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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conference Realignment Thoughts

So I realize now we posted naught of this: these last two weeks have been our annual "bye week(s)". It happens every year: Red and I have to take trips, finals, get swamped with work, are burnt out, and the Bears lose in depressing fashion. It all combines into us taking a week or two off to refresh, eat a lot, have something called Friendsgiving and Christmasian, and ignore the pain we feel about the Bears. We'll be back Monday! In the interim, some thoughts on realignment:

At some point we all have to admit that the "doomsday" theorists were right, don't we? Back when this whole thing started we all heard the theories of how the NCAA landscape was slowly turning into a Pangaea-esque 4 conference super-league that would leave the NCAA smoldering in its wake. Of course, when things "calmed down", everyone laughed at those peope.

"Ha!" they said, "You see, nothing is ever as bad as it first seems! You overreacting fools!"

Then everyone went back about their business. They watched whilst chuckling as the Big East tried to become the Big... Thing... adding teams from every coast imaginable (they probably offered colleges in Canada, London, Mexico, and semi-pro teams in the Congo). People got a bit more nervous when Syracuse and Pittsburgh decided they were done with the Big East.

"But that's natural," they said, "because the Big East just isn't relevant anymore. Of course this was going to happen!"

These are the same people that said realignment was done not months before. And here were two founding Big East members leaving the conference... but people still refused to accept that this thing was not over, would not be over, and will not be over until everyone has been assimilated.

But it got considerably harder to deny over the last week, didn't it? Maryland and Rutgers are now members of the B1G. Some fans are angry because they don't fit regionally. Some are angry because they don't fit athletically. Plenty are angry because Maryland was a founding member of the ACC. They say there is no loyalty anymore.

But what the hell does that even mean? Maryland (and Florida State) voted against the massive exit fee the ACC passed such a short time ago (a ridiculous $50 million) in part because the leadership of that conference had failed so mightily at cashing in on lucrative TV contracts. The conference had failed its members. Maryland felt it was riding a sinking ship.

How bad was it? Well, Maryland is literally willing to pay FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS to leave. Of course, that isn't the only factor: there is also the fact that the B1G is still, despite the dominance of the SEC and the terrible years the B1G has had the past two seasons, the most lucrative conference in the country. Lucrative enough to lure a founding member of an established power conference away from it's home. Maryland's athletic expenses are going to skyrocket! Instead of taking a "long" trip to Clemson every season, now they'll have games against Nebraska and Iowa!

So, let's review: Maryland is willing to pay $50 million up front, pay far more in travel costs, and lose the revenue from established rivalry games against Duke, UNC, and their other ACC compatriots... just to become a member of the B1G.

This can't be good for the ACC.

And that brings us full circle. This isn't over, folks. The B1G has shown its hand. The SEC may have had reservations about becoming a 16+ member conference before for fears of being unwieldy, but not now. Jim Delany has ended all discussions on the matter: superconferences are happening. As quickly as the news that Maryland and Rutgers were the newest members of the B1G broke, there were already reports that long-desired ACC schools North Carolina and (not even ACC yet) Syracuse were next up as targets.

And why not? Florida State has showed open contempt for the ACC in recent years, and they aren't anything resembling a charter member. The SEC will move again. There's only one logical move, and that is Florida State and Clemson. That domino falls, UNC and Syracuse fall... and all of a sudden the ACC is Miami, Duke... NC State...?

The pieces are falling into place. The Pac 12 is secure. The Big 12, so long as it has Texas, will remain whole (and is the most likely destination for Louisville and Cincinnati when the rest of the Big East dies). The B1G is going to take the North half of the Eastern seaboard. The SEC will go after the Southern half. We have never been closer to 4 super-conferences. If I were a fan of Duke or Wake Forest I would be quaking in my boots just as surely as Iowa State and Kansas State were a few years ago when Texas was threatening to bolt.

I won't comment as to whether this is good or bad, right or wrong. But it IS happening. Maybe it's time to give the doomsday theorists their due; congratulations, guys. You got this one right.

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