September 6, 2011

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NCAA Conference Realignment: Why Mega Conferences Could Help College Football

By: Anson Whaley

 

With recent news about the Big 12 potentially losing Texas A&M and other member schools, NCAA conference realignment got back into the news this past week in a big way. In case you’re not up to speed, the ten-team Big 12 conference could be on the ropes. Texas A&M’s planned departure isn’t the only thing to worry about, either. In recent days, additional schools have also been linked to other conferences as well – most recently, powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas have been rumored to potentially become a part of a PAC 16-conference. If the Big 12 ceases to exist, there could be a free-for-all unrivaled by anything we’ve ever seen before. Other conferences would be fighting for the remaining schools such as Missouri and Oklahoma State, which would strengthen any conference.

If the current Pac 12 expands to 16 teams, other conferences would likely follow suit. The question is, if others move towards expansion under the ‘Bigger is Better’ mantra, would that necessarily be good for college football?

My answer is yes.

Right now, there are a total of 66 teams that make up the six BCS football conferences – the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 12. If each of those six became ‘mega’ football conferences to include 16 teams, a total of 96 programs would then fall under the BCS umbrella. If mega conferences ever became a reality, the more common scenario most discussed is that there would only be four or five of them. But if the BCS remains, I’m convinced that keeping six conferences would be a good thing.

So why would mega conferences help college football? Simply put, more college football teams would have an opportunity to play in the BCS bowls and in a national championship game. We’ve all seen it before – talented teams being left out of the national championship game or the BCS altogether. The 2004 Auburn Tigers finished their season going undefeated in the SEC, but couldn’t earn a spot in the title game. Then there were the 2006 Boise State Broncos that were the only undefeated team in college football, but still left out of the championship. While these kinds of injustices don’t occur every year, they have happened and will continue to do so.

It can also be argued that teams in smaller conferences don’t have the same opportunities as their BCS-conference brethren. By expanding the BCS conferences, though, those disadvantages would largely disappear. Not only would teams such as Boise State and BYU get their shot at winning a national championship by running the table in a more difficult schedule, but 28 more programs would get their chance as well. And while it could be argued that most non-BCS conference teams couldn’t realistically compete for a national championship, those teams could fight for spots in BCS bowl games.

Sure, mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything. Arguments from the remaining non-BCS conference participants would continue to exist. There would be cries from those left on the outside looking in just as there are every year in the NCAA basketball tournament. The difference, though, is that there’d be fewer of them and many non-BCS schools would have a difficult time putting together a strong case that they should be able to play in a BCS bowl – let alone a national championship.

Another argument against six mega conferences may be that teams wouldn’t get to face every school in their conference. But that already exists as things stand right now and with a short college season, playing every team simply isn’t realistic. Mega conferences would likely need to consist of two divisions where winners would meet in a conference championship game.

Mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything and in the eyes of some fans, the only way to go would be a playoff system. But as long as the BCS exists, finding ways to include as many teams as possible is the best thing to do.

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