Once upon a time the college football landscape in America made sense. Athletic conferences consisted largely of universities within easily identifiable geographic boundaries or regions.
Lots of natural rivalries, relatively easy weekend trips for games on the road.
Contrast those days with some of the conference expansion or realignment scenarios currently being offered. Among them Louisville and/or Pittsburgh to the Big 12, Louisville or Clemson to the SEC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the PAC12, Missouri to the SEC, the PAC 12 or the Big East. Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State to the Big East. There’s a new rumor every day, the latest being West Virginia as a leading SEC candidate.
The only thing some of the schools have in common is they play football.
The Big Ten, the conference that started it all, has been unusually quiet since Nebraska was added as the 12th member. The inaction won’t last long, not with Jim Delaney as commissioner, the one who suggested Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh might fit before dousing them with ice water. Any day now the Big Ten will send a signal that it’s not done, further scrambling the conference expansion picture.
TV money is obviously the driving force behind the expansion mania. But also involved are the massive egos of the jocks, the kingpins running the conferences, each trying to outdo the other. Just a matter of time before they decide they’re bigger than the NCAA and form their own governing body.
In the process of realigning the conferences and whatever follows, they may wind up inflicting serious damage on college athletics, especially on the non-revenue programs. It will be occurring at a time when the integrity of many programs are being exposed.
Natural rivalries are threatened, economies are exaggerated, and tradition is trivialized, not to mention the effects of so much travel on athletes and their studies. And, as in any economic endeavor, the days of escalating television revenues won’t last forever.