In the midst of one of the greatest Saturdays in recent memory, an old friend—one that we no longer invite to parties or call on their birthday—surfaced, drunk as always, trying to spoil the occasion.
It would seem that after a short break, realignment has once again returned to the forefront of college football. Although there are no imminent certainties, it appears we’re nearing some, and we might just be scratching the surface on another conference arms race.
Even bigger, the “super conference” era could rapidly unfold much earlier than anticipated, with each move providing momentum towards the next.
This much we know.
Maryland has approved a move to the Big Ten, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, and it will join the conference for the 2014-2015 season. Rutgers, too, appears Big Ten-bound, and an announcement for its Big East departure will likely come on Tuesday. Again, this comes courtesy of McMurphy, who is nothing short of a realignment wizard.
Rutgers will announce move to Big Ten on Tuesday, sources told @espn— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 19, 2012
The Big Ten still has to approve all additions with a vote—and Maryland has to do something about that $50 million exit fee from the ACC—but it appears, barring a late bit of negotiation destruction, that these two teams will be heading elsewhere.
These reports began to surface over the weekend—right when you were settling in for a glorious day of games—and it became very clear early on they were more than just rumors. It’s amazing how fast this has all transpired, but then again, we were not given access to what was taking place behind the curtain.
It comes as a surprise given commissioner Jim Delany’s stance on expansion over the past few years, although perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at all. Talk is, after all, just talk.
“We're very pleased with the 12 institutions we have,” Delany said regarding further expansion back in May of this year. “We're not in an active mode."
A lot can change in six months, although it really doesn’t matter now. Regardless of his “public” stance six months ago, the Big Ten is indeed in an active mode. Very active, and the conference's activity—which in this particular situation is questionable to say the least—could set off a flurry of conference moves over the coming offseason.
More crucial to the overall landscape is the chain reaction that will ensue, and make no mistake about it, this is far from over. Get ready for “sources,” board meetings, rumors and mass Internet chaos.
Eventually, we will make our way to four 16-team “super” conferences, and perhaps this was always imminent. Suddenly, however, it feels very imminent.
Other conferences have sensed this next batch of realignment was on the horizon, and we’re likely to see a colossal scramble to follow. More behind-the-curtain conversations are already underway. My thoughts on this—Maryland, Rutgers and future teams to find new homes—could be summed up in one sophisticated word: Ugh.
I’ve had enough.
This has absolutely nothing to do with improving our college football experience (unless, of course, your team can break away from a sinking ship or find some financial gain), then I get why you’re fist-pumping this in your cubicle. Well, actually, stop that. It’s weird.
For Maryland, this would be a tremendous jump. It struggled mightily financially and cut sports the past few years in an effort to stop the bleeding, and this—outside of the initial cash ding—would mean more money. It makes a whole lot of sense for the Terps because of the cents involved.
For Rutgers, this move makes a lot of sense as well. Get more money and get away from the Big East—a conference that, despite recent positive developments, still finds itself on unstable ground. This move, of course, makes it even more unstable.
As for the Big Ten, you sure about this? OK, just checking.
For the rest of us, however, this all is quite clear. This is about padding pockets, growing television markets and helping out the bottom line, all in the name of progression. Progression can be a wonderful thing—a necessity, really—but I’m still trying to determine how we benefit from this.
Look at this from your own selfish college football wants and needs: How will this improve things?
And it won’t stop there. Sixteen will likely be the magic number for teams in the Big Ten, and other conference head honchos will likely have a similar agenda.
The spin will be remarkable, and you’ll hear loud and clear why you should be excited about these and other Big Ten additions. They will tell you with a straight face how this improves the conference’s high academic standards, and you, hopefully, will respond by changing the channel.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, conferences will begin scrapping other conferences for parts until there are only a few remaining. It’s going to be a feeding frenzy of epic proportions.
I’ve grown tired of talking, writing and thinking about it, and I hate the fact that we’re forced to discuss potential conference moves after one of the greatest Saturdays in the history of college football and another fabulous season-deciding one cooking in the oven.
Notre Dame is the No. 1 team in the country (go for it, Alabama fans) for the first time in nearly 20 years, and the top two teams in the country just suffered dramatic losses in one of the final weekends of the regular season.
Yet here we are.
Actual college football chaos is being trumped by board meeting chaos, and that doesn’t sit well. I have always been able to stomach college football’s tremendous flaws—a good chunk of which are directly tied to the many financial issues that come with it—but it’s becoming more difficult.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, however. We’ve known all along that this is all one giant cash grab, but the greatness of the game allows us to tolerate these moments. Or, perhaps after a while, we become numb to it and accept these flaws because of the Saturdays we were just treated to.
Regardless, it would appear that the realignment intermission is over, and we could be headed towards the biggest shakeup yet.
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