There are many things that happen during the course of the college football season that make up the full journey. Upsets, BCS flaws/snubbing, rivalries, tailgating and the Lee Corso mascot headgear predictions all make us college football junkies feel like it’s that special time of year. The trend lately has been, no season is complete without the latest news in the conference realignment saga. This week has been no different with the news of the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights announcing their move to the Big 10.
The urban legend in the college football universe is the term super conferences and while some would have you believe they are just a myth, every new shake-up within the landscape only adds to the inevitable. Super conferences are coming and its only a matter of time before there is conferences with 16 teams. With realignment discussions comes the mad scramble of programs trying to find their place in the conference geography.
The Big 12 is no stranger to the effects of teams jumping ship and pledging their loyalty to a new commissioner. They’ve resurrected their standing after the conference faced total destruction, now they’re a stronger conference because of it. You can laugh at the term strength after witnessing the downfall of the West Virginia Mountaineers, but their new media rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports media group cackled right back at you.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has stated the conference is happy with 10 members, now that would be a good approach in the old platform, but this is a new age in college athletics, you have to be innovative to survive. The Southeastern Conference is sitting happy with 14 members and the Big 10 will now have the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to put the conference at 14. The Big East reconstructed itself to get off life support, however the recent news of the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs having second thoughts complicates things, conferences are trying to add teams, better yet media rights money, to survive.
It makes sense for the Big 12 to add the Louisville Cardinals and before you dismiss this as a corny what-if scenario, keep in mind that it was going to be either the Cardinals or Mountaineers to gain admittance into the conference. It turned into a heated race for UL and WVU to get the final spot. The Big 12 showed interest in Louisville before and for good reason. Since every move boils down to money, the conference would gain a very strong media market in Louisville.
If you still doubt the power of Louisville to the Big 12, look no further than a dreadfully cold night in 2006 when the No. 5 Cardinals met the No. 3 Mountaineers in front of the largest national audience to watch an ESPN-broadcast college football game. Media rights matter in conference realignment, nothing else, therefore the Big 12 needs to embrace this and make the viewership stronger for their brand.
There might be some competition for this next suggestion, but again the Big 12 should pursue media markets and adding the No. 4 ranked college football market, according to ESPN Media Zone, would benefit the conference beyond what they could accomplish in their previous life. The Clemson Tigers should be another team on the Big 12 radar. The Big 12 would improve their brand by dipping into the Atlanta market and bring in a proud football brand with Clemson.
Whether you accept it or not, the only base these decisions come from is money. Bowlsby has stated the conference is perfectly happy with a round-robin conference champion, but decisions change based on information at ones’ disposal during a time period. Teams will need to do everything they can to improve their standing with the selection committee when the playoff format begins in the 2014 season. If the Big 12 is without a conference championship, while the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 10 all have conference championships for their teams to make a final case to be in the final four, the conference could face being shunned for not enough quality wins.
The landscape is constantly changing, its best to get on board, rather than get left behind.
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