The N.C.A.A as we know it is about to change. A revolution is brewing, War is afoot between the conference. The new movement began with the Big Ten talk of expansion a few months ago, but the effects will be felt across the U.S.A. soon. The first shots in the 2010 Great Conference War have already been fired in the Midwest. As I type, Athletics Directors and Conference Commissioners are discussing the course to follow in this rapid unravelling of the status quo. When the dust settles, in the next couple of days, weeks or months, the N.C.A.A will have probably undergone a complete overhaul. This is a historical time for the N.C.A.A and American sports. No one knows at this point in time how it will all play out, but it is likely that the N.C.A.A will never be the same.
The Big Ten has been mulling over expansion for quite some time now. The immense success of the SEC, both financially and on the field, that came along with expansion to 12 teams in 1991, has placed it in a league of its own in College Football. Of the 12 teams that have won the National Title since the league expanded, 4 were from the SEC (which could move up to 5 if Auburn is awarded the 2004 crown in light of the N.C.A.A sanctions to U.S.C over the Reggie Bush fiasco). The dominance has been more pronounced of late with the SEC claiming the last 4 National Titles. The other conferences have been playing catch up ever since. The Big 12 quickly followed suit by coming into being in 1994 (a merger of the Big 8 and the Texas schools) and they have also enjoyed some success since. Certainly one of the biggest factors in this success is the Conference Championship Game of these conferences, which not only brings in lucrative TV deals and exposure, but also often acts as a play in to the National Championship Game. The ACC was the last conference to follow suit a few years ago when it raided the Big East and added Miami, V.Tech, and Boston College. A Conference Championship can only be played if a conference has 12 teams in it, as per N.C.A.A rules. This has left the Pac-10 and Big Ten on the outside looking in. The Big Ten (which actually has 11 teams) is only 1 shy of being able to get that lucrative Championship Game and they have been looking to expand for some time.
Notre Dame has been called to be the 12th member many times. The Fighting Irish however have continuously scoffed at any talk of losing their independent status. As a result other candidates have emerged. This include, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Missouri, and others. Earlier this week, it came to light that Nebraska will probably bolt from the Big 12 and join the Big Ten. This possibility is being discussed in Lincoln today and an announcement could come as soon as tonight. Colorado then struck preemptively and accepted a Pac-10 invitation on Thursday. The Big 12 has been shaken at its core. If Nebraska jumps ship to the Big Ten a series of events can follow.
Why stop at 12 teams? Many outlets are reporting that the Pac 10 and Big Ten have some serious imperialist ambitions. Some are hinting that both the Pac 10 and Big Ten will enlist more schools to form two 16 team mega conferences. By bolting from the Big 12, Nebraska will in all likelihood set off the complete destruction of the conference. Texas has warned that if Nebraska goes, it will follow, either to the Big Ten or the Pac-10. Some have said that the Pac-10 is poised to add all of the Texas schools and Oklahoma/Oklahoma St and thus have all the competitive schools West of the Mississippi river. Kansas City TV claims that Texas and Texas A&M are still interested in the Big Ten, but without Texas Tech or Baylor, and that Oklahoma is the fold with the SEC. Other reports are stating that the SEC, who cannot afford to let the Big Ten and Pac-10 swallow up the nation without making a move, has already invited Virginia Tech and Texas A&M.
It is madness all around and no one knows for sure how it will end. The only thing that is sure is that the Great Conference War of 2010 is underway. The Big 12 will in all likelihood be destroyed and annexed by the Big Ten and Pac-10, and possible the SEC. It remains to be seen what the SEC reaction will be. The mere existence of the ACC is in jeopardy as well. Clemson, FSU, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, UNC have all been rumoured as candidates for the SEC. At this point in time nothing is confirmed, except Colorado to the Pac 10, but nothing has been denied either and many outlets have openly propagated the upcoming revolution in college athletics.
Therefore it appears likely that a 4 or 5 Mega Conference N.C.A.A. will come into being. This could mean 1 mega conference in the North (a juiced up Big Ten), 1 in the West (a super Pac 10), 1 in the South (an expanded SEC), and one in the East made up of the remnants of the ACC and Big East after the SEC and Big Ten have done their pillaging. Another potential 5th mega conference could emerged out of the ashes of the Big 12 and the Mountain West Conference joining forces.
What does this mean to the fans? That is open for debate and remains to be seen. Some will like it because it seems to set the stage for the much awaited deathof the BCS and birth of a playoff system (with 4 or 5 Mega Conferences it is easy to set up an 8 team playoff of the winners of each conference and a few at large bids). Also there is the potential for many extra attractive regular season games and Conference Championship Games. Others, like CBS’ Gary Danielson are hoping this change is not a detriment to the established traditions and rivalries that make College Football what it is. That is the greatest threat in all this expansion talk and hopefully whoever is in charge of making these decisions is fully aware of the potential consequences.
The next shots in this war could come shortly, but no one knows from who. A full onslaught by the Pac 10 and/or Big Ten is feared by many. The Big 12 schools are making war preparations to defend their conference if need be. The SEC awaits the initial thrust to make its counter attack. Universities across the U.S. are making calculations and aligning themselves for what is to come. The media and fans are buzzing with anticipation.
We are entering the calm before the storm. Let’s all hold our collective breath and hope they don’t ruin the greatest sport league in North America.
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Written by The Gator Great