Everyone person with a fleeting interest in college football has an opinion in some form or another about realignment and teams leaving conferences. Of course, your dear Uncle has an opinion.
Strictly speaking, the new realignment sucks. That Nebraska and Colorado left one BCS conference for another is nothing more than a lateral move. You can talk all you want about academics, but football fans do not give a shit about academics. Schools pretend that it matter, but the move of both universities had more to do with athletics and money.
If Nebraska and Colorado cared about academics, they would dump athletics. But they know better because despite the cost of maintaining big time football programs, they would not sacrifice the exposure that comes from college football.
The realignment is illogical for two reasons. First, it does not improve the Pac-10’s stock. For all the criticism the conference receives — it is Southern California and everyone else being the most vocal — at least it is a conference where every team plays one another. Among the six BCS conferences, only the Pac-10 and Big East can make that claim, and the Big East does it because it has eight teams.
Additionally, the BCS representative from the Pac-10 is typically ranked in the top 10. In fact, since 1998, the Pac-10 has had two teams finish in the top 10 seven times! Yes, this happens with other conferences, but compared to a conference like the ACC, the Pac-10 proves it can get good teams into the top 10 without expanding.
As for Colorado moving to the Pac-10, the Buffaloes go from a division that was perhaps one of the weakest in all of college football to one that could potentially include UCLA, Southern California, Utah and an improving Arizona team. Yes, Colorado recruits well in California (25 kids currently on their roster) and the move helps in that way. But if they were already landing California players, is it necessary to change conferences just so you could play once or twice a year in the state?
With Nebraska, it is hard to argue against their move other than geography (yes they border Iowa but are far removed from everyone else). But the puzzling thing is the Big Ten. Maybe they could not convince Notre Dame to give up its hold on bullshit “tradition,” but it has always made more since to add the Fighting Irish. They already play three teams from the Big Ten annually — Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. Plus, there already exist a rivalry with Penn State. Silliness!
At the very least the Big Ten should have targeted Pittsburgh. But no, let’s get Nebraska! What’s next, the Big East decides to get Marshall?
And Utah, what are you doing?! The Mountain West ripped itself from the WAC to create a stronger conference. The conference was on its way to forcing the hand of the elites and allowing it to bring in the MWC. Utah, TCU, BYU and soon Boise State have all competed with the big boys and shown that they can play. In fact, the addition of BSU raised the conferences profile.
But then, Utah got all selfish and ran for the money. The MWC was primed to become a top-tier conference. Maybe not an elite conference, but certainly better than the Big East and ACC. And now this? Let’s run for the bright lights and big dollars of the Pac-10!
The BCS conferences proved that they did not want to help the smaller guys. Otherwise, the Pac-10 would have targeted Utah and BYU. And they would have done so from day one of the expansion discussion.
Do not fool yourselves into believing that the Pac-10 wanted Utah all along. Utah is just what was left after Texas gave the Pac-10 the horns. Utah is the quick fix; the way to convert the uneven Pac-11 into the more logical Pac-12. Utah was the piece that was lying around on the floor and just attached because there was nothing else to do with it.
And in the end Utah screwed their Mormon neighbors, the blood-squirting Frogs, and the BCS-busting Broncos for what? To flounder around in the Pac-12? I like Utah, but my feeling is that they will struggle in the Pac-12, at least at first. Like Colorado, they will be in a potentially difficult division and beating the likes of Southern California [even under Kiffin], UCLA, Arizona and occasionally Oregon will not be an easy task. I’d be surprised if the Utes win the conference in their first ten years of being in the Pac-12; maybe win the division once or twice, but not conference title.
In terms of the Mountain West, all is not lost with the inclusion of Boise State. But it is one step forward, two steps back. The loss of Utah will likely keep the MWC from breaking into BCS-status. Boise State keeps a nationally-recognizable program in the conference, but will the Broncos have the same success that they experienced in the WAC?
Two conferences come off looking better in all of this — the Big Ten and the Big 12. The Big Ten gets rid of the awkward eleven teams and can now have a conference title game. While it still means all teams will not play each other, and the potential exist for one division become stronger than the other, at least there will be less controversy over the conference champ.
Previously, it was possible for two Big Ten teams to go undefeated in conference play at the end of the season. Now, well beginning in 2011, a team would have to win its division and then beat the other division winner. The only question is how will the conference divisionalize? North-south is not feasible and while east-west is logical in terms of geography, it is not in terms of competitive balance (Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all in the East?). It is likely they will eschew geographic divisions and go with the ACC model. It would be nice if they also implement a realignment system in order to maintain balance in the power.
The Big 12 makes out well because no team was left out and in the end they landed a sweet television deal. The big three — Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M — receive the better end of the TV deal, but the other seven will remain viable. Additionally, it is likely that the downsized Big 12 will follow the Pac-10’s scheduling plan and have all teams play one another. That is always a good thing.
In the end, however, I for one am unhappy with realignment. Boise State is perhaps the only team that truly comes off better in the end as I believe Utah will struggle (they will still go bowling, but not win the conference) and Colorado and Nebraska made at best lateral moves. Overall, realignment helped no mid-tier team and only fattened the wallets of the elites in college football.
There is a place for realignment and I do have a plan in mind. But it would have to incorporate an actual playoff; something that seems to scare the NCAA and the elites in college football. A playoff would mean that it is possible that a non-BCS conference school (i.e. the non-elites) could win the title. The elites (power schools in the BCS conferences) will not allow that to happen and will continue to ensure that by supporting the silly BCS.
I have a plan…but not the time to lay it out. Maybe in another rant.