A very odd announcement came out today from the Big 12 and the SEC. Starting in 2014, the year the current BCS system ends and the four team playoff begins, the two conferences have agreed to pit their conference champions against each other in a New Years Bowl. Basically the same arrangement the Pac-12 and Big Ten made for the Rose Bowl…100 years ago. Better late than never, right? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because this only applies if both conference champions are not in the four team playoff. Since 1996 when the Big 12 was founded, there has never been a year that it’s champion and the SEC champion both finished outside the top 4.
So why agree to this at all? With changes coming to the BCS, they wanted to make sure that they had a great bowl matchup. Obviously they prefer to be in the playoff, but if not, they know they will get a great game with big ratings. But it’s not the game so much I am concerned with. Conferences will always get their champions in great bowl games if they are the Big 12 or SEC.
No, this shows of something bigger. Mike Slive said the Big 12 and SEC were the two best conferences in the BCS era. No question the SEC has dominated the BCS, but the Big 12? Hard to say they have done any better than the Big Ten or Pac 12. But that’s just the point. The Big East is no more. Completely irrelevant. The ACC just doesn’t have any football power left. College football is consolidating around these big four conferences. It would be no surprise then if they decide the four team playoff is merely these four conference champions. You know they would prefer that.
So how do they accomplish it? Pillage the ACC, that’s how. If the Big 12 poaches Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson, they only need to add BYU and Notre Dame to reach 16. The SEC only needs Virginia Tech and maybe North Carolina State. The Big Ten only needs Maryland, Rutgers, Uconn, North Carolina, Duke, shoot they can have their pick. Everyone left leaves the Big East to be only basketball and joins the remaining ACC.
Then you have the Big Four, the ACC and MWC/CUSA, and everyone else. Three of those big four would have 16 team super conferences. I don’t think there are enough teams out west for the Pac 12 to get past 12, but they would be happy with things as they are I’m sure. Those four conferences would really be in control.
At that point it is only a matter of time before they say bye-bye to the NCAA and make their own league. Why? Because they could pay players, a big draw in recruiting. They wouldn’t be handcuffed by academic requirements. They could make their own rules. They could turn college sports into a big business instead of making it about student athletes. And why wouldn’t they? Anyone who leaves money on the table is crazy. And if you get a big four, staying in the NCAA is money on the table.
Who knows, it will probably never happen. But Florida State is holding things together right now. If they bolt for the Big 12, others will follow, the Big East will get plundered by the ACC, the ACC will get plundered by everyone else. Conference shifts will continue until you get four major conferences and that’s all. So no pressure Florida State. The future of college sports pretty much depends on what you decide to do with your conference affiliation.