OUR VIEW: Is conference realignment good for college football?

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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If you follow college football – and we’re guessing almost all of you do — then you know that game has changed more than any over the last few years.

From NIL money to the latest news of teams changing conferences, the landscape of collegiate sports has turned on its head recently. After the latest wave of realignment, it looks like the Pac 12 — the self-proclaimed conference of champions — is teetering on the verge of extinction, down to only four teams starting in 2024.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 — once considered left for dead — has revived itself, adding teams from around the country last year and now bringing in Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. The Big Ten, once a Midwest-focused conference, now will have four teams from the west coast — USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington.

Teams like Florida State are loudly voicing their displeasure at the financial disparity they see in the ACC compared to what teams in the SEC and Big Ten receive. It all comes down to TV money.

As we type this, only the ACC and SEC have really stayed true to their geographical landscape. The four former Pac 12 teams in the Big Ten will travel thousands of miles now. Can you imagine fans of Rutgers (it’s in New Jersey for those of you wondering) wanting to see the Scarlet Knights play Washington? It’s 2,853 miles, so we’re guessing driving is out of the equation. 

We also feel bad for the other sports impacted. Football is king and unfortunately dwarfs everything else. It’s possible that teams left out in the Pac 12 — California, Stanford, Washington State and Oregon State — will have to cut other sports as their athletic budgets shrink with less television money.

Also, traditional rivalries matter. And while few care in the south, it’s sad to see rivalries like the Apple Cup (Washington-Washington State) and the Oregon-Oregon State game (formerly called the Civil War) possibly end because of television money.

Imagine if Alabama and Auburn went separate directions. No Iron Bowl? Could you imagine?

We know college football hits different in the south than on the west coast, but those west coast rivalry games still matter and may not happen annually anymore.

Thankfully, the SEC has been largely untouched in this wave of realignment, with Oklahoma and Texas set to join the conference next year. However, we know SEC leadership is paying attention..

Does going beyond 16 makes sense, and if it does, will the SEC be able to keep geography in mind while also adding teams that will make a positive impact on the overall conference? 

The general consensus is that Florida State and Clemson would bring a lot on the field, but probably wouldn’t impact TV markets like North Carolina and Virginia do. 

And with no offense to those esteemed colleges, who have tremendous basketball programs, therein lies the entire issue with realignment. Even when it comes to football, right now UNC and UVA are reportedly more sought after than Florida State and Clemson, who have won 30% of the last 10 national championships. Neither the Tar Heels or Cavaliers have ever won a national title in football.

Make it make sense. 

Things are changing at a dizzying rate, and some of those changes are probably for the better. However, our heads are spinning trying to keep up, and frankly we’re worried about the future of a game we all love so much.