Boo. That was the first word that came to mind upon hearing of the decision by both the Pac-12 and the Big Ten to suspend their non-conference agreement. In 2011 both conferences threw convention out the window and struck a deal to ensure each member of each conference would play a team of the other conference starting in 2017. Excuse me for being a fan, but how cool is that? The answer from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was… not very.
As when any two BCS programs meet on the collegeite field of play it carries a great deal of excitement. What makes the college football season so different from other sports is the urgency with every game. A loss in September could determine whether or not a program reaches the national championship. While the reality is fun for fans, it is riskier than a hike in Iran for coaches. Hence, Directional State University being scheduled as a non-conference opponent as opposed to fill in the blank SEC school.
The reasoning given for the change of mind for both the Pac-12 and Big Ten was the already difficult and long conference schedules. Pac-12 schools play nine conference games, and Big Ten schools play eight conference games. In layman’s terms: it’s easier to navigate a minefield that has less mines.
While a guaranteed Minnesota-Oregon State or Cal-Michigan game would be enjoyable for the fan bases of both conferences, it would be one too many potential losses. To be fair, the agreement called for scheduling not just across football but for other sports as well. In the press release commissioner Scott sounded at least a little disappointed,
“After extensive deliberation and consultation with member institutions, television partners and others, the Pac-12 and Big Ten have decided not to pursue the previously announced plans for enhanced scheduling collaboration across all sports at this time. While we continue to value our close relationship, particularly our partnership in the Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 came to the conclusion that it’s in our best interests to maintain our 9-game conference schedule and maximum flexibility in out-of-conference scheduling. Thus, the Pac-12 decided not to lock into the proposed mandatory 12-game schedule in football.”
Even with the new four team “playoff” system being implemented in 2014 the invitation will still be highly exclusive. Making it to the dance will still mean teams must go undefeated or absorb one maybe two losses. Many Pac-12 and Big Ten schools already have some difficult enough non-conference games and that includes each other. Utah and Michigan is a recent example. So all is not lost.
College football like so many other facets of life is a game of needs and wants. Big time programs need to make money and they want to win. A more difficult schedule means more losses and less BCS bowl money. We will watch regardless because we want interesting games but need football.