On the field, not in the polls
The end is nigh, and it’s entirely possible that by the end of this week, the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) landscape will have changed dramatically.
While this all started most recently with Texas A&M’s announced departure to the Southeast Conference (SEC), that move was only the spark reigniting a fire that started burning more than a year ago and has only one eventual outcome—the complete realignment of the top-tier college football world.
Super-conferences, those with more than 12 teams playing in multiple divisions will provide exactly the kind of play-off scenario so many have been looking for—a championship decided on the field.
Unless the NCAA steps in — and that will happen when pigs fly — the era of the super-conference will likely begin next year, bringing with it the death of the regional conferences and, of course, the death of numerous regional rivalries — the Texas vs. Texas A&M game being the biggest.
As for the super-conferences, the Pac-12, the ACC, the Big 10, the SEC, and perhaps the Mountain West are most prepared to expand to 16 teams. Most conferences now field eight to 12 teams.
On Saturday, Chip Brown, writing for Orangebloods.com, reported that Texas joined Oklahoma entering serious talks with the Pacific-12 conference (Pac-12) after the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) decided they didn’t want to go that far west and, instead, chose to expand with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech get to go along for the Pac-12 ride due to Oklahoma and Texas politics.
Sources close to Texas confirmed to me that the ACC was, indeed, Texas' first choice and that the situation is so fluid it has changed several times just this weekend.
If you want someone to blame for this, blame the Longhorn Network (LHN). Texas held the Big
12 10 9 together in order to make the LHN a reality. One year later, the LHN, despite having absolutely no audience, is the Big 12’s undoing.
The most embarrassing Aggie joke ever
It's not completely the Longhorn Network's fault, of course. Texas A&M hated the LHN probably because they completely blew their chance at being part of it. Invited by Texas to participate in a regional TV network four years ago, the Aggies said, "No, thanks." According to the AP, by the time the Ags realized how much money might be made and came back to the dock, the Longhorn Network yacht had sailed.
It is indeed a shame that regional rivalries may be lost due realignment, but it is not the end of the world; in fact, it may be exactly what college football needs to stay relevant and competitive for decades.
Every year since the BCS began, a hue and cry rises around Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until spring practice begins. It’s the primal scream of those who want a playoff to determine the National Champion on the field, rather than a bunch of sports writers, coaches and former players voting in polls.
College football, you have your playoffs
The super-conferences, with 16 teams playing in different divisions will have to create some method of choosing a conference champion; a conference championship game is a play-off.
Yes, for years several conferences have worked with championship games—the Big 12, the ACC and the SEC in particular. But the Big 10 did not, nor did the former Pac-10 or the Mountain West; and Notre Dame, as an independent, never had to play their way in to a championship and some (well, many) fans thought that was not fair.
Super-conferences, those with more than 12 teams playing in multiple divisions, will provide exactly the kind of play-off scenario so many have been looking for—a championship decided on the field. That’s a novel concept for the NCAA which ceded their oversight of Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) football a long time ago. The D-1 FBS National Championship is the only college champion chosen outside of an NCAA tournament.
The Longhorn Network
As for the Longhorn Network, better known as “the Network no one saw,” it will become the network no one will recognize if Texas moves. The Pac-12 does not allow single school television networks. The Longhorn Network would have to become some sort of regional network, perhaps including of all teams… Oklahoma. You can bet OU won’t be willing to let it keep its name either. There should be no question that Texas, the Pac-whatever and ESPN will get that figured out.
This is the only possible scenario left for Texas besides finding a little more bubblegum and baling wire to hold the Big
12 10 9 together; and the Pac-12 is the best scenario… unless you are simply counting dollar bills. Perhaps even the money makes it work, but there should be no doubt, it will be good for college football.