Conference Realignment Continues at Staggering Pace

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Rob Yunich:

Last Sunday, Syracuse and Pittsburgh were officially welcomed as the newest members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Today, Texas A&M joined the Southeastern Conference. Nowadays, these deals have more to do with football and money than geography and rivalries.

In case you don’t remember, Texas A&M was once a founding member of the Southwest Conference, which eventually morphed into the Big Eight and then the Big 12. Syracuse was part of the Big East when it was created in 1979 and Pitt joined the league in 1982. And don’t forget that ACC members Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech were once members of the Big East. (BC also was a charter member of the Big East.)

But things are not the same any more. The Big East had swelled to 16 teams (17, if you count TCU, who is supposed to join next season) and had gone through several roster changes. The Big 12, meantime, was pretty steady from its creation in 1996, until Nebraska bolted for the Big 10 and Colorado went to the (now) Pac-12. (Both those changes became official this year.)

“The league is not the league it used to be. It’s 17 teams, 20 teams, who knows? We’re not leaving what we loved. It’s different. Completely,” Syracuse Coach Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard, when discussing the Big East. “If they had added Kansas and Kansas State, it would be more travel by far than the ACC. Right now, we have a lot of travel.’’

Both the Big East and Big 12 (which now has 10 teams, including A&M) are endangered species and have, in fact, discussed a merger. While that would solve a many issues in terms of number of teams, it also would bring the country closer to what seems inevitable: the creation of four, 16-team super-conferences.

If the Big East and Big 12 became one, it’s hard to imagine Texas (and maybe even Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) sticking around to see it through. Ditto Connecticut, West Virginia and maybe even Rutgers.

So it’s time to forget the names of the conferences and pay attention to who is in them. Because with northerners Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College in the ACC, Texas A&M in the SEC and TCU (maybe) heading to the Big East—geography (and longtime rivalries) will be about as fashionable as the A-track.

The only thing that would make this all worth it is what the NCAA continues to oppose in Division I-A (or whatever it’s called these days): a single-elimination football tournament. But, for now, get ready for your alma mater to switch conferences, hope to survive some crazy times and maybe, just maybe, remember that there are actual college students playing sports on (maybe) a free ride.

You can find more of Rob’s work at Storming the Crease

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