Monday, June 14, 2010
Southern Conference: The Original Super Conference
As French novelist Alphonse Karr once pointed out, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Such is true in the world of college football.
Conference realignment is nothing new after recent years saw the Big East conference raided by the ACC, which in turn led to the Big East raiding other leagues to fill out their membership.
Now we appear to be at the beginning of the “super conference” era in college sports.
What most panicked observers are probably unaware of is that these bloated leagues weren’t forged in the nineties and early 2000’s, but in 1922.
That was when the Southern Conference was formed in Atlanta, Ga. with 14 universities joining together.
Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee were the charter members of the conference.
A year later six more schools joined the fray as Florida, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane and Vanderbilt signed on.
In following years, Sewanee, Virginia Military Institute and Duke also joined pushing the league total to 23 schools.
Obviously, this arrangement didn’t take and in 1933 thirteen schools split off to form the SEC and in 1953 seven more schools took off to found the ACC.
Now over a half-century later we sit squarely in the same scenario.
Universities from across the country are rescinding longtime partnerships, burning bridges and bolting for pastures perceived to be greener.
And that’s ultimately what it’s all about, green.
You’ll hear conferences put up appearances by lauding the good academic fits of new member institutions, but we all know the truth behind the matter.
Bigger leagues mean bigger television contracts, more conference championship games and more revenue generated than ever before.
This current process isn’t unlike watching one of those cheesy radio contests where they lock a contestant in a booth filled with money blown around by fans. Grab as much as you can in two minutes, no holds barred.
Just as in that scenario, college athletic departments appear poised to nab as much cash as they can and it’s no big deal if they make fools of themselves doing it.
Where will it end?
When the dust settles, the fans cease blowing and the money flutters to rest on the floor of the booth, conferences will no longer exist as we knew them and we’ll be left with behemoths of collegiate sports.
The Big 12 may exist but in a completely different form. We’ll have a Pac-10 bursting at the seams with 16 members and the always mathematically-challenged Big 10 will be comprised of 12 teams and maybe more.
Everyone’s alma mater will be impacted in this reshuffling scheme. The numbers of conference members will soon once again rival the old Southern conference.
The old SoCon was just ahead of the curve.