Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Conference Realignment

Next to the Costa/Thomas debate, PAC-10 conference realignment has been one of our most popular controversies.

A lot of folks are up in arms over the possibility of losing an annual game in SoCal, fearing it would be a detriment to recruiting.

One important point is, any alignment would be temporary. It won't be long before another tectonic shift reshapes the landscape of college football. Big money tv offers will lead to a sixteen-team conference or a 64-team superconference. When Nebraska and Colorado officially vacate the Big 12 (10), or Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, or Texas A&M bolts to the SEC, or Boise State or TCU crash the BCS, everything will be remade again. I wouldn't expect the PAC-12 to remain at twelve teams for more than five years, or maybe the life of their new tv megadeal at the outside.

Another thing is, success cures all ills, in terms of recruiting and recognition. The Ducks are recruiting nationally now. High profile kids are telling the websites, "I always wanted to play at Oregon. I like their offense and their uniforms." Jerrard Randall, all the way from Florida, said he wanted to be the next Dennis Dixon. How cool is that?

I think the best conference and division alignments are those that geographically make sense. The Eastern Media and national college football fans ought to be able to follow who's who. Nobody knows where anyone plays in the ACC, for example. The divisions ought to have some logic and foster rivalries.

In two six-team divisions, Oregon plays all the Northwest schools, Utah and Colorado, plus three teams from PAC-12 South. I like the 8-game conference schedule better than the nine. The reality is, if the PAC-12 schedules 9 conference games, the conference will go 6-6 in that extra week of games. With the big prizes in college based on perception, it's foolish to beat each other up while Alabama and Florida are scheduling another profitable home patsy like Florida International or The Citadel. The nine-game conference schedule only made sense when it was a true round robin. It's BCS suicide and ruinous for the bottom line.

The trouble with the zipper plan is that it lacks continuity and creates all kinds of inequalities and imbalances and quirks just to maintain an illusion of fairness. Geographic alignment keeps travel costs down and makes budgets more manageable, particularly in the minor sports. Just line up and play, dominate the North and go to conference title game and the Rose Bowl as often as possible. That seems like the best solution to me.

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