Saturday, June 12, 2010

Conference Dominoes Begin To Fall

Let the chaos begin. Colorado and Nebraska were the first schools to announce conference moves in what is expected to be a summer riddled with realignment.

The Buffaloes are headed further west to the Pac-10, tentatively effective in 2012, while the Cornhuskers are headed east to the Big Ten, effective in July 2011.

Boise State, a school that has been a menace to BCS conference schools over the past decade, enhanced its image by moving from the WAC where it has dominated its conference foes to the much more competitive and balanced Mountain West. TCU, Utah, and now Boise State headline a conference pining to negotiate with the BCS for an automatic bid into one of its lucrative bowls.

Of course, Colorado, Nebraska, and Boise State are only the tip of the iceberg in what some are saying will be a titanic shift in collegiate athletics.

Notre Dame and Texas are the two institutions said to hold the keys for how the rest of the summer will shakeout. If either school makes a decision to move, or stay, it will impact the decisions of others.

Independence is at the forefront of the conversations about the Irish. Some say the Irish can no longer afford to stay independent because of potential lost revenues from what may evolve into four elite super conferences of 16 teams each. Of course, those people have absolutely no clue what they are talking about.

Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick, a '76 alum, knows better than to waltz into town and hastily sever hundreds of years of tradition forged by an independent identity.

The opportunity cost of alienating an extremely loyal fan base ripe with deep pockets does not outweigh any potential gained revenue from a newly formed super conference TV network.

And then there is Texas, a school with not only national championship-caliber football and basketball teams but a plethora of other 'olympic' sports, like baseball, track and field, tennis, and swimming.

Longhorns' fans know that their school is being coveted by several conferences including its current dwelling the Big XII, Pac-10, SEC, and Big Ten. Burnt Orange Nation would bring one of the most profitable brands in all of collegiate athletics to the most compelling (and profitable) bidder.

Some indications cite that Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State will all head to the Pac-10 to form a super conference of 16 teams (thanks in part to the newly added Buffaloes). Other speculation pits the Aggies of Texas A&M in the SEC.

Truth be told, no one save for the board of trustees at each of the involved institutions has any idea what will unfold.

Right now there is a lot of guess work and hedged bets being made by athletics directors everywhere.

For instance, Nebraska's AD Tom Osborne indicated that his school was too apprehensive about what might happen to sit back and watch things unfold. The 'Huskers issued a preemptive strike to do what it felt was its best opportunity to emerge unharmed from the impending raid of the Big XII.

When the smoke has cleared at the end of the summer the Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-10, MWC, and Big East will all look remarkably different from how they ended the spring.

Alas, any outcomes from conference realignment will not likely be seen on the fields of play until 2011. Consequently, I am reserving any judgment or excitement toward the supposed new super conferences until that time.

With the start of the college football season right around the corner this sports fan is appreciative of the parent that supports each conference: the NCAA.

At the end of the day collegiate athletics falls under one large entity, thankfully not individual conferences.

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