps have been cutting back on sports recently. This is a money-chase for them as they go wherever the money is.
There’s a truckload of it in the Big Ten. Why? The answer is easy—The Big Ten Network.
This network, while much maligned for its seemingly shoddy coverage of the Penn State scandal from last year, has been a gold mine for the ten (plus 4 now) schools that occupy this conference. Unlike other conferences (notably the Big 12) that disproportionately share money between the schools, all of the Big Ten money is shared equally between the respective schools. The Big Ten Network was priority #1 in Nebraska’s decision to join the conference and it is clearly Maryland’s as well. The same scenario rings true in the case of Rutgers.
Also, with the Big Ten Network, this conference is now a media conglomerate in addition to being a conference based on competition of student athletes. Adding Maryland and Nebraska opens the Big Ten Network in two new markets—Baltimore/Washington and the New York City area.
The Big Ten (and by proxy, its network) now will get major coverage in two of the top 3 markets in the country as it already has Chicago locked. The Big Ten Conference & Big Ten Network are both headquartered in the Windy City.
It has even been suggested by some that the move is a preemptive strike by the Big Ten aimed at Notre Dame. The reasoning behind this theory starts with the fact that the Fighting Irish will be moving all sports (sans football) to the ACC and that the majority of the Fighting Irish’s football games will be in the ACC.
If the ACC is seen as unstable because of Maryland and Rutgers leaving the conference for the Big Ten, it could make Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame athletic director) reconsider the ACC for the B1G.
The bottom line is that if this doesn’t convince college football (and college basketball) fans that conference realignment will lead to Super-Conferences, nothing will. It is an inevitability and not a probability. Conference realignment will not end until we are stuck with either 4 or 5 “super-conferences”, each of which with 16-20 teams. The casualties from all of this will likely be either the (not so) Big East or the Big 12.
I’ve always maintained that Texas’ Longhorn Network was only the equivalent of applying a band-aid on a gash on your forehead after being bashed in the head repeatedly with a lead pipe. Slowly, but surely, that wound is starting to open itself up again. Last year, the Big 12 was within an eyelash of closing up shop for good as the Pac-12 had its eyes on virtually every Big 12 South school not named Baylor.
The only reason the Pac-12 didn’t pull the trigger was because it wouldn’t expand without Texas. And they didn’t want the Longhorn Network interfering with their own Network(s) they launched just recently.
It’ll still happen. It may not be the so-called “seismic” shift we were supposed to see, but this is something that will happen in small drops before the ceiling collapses with water falling on everyone’s heads.
The shame of it all is that there’s a real threat to some longstanding rivalries that would result from all of this. But in a college athletics landscape that still tries to find ridiculous reasons for not paying the players, ESPN, Fox, CBS, and NBC television monies are now the preferred commodity in what was supposed to be amateur athletics.
Except the money in 2012 NCAA is anything but amateur.
Maryland, see you in the Big Ten somewhere.
UConn, see you in the ACC somewhere.
Big East (or Big 12), see you….under the grass somewhere?