Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Conference realignment and how it affects college hoops

So you know how everyone has been saying and writing all this stuff about Texas A&M planning on leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC?

Well, today it became about as official as its going to get. Texas A&M announced that they were leaving the Big 12, effective June 30th, 2012, so long as they get accepted by another conference. And you better believe they know they are going to get accepted by the SEC. Would you leave a good job because you no longer get along with your co-workers if you didn't have assurances you'd be getting hired elsewhere?

Didn't think so.

Most believe that A&M leaving the Big 12 is the next step towards college sports breaking into four 16 team super-conferences, a process that was triggered last summer when Texas got their own TV Network (and all the money that comes with an ESPN affiliation) and Nebraska and Colorado bolted for the Big 10 and Pac-12, respectively. The next step? It could be Virginia Tech heading to the SEC. Or Missouri and Kansas bolting for the Big East. Or Texas jumping ship and joining the Pac-12 with three Pac-12 counterparts.

I don't think anyone knows exactly what happens next or when it will happen, but I think most believe that the end-game -- be it five, ten or 25 years down the road -- is the Big 12 completely disintegrating with the Big East and ACC fighting to the death over the scraps while simultaneously defending themselves against looting from the Big Ten and SEC.

In the process, the college sports that we know and love will forever be the worse for wear.

Its ironic that the Big East basketball schedule was released on the same day as Texas A&M announced their withdrawal from the Big 12, because the Big East is the perfect example of why 16-18 team super-conferences simply don't work. Even playing an 18 game schedule, each program will only get home-and-home's with three opponents this season and only two opponents starting next season when TCU joins the fold.

Think about that for a second. While we luck out in getting UConn and Syracuse playing twice, the Orange only play Georgetown -- which is one of the greatest rivalries in all of college basketball -- once this season. Imagine if the ACC expands to the point that Duke and UNC only play once a year, or if the SEC gets large enough that Florida and Tennessee only get one crack at Kentucky each season?

What's more, the two of the favorites to win the conference -- Pitt and UConn -- will only play once this year, on the last day of the regular season. But who cares about that when Louisville plays DePaul twice and Villanova gets two games against South Florida. And we can rest easy knowing that the greatest rivalry of them all -- Rutgers and Seton Hall -- will be played twice this year.

Its head-to-head games like that that allowed the Big East to turn down a billion-dollar TV deal, right?

Its a shame, really.

Historic rivalries like Texas A&M and Texas will be destroyed by hurt feelings and greed.

But hey, its all in the name of amateurism!

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