Sep 21

Conference Confusion

Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC  Tags: college football

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Sometimes mass confusion leads us to the simplicist solution. As I sit and watch my beloved Atlanta Braves flush a perfectly good season down the toilet, I have begun thinking about all of this conference expansion stuff in major college football (basketball, if you are an ACC fan). It has become ridiculous. It is crazy. It is going too far. And the reason, like most everything else in life, is because of the Benjamins, baby.  It is about money, and very little else. Everyone is jockeying for the best chance to make the BCS (or the Final Four) and to have their conference in the biggest "TV market," a term that goes with conference expansion like cold goes with winter. School names are thrown around everywhere, and you have to wonder if anything will ever be an advantageous move for anyone with so much switching and changing. But if this shake-up that is underway gets us closer to a true playoff of some sort, then I will just sit back and watch and see what happens...

This has become just a big old ball of mass confusion. Last year - for taking effect  this year and '12 - Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and TCU made switches. And as we discuss this, talks have been swirling like mad for teams all across the country.

Texas seems to be the school that started the whole mess, getting on Nebraska's nerves until the 'Huskers abandoned the Big 12 last year. But Nebraska is apparently not the only school uncool with UT's strong-arming. Texas A&M has hogged the expansion spotlight all summer long, with ESPN reporting about a half-dozen times that the Aggies would be invited into the SEC. That, obviously, never happened. But from what it looks like, A&M is determined to go somewhere.

So while all summer we kept hearing over and over and over that A&M was about to make a move, here in week three of the season, POOF, out of nowhere, the ACC drops the bomb that Syracuse and Pitt had joined up. What?! I thought this whole expanion deal was about the SEC and A&M. I guess behind the curtains, some major stuff had been going on all along in the ACC offices. And it is a basketball move, we will get to that...

So that makes six teams in two years to switch conferences (BCS tie-in conferences that is). And you have to wonder how far it will go. Will the rest of the Big East teams jump to new leagues? What will TCU do there (scehduled to begin Big East play in 2012) now that the Big East has just six football schools and may lose two more? Will they try to join into the Big 12 or SEC? Or maybe go independent for a few years? Their contract with the Big East probably doesn't include Pittsburgh and Syracuse not being in the league anymore.

While most of the country is making moves right and left for football, the ACC is establishing itself firmly as the top hoops conference. Pittsburgh and Syrcause bring outstanding basketball to an already solid league. And while both the Panthers and Orangemen have had their good moments on the football field, it is what they bring on the basketball court that makes the folks in Greensboro welcome them with open arms.

I am a football fan, and my school (Clemson) is a football school, so for years and years it has frustrated me that the ACC was such a basketball league. Even when Florida State joined in 1992, the league has kept a basketball reputation - and rightfully so. But lately, with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, and talks swirling about teams such as Villanova and Rutgers (as well as the denial of football school West Virginia), I have accepted, and am at peace with the fact, that the ACC is, and always will be, a basketball league. It just is.

So while the ACC will expand to 14 or maybe even 16 teams, only six or so will be true football schools that will put effort and money into challenging for BCS appearances.

But what about the rest of the country? Are other leagues going to join the ACC and move to 14 and/or 16 teams asap? Are we moving towards four, 16-team leagues of BCS tie-in schools? Would the eight teams appearing in those four conference championship games essentially be a college football playoff in disguise? We may find out soon.

The SEC and PAC 12 are still in talks with seemingly every team out there, and geography has little bounds anymore. Anything could happen at this point. The Big 12 and Big East are alive, but strategizing hard-core at what is the right move to be made. The wrong move could be very, very costly.

My guess is that the ACC will stay at 14 for right now. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 will also add two more teams to get to 14 teams, thus creating, in 2013 or 2014, a season long, 48-team playoff of sorts (that nobody will want to call that). Those eight division champions will form as close to a playoff as college football fans can hope for. The BCS bowl games would just need to be adjusted to fit.

The Big 12 and Big East are the mystery to me. I think what needs to happen is they dissolve up into the SEC and Pac 12.  There are some damn good teams in those two leagues, and I see those two leagues as the least stable. West Virginia and TCU are two schools solid enough that any conference should want them, and I dont see why West Virginia couldn't join the Big Ten, while TCU could join the SEC or Pac 12.

Where have I gone with all of this? I don't know. Probably nowhere. But that is kind of how I see all of this. A ton of stuff is talked about, but really, what gets accomplished? At the end of the day, your team still has to line up across the field from eleven other guys (or across the court from five other guys for us ACC folks), and be the better team. 

It is as simple as that - no matter which conference your team is in.

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