Mega-Conferences: Be Careful What You Wish For

The fate of the Big 12 Conference was in the hands of the Texas Longhorns, and earlier this week, the conference was finally able to exhale.  After more guaranteed revenue, the University of Texas agreed to keep the conference intact, and they were soon followed by Oklahoma.  And despite the departures of Nebraska next fall and Colorado in 2012, the threat of the mega-conferences is on the back burner.  Now the question is how long the current situation will last.

Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns are staying with the Big 12....at least for now (google images)

It appears that this is a band-aid on an issue that could require plastic surgery.  Had Texas and Oklahoma left for the Pac 10 and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC, it would have had a domino effect in the rest of the college football world.  All conferences must learn from what could have happened and they need to prepare themselves for the same situation 3-5 years down the road.   College FootBlog takes a look at what might have been had the Longhorns set the mega-conferences into motion and weighs two potential impacts it would have had.

1.  The ACC and Big East would have been dead in the water.  The ACC thought they were going to challenge the SEC when they on-boarded Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College a few years ago.  Instead, Miami and Florida State have struggled to live up to their prestige from the 80’s and 90’s, and with huge losses in out of conference and bowl games, they have been little more than an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl because the BCS has to have a representative from their conference.

The Big East has come a long way since losing their coveted teams to the ACC.  But it hasn’t been easy.  Despite having three teams finish in the Top 25 last season, the Big East is still trying to prove they belong with the big boys.  The emergence of Pitt, Cincinnati and Rutgers has helped give them some respectability, but they are still largely considered a second-tier league.  With the depth they had last season, that is somewhat unfair, but that is still the general consensus. 

The Big Ten flirted with Pitt when they originally wanted to have 14-16 teams in their league, and much like when the ACC raided them a few years ago, the conference seemed ready to take their lumps and move on.  There is talk that if and when the SEC comes calling, they will go after Virginia Tech, but even if the mega-conferences leave the ACC and Big East alone, each conference could easily become a footnote in the BCS title hunt if the big conferences get bigger and deeper.  That would result in far less revenue and could effectively make each conference a new-aged mid-major. 

If they don’t want that to happen, representatives from each conference need to take advantage of the new three-year window and fight for stability and/or growth.  Otherwise, FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech could easily look to jump ship before it goes down.

2.  The Mid-Majors would have dropped further into obscurity.  Even with Boise State making the move to the Mountain West, they simply will not be able to compete in terms of revenue and overall respectability vs a 16-team Pac 10.  Add to it that Utah is likely jumping ship from the MWC to become the Pac 10’s 12th team, and they will continue to fight for some well-deserved attention in college football.  Should the Pac 10 increase to a 16-team league in the future, all hope of having a representative in the BCS National Championship will be gone.

The conference already had an uphill battle due to the lack of television coverage and the perception that they, along with the other mid-majors are the little brother of the bigger, more traditional BCS conferences, but one or two mega-conferences would effectively shut the door on their chances for a title.

That would be a shame, considering what Boise State and Utah have more than represented themselves and their conferences on the big stage of a BCS bowl game.  A one-loss or even a two-loss team from a mega-conference could easily get the nod from voters to play in a title game over an undefeated mid-major team.  Considering the strength of schedule from a 16-team SEC and/or Pac 10, it would be very difficult to keep a conference champion from a dominant conference out of the National Championship.

The other major issue facing the non-BCS Conferences would be their ability to schedule decent out of conference games.  Boise State and TCU are already teams that present a no-win situation for a major program.  If the larger program wins, they were supposed to win.  If they lose, the upset becomes an instant classic.  A 16-team conference would provide more than enough competition and national recognition without scheduling a couple tough out of conference games, leaving the cupboard bare for the mid-majors to challenge the big boys.

College FootBlog wants your input.  Let us know your thoughts on the Mega-Conferences and the pros and cons if they become a reality.

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