Damn. What a day yesterday. Before yesterday, I would have said that UCLA and USC joining the B1G was probably the last conference realignment on earth that could happen. Oh, how a few hours and some good TV money can change everything.
With the realignment insanity, it’s hard to predict how long the current conference structure will last, as all of the schools with any influence in the NCAA head toward the SEC and the Big Ten (is Clemson next? Or is Dabo too prideful to put his team in front of that competition? Anyways, that’s beside the point). Football comes first, along with the money that inevitably follows it. That’s the way it’s always been, and since the sport makes exponentially more money than almost any other college athletic program at the majority of Power 5 schools, it makes sense to follow football.
Is it what’s best for the sport? Arguably not. There’s a lot of lamenting in the CFB Twitter universe going on, and understandably so. Conferences rest at the heart of the sport, and with ongoing debates over an expanded playoff with automatic conference title bids, the future of the national championship is also thrown into darkness with this unprecedented move. But as much as I love football, and as much as there is to be said about it (and that I will, at some point, say about it), I do want to talk about all the other sports for just a moment. The sports without the football budget, without football’s schedule, without the advantages that, in most scenarios, accompany being on the football team that may not necessarily apply to other student-athletes.
Football teams play once a week for twelve weeks a year. To put the USC and UCLA volleyball, basketball, softball, lacrosse, baseball, and several other teams into a situation in which they will now have to fly cross-country every other time they want to play a conference game (which will make up the majority of their schedules) is enormously disrespectful to those student athletes and, quite frankly, legitimizes the argument that NCAA sports should be professionalized. That kind of travel is only demanded from professional athletes, not kids trying to get a degree they’ll need after college while they play the sport they love.
The “student” aspect of “student-athlete” will be shunted aside as they take four- or five-hour flights each week during their respective seasons. They’ll constantly be missing class, they’ll likely be exhausted from such intense travel to the midwest and east coast, and it will take a toll on everyone involved. For Big Ten schools, it may be slightly easier, as they can simply schedule back-to-back games against both California schools on a single trip out west, but that’s still quite a trip, and will be a scheduling feat if they’re able to pull it off.
There are far more articles to be written, far more consequences to consider, far more things to be brought up. But for now, I ask – won’t anyone think of the UCLA volleyball team?