Conference Realignment is Not Money Driven
By Jacob Shoor
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
"No school leaves one Major conference for another purely because it can get more money from TV deals for sports."
Garrett Strunk recently wrote a nice piece that everyone should read on the message board rumors, begun by a frenzied gaggle of Mountaineers, that the Big 12 is now about to become filthy rich (Because TCU is worth more than Texas A&M and WVU is worth more than Missouri? How did Mike Slive get that backwards?) and going to wave its fat Texas-sized wallet at Clemson and Florida State, and perhaps Georgia Tech and Miami, and/ or Maryland or Virginia Tech, and each one of them will trample children to be under the thumb of Bevo.
Strunk nails the issue with this: "It is disconcerting to me that in the modern state of college athletics a team's conference affiliation now goes to the highest bidder."
The biggest problem with conference affiliation being about the highest bidder is not the whoring aspect; rather it is that conmen knowing that playing field will cheat the gullible and greedy, and many others may make a good deal in the short run that blows up in their faces long term.
Outside of sports interests, I am dealing with a European company more than a century and a half old buying a fairly large American company. The most interesting comment I have heard in all the talk about what it all will mean came from a European. He said that American businessmen often act like teenagers, thinking only of the right now moment. They want the highest bonus or buyout now, and will risk everything in what seems like the far distant future to get what they covet right now. That, the European businessman said, is key to why so many profitable American companies are being bought by European companies.
What he meant was that Americans are like overgrown spoiled kids with little sense of the flow of history and its consequences. He meant we want our MTV, and we want it now, and we will sell our birthrights for a mess of pottage.
That is the childish attitude that Strunk has seen from more than a few Clemson and Florida State fans posting online. And like the Deltas and Otter in Animal House, they are just being patriotic - as long as you equate American patriotism with short-sighted indulgence.
It is a given that any school that is not in a Major conference and wishes to play major college sports will take an offer from one. It is something else entirely for a school in a Major conference to leave for another Major conference. The simplistic whose blinkers have them seeing only dollar signs may never be able to comprehend it, but no school leaves one Major conference for another purely because it can get more money from TV deals for sports.
Since this era began, with the lawsuit that broke apart the NCAA monopoly on TV deals for schools and conferences, allowing them to pursue their own, a total of 11 schools in three Major conferences have moved to another Major conference.
The first was Arkansas leaving the SWC for the SEC. The long term result of that move was the slow death of the SWC, which was then restricted to one state and only two soundly profitable athletics departments: Texas and Texas A&M. The primary reason Arkansas left its old rivalries was that the school could not trust the University of Texas and with an option would no longer sit under the Longhorn thumb. Roy Kramer certainly outlined how Arkansas sports would gain fiscally from SEC membership, but the primary reason that Frank Broyles led the Hogs out of the SWC was to get shed of Texas.
The largest group of Major conference schools to leave for another conference is the Big East with six: five to the ACC (BC, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pitt, and Syracuse) and one to the Big 12 (WVU). Not even WVU left primarily for a fatter TV deal.
VT wanted desperately to be in the ACC from its inception for academic ties and cultural reasons at least as much as for sports money and rivalries. VT would have left the BE for the ACC for less TV sports money.
Miami under President Tad Foote set its goals on joining the ACC to advance its mission to become one of the nation's premier private universities. That its most important football rival Florida State was in the ACC and wanted it to be in the ACC as well was icing on the cake. But the University of Miami's leadership wanted in the ACC to be a peer of schools like Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech.
BC wanted to be in the ACC because it saw that Big East football could not work well without adding more schools with academic rankings it would prefer not be made its peers and because the move would add to the school's academic prestige.
Syracuse has been working to get the ACC to add it in an expansion to 14 since VT got in rather than Syracuse. Syracuse is a once elite private university that has lost a bit of its academic luster and expects that ACC membership will prove more than helpful to its rise in academic standings.
Pitt like UVA, UNC, and GT is a Public Ivy, and the school's leadership has long been interested in getting the university into a conference that fits with its academic stature. As Pitt is an eastern school with a sports and academic history of working closely with multiple private schools, the ACC is a much better fit for Pitt than the Big Ten or Big East football. As the Pitt leadership realized that the two-headed freak (one head of eight basketball-only schools and the other head of eight football schools) that is the Big East could not last, it positioned itself to get into the ACC. The move was made not primarily for more sports dollars, but for the best cultural and academic fit that also would facilitate playing major college sports.
WVU left the Big East for the Big 12 because it had no choice if it wished to remain in a Major conference, because the losses of Pitt and Syracuse, which had the Big East's two biggest football histories and meant the loss of the Big East's two largest states, eventually would mean the Big East would forfeit its Major conference status.
And then we have four schools (Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, Missouri) that have left the Big 12. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten because it hated Texas and could no more trust Texas just like Arkansas had two decades before. Colorado, which is located in Boulder, a town many see as Berkeley, CA East, has long looked to the Golden State, but Colorado also left the Big 12 for the Pac because it did not trust Texas and its unique position in the Big 12. Texas A&M left the Big 12 and one of the oldest and most tradition laden rivalries in college football because it could not trust Texas. Missouri later left for the SEC to join the Aggies, leaving its storied and ancient rivalry with Kansas, because it could not trust Texas.
Not one of those schools switched from one Major conference to another primarily because of a larger TV contract. The two common reasons for switching from one Major conference to another are (1) desire to participate as a peer of ACC institutions, which will help the school achieve its academic goals, and (2) desire to get shed of the University of Texas as untrustworthy and hated conference overlord.
If we place those two together, we will realize that the historical pattern suggests it is considerably more likely that another Big 12 school or two or three are now begging the SEC and/or Big Ten and/or Pac for a means of escaping Texas than that the Big 12 is going to gut any other Major conference.
Casual football fans venting on the internet may be lowest common denominator thinkers who assume that the people who lead ACC schools are as simplistic and short-sightedly greedy as they are. But they are wrong.