Sports

BIG Conference needs to ask itself some BIG questions before proceeding

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams
Photo: AP

College football is changing faster than it can handle. There are no playbooks or 100-level courses for what’s next in the sport. It feels like when I took a journalism business class after the Recession, and the professor was asking the students for suggestions.

So with media days starting up and practices beginning, there are some pressing questions these ADs should ask themselves. They see the revenue numbers from big-name universities gyrating in a massive heap of lusting flesh and are all too eager to jump in. However, it might be worth stopping and asking questions before contracting some disease that’s yet to be discovered.

Here are a few suggestions.

At what point does the conference have a monopoly?

The SEC and the Big Ten are vying for who can grab the biggest TV rights. They feel like Big Tech companies plucking smaller startups to add to their valuation/stranglehold on the industry. My business acumen is minimal, but gobbling up all the good stuff en route to maximum power sounds like a monopoly.

Speaking at Big Ten media days, commissioner Kevin Warren spoke about adding more members/value.

“I get asked every single day, what’s next? It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons, at the right time, with our student-athletes’ academic and athletic empowerment at the center of any and all decisions that we will make.

“We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic; it will add additional value to our conference.”

I’m not sure how much strategy goes into poaching the highest valued schools; that sounds pretty set explanatory. But if Big Conference has vastly more control over the TV rights, the championships, and the money than the other conferences, all the while bleeding competitors of their best assets, what is that? The Big Ten and SEC aren’t buying these universities, because everyone wants on board for the money. It feels predatory, but it’s voluntary. If we get to a point where the major conferences are so big that every school that’s not a part of one withers and dies, that has to be a violation of something.

When conference divisions are as big as what used to pass as a conference, does a division cease to be a conference?

It sounds like a math problem, but has some philosophical notes, as well. Am I overthinking it? Are they super divisions now since they’re in super conferences? There might not even be divisions anymore with the NCAA allowing conferences to select their title game participants by winning percentage, but that’s another (upcoming) question altogether.

The Big Eight featured the same teams from 1957-1995. For a long time, the Big East had nine teams. The SEC might opt for two eight-team divisions in football when Texas and Oklahoma are added. The Big Ten also could have similar splits, and grow even further. Won’t the discussion then pivot from strength of conference to strength of super division?

Also, what if Texas and Oklahoma or USC and UCLA aren’t happy with their super division? Can they jump super divisions? And when do these conferences get so bloated that they operate as mini NCAAs?

So many questions.

Trying to decipher a title game from a divisionless 16-team conference by winning percentage is a terrible idea

That’s not so much a question as it is a statement. Selecting conference title game participants by winning percentage sounds so simple, like a heist that was only half thought through. There’s always a pesky university though, and when not all teams play each other, there’s going to be annual cluster fucks that will lead to tie-breakers and some “deserving” school getting snubbed.

The pandemonium and outrage will cause the pundit apocalypse. And it’s unclear what good — other than a long prison sentence — comes from Paul Finebaum ripping out the larynx of a selection committee member after less than half of the playoff is from the SEC. If we wanted to disrupt the fabric of the time-space continuum, we could make every school independent and watch ESPNU devour itself.

The powers that be better expand the playoff before the SEC and Big Ten bulk up to 16 teams because the other three power five conferences are going to be bitching about representation like they’re in the AAC when it’s a Big Ten-SEC showdown every January. 

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