A few weeks ago in the “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Michael Solomon wrote that ‘the ugly’ was the formation of the new Super Conferences and how we’re closer to the “Pac-28” then the “Pac-10.” The same rings true today. Only three weeks later, the Big 12 and Big East have both started crumbling into ashes of what their former conferences were. Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh have left the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), while the University of Texas, Oklahoma University, Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech are all having closed door meetings to decide the future fate of their respective memberships in the Big 12.
The potential destruction of the traditions and history surrounding many of these conferences is about to go straight out the window. The Big 12 is about to become a mid-major conference. According to Andy Katz of ESPN, the Big 12 is soon to be the Big 2 with only Missouri and Kansas not currently looking at other options. The Big East, once the premier college basketball conference with 11 of its 16 members making the NCAA Tournament just last year, is now the “Not so Big and Not so East” with Texas Christian University (TCU) having joined last year, which is located in Fort Worth, Texas.
What we continually forget about these conference remodeling is not the fact that in the very near future we’re going to end up with two conferences which will just be called the “Big Pac West” and the “Big Atlantic EC” but why these Universities are making these major realignment switches. Every team needs to have the ability to change conferences, can you imagine if Tulane University still played in the SEC like they used to? But the fact is these universities are not making the switch for better and fairer competition or better academics, but rather for lots and lots and lots and lots of money.
With the creation of the individual conference networks, money became a major tenet of the future of college sports. It started with a commercially viable Big Ten Network and has ended with the $330 million Longhorn Network. This is the penultimate problem with major college sports. What is the essential purpose of college sports? It is to provide students the opportunity to compete at a high level event for fun and glory. Today, college sports have turned into the “you’re here to play and win first, school second” rather then “you’re here to learn first and if you win, that’s great too.” Universities are losing touch with the essence of amateur athletics and have become obsessed with the bottom line. How many times have players been paid under the table all across the country while coaches, athletic directors, professors and even presidents and deans look the other way?
These conference realignments are by far and large the most hypocritical event in American sporting history. Major colleges and universities can no longer say they are in athletics “for the student,” when they so blatantly are not. The student athlete is no more, might as well just call them “the money machine.”