Seismic shakeup A number of schools changed conferences but have we seen

After the Cornhuskers made the Big 12 a smaller 11, the Pac-10 snagged Colorado, leaving the Big 12 at 10 teams. Many anticipated more action from the Pac-10, expecting the conference to attempt to rival the Big Ten by expanding to as many as 16 schools. But after swiping Utah from the Mountain West, the Pac-10, now with 12 teams, appears satisfied. Utah will join the Pac-10 in 2011, Colorado in 2012. “I expected that to happen — new commissioner in the Pac-10, new television agreement coming up,” Smith said. “It made sense for them, so I knew the Pac-10 was going to go that way, and I knew that it would affect the Big 12, but I just didn’t know how. When television contracts are getting ready to come up and people see the changing landscape in television, people start adding inventory.” The shakeups left the Big 12 on life support, with just 10 teams and its moneymaker, Texas, contemplating a switch itself. Texas A&M even received an invitation to join the SEC. But a new TV deal, set up to make Texas the main attraction, got all teams on board, saving the Big 12 as a league with 10 schools. But plates continued to shift and movement persisted. Boise State, a perennial BCS bowl-game contender in the last decade, parted ways with loads of inferior competition in the WAC to join the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State and Nevada also will join the MWC in 2012, while Boise will enroll in 2011. One of the signature programs of the MWC, however, isn’t sticking around to face the newcomers. Brigham Young will become an independent in football in 2011, a title only Notre Dame, Army and Navy claim in Division I. For all other sports, BYU will join the West Coast Conference. “We’ve long sought broad, nationwide access to our games for our fans and increased visibility among those who may be less familiar with our university and athletic programs,” BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson said in a press release. “We’ve also been looking for ways to take better advantage of our own unique broadcasting resources.” After the dust settled, there were more rumblings than actual quakes. There was never that one tremor that affected the entire nation, which many expected and some feared. Instead, we’re left with minor face lifts to several conferences, and we’re left with more questions about potential future shakeups. “I’m watching everybody else,” Smith said. “We’re (the Big Ten) basically done for now. I don’t know if we’ll expand anymore, I really don’t. It’s a possibility, but what’s interesting is watching the rest of the landscape.” The rumbling started last winter, when the Big Ten announced its intentions to explore conference expansion. It culminated months later in significant, nationwide shifts. The first tremor shook the Midwest, when Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten. The reshuffling set off a series of quakes felt all around the country, from the Pac-10 to the Big 12 to the Mountain West. In the end, if we have reached the end, the landscape of college football changed, though not as dramatically as the initial quivers suggested. But have these relocations been the result of a routine shakeup, or is this the start of a major restructuring? Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the transformation results from changing revenue streams. “If you look back over the history of college sports, the one thing that’s constant is change,” Smith said. “One of the largest areas of revenue for all of us is television money. People don’t want to talk about it, but it’s true. The reality is, as television changes, and all the mediums change for communication, the conferences have to shift in order to maximize revenue opportunities off of them.” Initial rumors suggested college football could be transitioning to feature four “super-conferences,” each equipped with 12 to 16 teams — enough power and revenue to bury non-BCS leagues in the sand. “I think it’s possible because the thought is there,” Smith said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a playoff like the public wants. I see a lot of challenges with that on a lot of different levels. But do I see playoffs within a conference that could lead to something like that on a smaller scale? Yeah. So, when you get to those 16, you get to two or four conferences with 16 teams, divisions, that type of stuff. I can see that down the road.” The notion of super-conferences stemmed from indications that the Big Ten was prepared to expand to 14 or 16 teams, adding from the likes of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Rutgers, Texas and Missouri to stretch its reach across more of the country. Plucking programs from other conferences would force those battered leagues to fuse together to match the Big Ten’s muscle. “People use the term ‘arms race,’ which I really don’t think is it,” Smith said. “We’re like any restaurateur, we’re like the college of business, we’re like the college of engineering. We’re like everybody else that aspires to be No. 1. Yes, you can use the term ‘arms race,’ but frankly, we’re just strengthening the business.” The super-conference idea hasn’t panned out just yet. Instead, a series of aftershocks sent a handful of teams in and out of new conferences.

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