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Strength in numbers

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Much like college GPA’s, NCAA athletic power conferences are all about numbers.

However, much like college GPA’s, numbers can be misleading.

For example, the Big Ten has for a long time been comprised of 11 members, and with the recent addition of Nebraska now has 12 schools (11+1=Big Ten).  The Big-12 has had 12 teams since its establishment in 1996 but with the departure of the Buffaloes and Cornhuskers it now has a standing membership of merely ten and looks to be losing another in Texas A&M  (12-[2 or 3]=Big 12).  The Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah, stretching its capacity from ten to 12.  However, the Pac-10 accompanied its expansion with a name changed to the Pac-12 (10+2= Pac 12).  Finally, some math that adds up.

Although the remaining “power six” conferences don’t have numerals in their titles, numbers are still very important.

The SEC has just announced the acceptance of Texas A&M as its 13th member and could be adding number 14 soon (possibly Missouri, although the SEC has denied informally inviting the Tigers to join).  The ACC, too, is looking to inflate to 14 patrons, offering membership to Syracuse and Pittsburgh just this week with rumors swirling that it could be looking to snag two more schools from the Big East to jump to 16 members.  The Big East (a.k.a. the Big Half the Country), arguably the most super of all super-conferences in terms of sheer numbers, currently has 16 members, although the subtraction of Pitt and Syracuse will drop it down to 14, and more importantly to only six football schools.

So, how is this all going to end up?

Well, reports today are saying that the Pac-12 is done expanding and all remaining members of the Big East are staying put.

Assuming these reports are accurate and that those involved will actually follow through on their intentions, this is what we’re left with:

Texas and Oklahoma (and Oklahoma State by default) have nowhere to run and are forced to remain in the Big-12 (a.k.a. the Big-9).  The SEC has 13 members and must find a 14th somewhere in order to have even divisions with seven teams apiece.  The ACC has 14 members and must look elsewhere other than the Big East to get its 15th and 16th schools if it desires to continue expanding.  The Big East is left with 14 schools in basketball and a severely weaker football conference with just six members.  The Pac-12 and Big Ten are finished expanding, content and stable with 12 members alike.

What MUST happen…

Nothing NEEDS to change in the Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC.  However, for the remaining three power conferences, additions MUST be made.

The SEC only needs one more member.  The Big-12 could survive, momentarily, with just a single addition to reach 10 members, but likely would need three to be highly competitive with the other leagues.  However, if the SEC’s 14th school is Missouri, then the Big-12 will need two immediate joinees and four altogether long-term.  As for the Big East, it is fine with 14 members in basketball, although Pitt and Syracuse were two of its elite.  Football is another story.  The Big East has to add two more football schools, at least.  TCU has already accepted an invitation to join the Big East next summer, however the school may change its mind due to the recent alterations.

At first, all of this conference shifting slash realigning slash seceding kind of annoyed me.  I liked things the way they were.  I didn’t like the idea of schools jumping ship for more money or just to be different and difficult.  But now, who cares?  Schools are just chasing the money as they should.  The games are going to be just as long and contain just as many players regardless of who’s playing who and where.  And change is a good thing, for universities and fans.  As fans, we’ll get to see new match-ups of teams that we normally wouldn’t see play one another and in games that are more meaningful.  The real beneficiaries of major conference expansion are the elite “mid-majors.”  School like BYU, Utah, TCU and others now have the opportunity to play in power leagues.

We all go to college to learn, and you don’t have to be a math major to know that 12-2=10, or 14+2=16.  Just like you don’t have to be an athletic conference commisioner to know that teams + more teams = more $$$.

After all, I’m sure the increase in profit margin will result in an additional increase in scholarships.  Yea, definitely.


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