Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cynical Thoughts on the B1G Expansion

There's been a fair amount written about the expansion of the B1G conference (I'm never going to be comfortable using that silly acronym for the Big 10, but it's what they use) from the perspective of football.  Lots of complaints about how dumb adding Rutgers and Maryland is, how it won't generate more revenue for the conference teams but will destroy a bunch of tradition as the conference schedule adjusts to accommodate two more teams.  I think that the people who are criticizing are ignoring what the end game for all of the conference realignments really is.

Put it this way: four sixteen-team super-conferences, each with two eight-team divisions, have the clout to tell the NCAA to get out of the way.  They can set up an eight-team playoff with the winner from each division.  The four first-round games go to the big bowls; the two second-round games replace the current BCS championship game; and the championship game happens a week later.  The NCAA doesn't get a vote, and the bowls don't get a vote.  "Play it our way, or we'll set up the eight-team tournament ourselves," is the only threat they need to make.  If the conferences want to be generous, they'll let the big bowls host the last three games on a rotating basis, much as the BCS championship is held at one of those locations each year.

The NCAA will roll over for this because they'll be terrified about what might happen to the men's and women's Division I basketball tournaments if they don't.  The 64 schools in these hypothetical super-conferences put a lot of teams into the first and second rounds of those tournaments.  The super-conferences alone could almost certainly run 24- or 32-team basketball tournaments of their own with only a modest drop-off in quality.  And they could threaten to make the NCAA even less relevant by offering the Dukes and Gonzagas the opportunity to align themselves with the super-conferences for scheduling and tournament play in basketball and other non-football sports.  I secretly suspect that Duke would probably be happier playing Division I basketball and FCS football.

Assuming this is the actual end-game, then adding Rutgers and Maryland makes more sense.  Geographic coverage for TV; opportunity for the Ohio State or Michigan or Nebraska alumni in those areas to get to games (and perhaps be inspired to make contributions); it may not improve the finances of the current conference schools, but it probably doesn't make them worse.  And to be honest, the super-conferences aren't necessarily looking to add the few unaffiliated football powerhouses.  All of the conferences have doormat teams, and adding an "easy" game to the schedule of the powerhouses, where the stars can sit early and not get hurt, isn't necessarily a bad thing.  If winning your division of your conference guarantees you a spot in the playoffs, running up the score (or other statistics) to impress the pollsters isn't a priority.

I admit that it's a cynical viewpoint.  But I feel comfortable betting that even if the four super-conference arrangement hasn't been discussed by a bunch of the athletic directors at the top football schools, it's floating around in the back of their heads.

No comments:

Post a Comment