And I thought Rhode Island Interscholastic League realignment was bad. I might not agree with their reasons, but at least they have their reasons.
Conference realignment in college sports?
Throw reason out the window.
If you’ve been following the shuffling and the rumors and the speculation, then God bless you. If you haven’t been following, I wouldn’t recommend joining in.
When I was little, I used to get sucked in when my mom watched "Days of Our Lives." I still occasionally get sucked in, but that’s neither here nor there.
This conference nonsense is kind of like a soap opera. You’ve got villains and good guys. You’ve got covert deals. You’ve got backstabbing.
It might be entertaining if it weren’t so stupid.
I don’t know what prompted the latest shuffling, but all of a sudden, the rumors were out there. Syracuse and Pittsburgh were looking into leaving the Big East for the ACC.
Rumors turned to fact pretty quickly, and those flagship Big East schools are off to apparently greener pastures.
I say apparently because I don’t quite understand what’s so green about the ACC.
If you Google “why did Pittsburgh join the ACC?” you’ll find precious few answers. Maybe that’s just a search engine failure. Maybe it’s because nobody really gets it.
The best answers I’ve seen are that the schools wanted to be in a stronger football conference. Understandable, but enough to leave a conference you’ve been in since the beginning? And enough to leave a conference that gives you a better chance of getting to a Bowl Championship Series game?
I guess so, but deep down, it’s not the allure of a stronger conference that’s drawing them in. It’s the allure of a richer conference.
Football drives everything in college sports; it’s the major revenue producer. Even in the Big East, where basketball is king, only the University of Louisville routinely brings in more basketball revenue than football.
In the ACC, Pittsburgh and Syracuse see an opportunity for more money, largely because of lucrative television contracts.
That’s all well and good – but why do they need more money?
According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Education, Syracuse ranked 54th in the nation in athletic department revenue in 2007-08. They brought in about $44 million. Pittsburgh checked in at 61, with revenue of around $39 million.
Those don’t sound like athletic departments that need a change. But the way they look at it, if something better is available, they may as well do it.
If all other factors were equal, I could understand that logic.
But they aren’t equal. And those other factors are just being ignored.
How about conference identity? It used to be that conferences were aligned geographically. I guess Pittsburgh is on the Atlantic Coast now. Colorado moved to the Pacific.
While an easy punch line, geography isn’t a trivial concern. Football and basketball teams may travel in style, but what about the smaller sports? That’s a lot of time and expense.
The identity used to be more than geography, too. A school’s profile mattered. Urban schools stuck together. Strong academic schools stuck together. Small schools and big schools – they stuck together.
Those factors have gone out the window now and with those red lights cleared, schools are just blowing through the rest of the stop signs. Old rivalries? Conference loyalty? Fan opinions? Forget it.
The Big East was the best basketball conference in the history of college sports, but it doesn’t matter. Football is king.
And money is king.
It’s kind of deflating for a fan. There’s a certain majesty to college sports, but the conference shuffling makes it seem like nothing’s sacred anymore.
I understand it. It’s money. But I don’t want to understand it.
This soap opera, I wish I could turn off.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.