Academics and Conference Expansion

Expansion talk is now swirling around college athletics. These swirling rumors are out to wreck the conference formerly known as the Big-12. The fascinating element of this is the academic component of conference realignment or expansion.

The reports circulating are that the Pac-10 will be expanding and raiding the Big-12 for; Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma St. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Colorado. The Pac-10 which is a conference known for being very liberal in thinking but very strict with the academic component that exists when it extends an invitation for membership is extending invitations to six schools, three of which that belong to an exclusive academic club. If one recognizes the academic component of this it actually makes the realignment talk very simple.

The tool that many school presidents of Big-10 and Pac-10 schools will ultimately use is the Association of American Universities Membership. Think of it this way for those of you who understand some of collegiate culture; you join a fraternity (yes, I understand that some people believe fraternity or sorority life is about wild parties etc. but it is actually at its purest, a way to help young men and women during their college years (studying etc.) or after college (finding jobs)), if you are a brother or sister of some fraternity or sorority and you walk into an employment situation and you are being interviewed by a person is who is your brother or sister you may get the job because of your affiliation.

The AAU is basically a fraternity of elite schools, which brings us to the case of the Big-10; Rutgers, Missouri and Nebraska if you believe reports have been offered membership into the Big 10, all three schools are part of the AAU. So the next question that should be asked; if the Big-10 wants to go to 16 teams and Notre Dame is not going to make the jump who are the schools in the area that belong to the AAU (by the way currently every school in the Big-10 belongs to the AAU). Pittsburgh, Kansas, Iowa St. are all members of the AAU. I honestly do not believe that the Big-10 presidents will allow a non AAU member to sully the conference’s academic reputation so you have two spots for three schools, so who will be the odd man out? It may not come to that as the Big-10 probably won’t admit Pitt, but you figure Iowa St, and Kansas are both AAU members and big land grant universities.

So do not be surprised if you hear that the Big 10 makes a move on the scale of the Pac-10 with Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa St. Kansas, and Rutgers for an even 16. The thing we all as sports fans have to remember the guys making these decisions are not rabid sports fans, these are the guys that walked through the halls at your high school or at a prep school, worrying about sine, cosine and tangent or are aware that there ways to create a triangle with three right angles. While some of us were watching Nebraska vs. Miami, they were watching Nova, or reading Scientific American.

Expansion talk is a reminder to the sports fan casual or rabid, that at the end of the day though college athletics is a business, the business of college is to educate, which means that these college presidents will make sure that we all are aware of the academic component in these alliances.

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