College Football as We Know it is Ending
The torpedoes keep coming, and the convoy of college football is gravely in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. This is it. The big ending is here for the series. It hasn’t been a fun trip for many reasons, but the biggest “buzz kill” that has been obvious since this adventure started around the time of the Spring practice season has been that college football is changing and the forces changing it are doing more to tear it apart than make it better.
The latest massive blow was the disconcerting and chart destroying move of the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles breaking from the PAC 12 and moving to the B1G, of all places. This drops the PAC 12 down to ten teams of which only Oregon (which is fuming, btw) is of any real national championship threat level.
Catch Me If You Can
We took a trip through all of the conferences in both the “Power 5” and “Group of 5” to see what was going on with the realignment that has been brewing over the last generation. No one can accuse the conferences of being particularly stable on the edges, but there has traditionally been a core set of teams in each that kept the churn on the edges of the conferences.
In the Power 5 we see the effect being felt most greatly in the Big XII Conference, which is losing marquee programs and scrambling to make up for that with spot additions to fill in gaps from both mid-major and independent FBS programs. The PAC 12 took a huge hit in both prestige and also audience share with the sudden and surprise bolt of USC and UCLA to the B1G.
The Group of 5’s core conferences are stable, but Conference USA is being picked apart by the rise of the Sun Belt and AAC conferences. Those moves are accelerating from the supposed transition by 2025 to the Sun Belt being almost entirely intact and functioning as a 14-team league by the 2022 season start.
At both theoretical levels of FBS football we are seeing a massive realignment based, mostly on television media money and new post 2025 contracts. What looks to be happening is a sorting out of the leagues for the benefit of the media and advertisers. We’ll talk about that one in the final article when we go over the “professionalization” of FBS college football.
Taking a Checkpoint
The poll questions were pointed at gauging the casual fan appeal within the readership of this site. So, the general sentiments are still valid, but the entire poll set was pretty much defenestrated by the latest moves, and the anticipated future moves. We didn’t expect a huge number of respondents and as we moved from the P5 to G5 we expected even fewer. Those were largely met, but the numbers were interesting just the same.
The critical question that led off the series was: Given What you know, now, what answer do you think will happen by 2030? Besides having an embarrassing fat finger between ‘t’ and ‘d’ the results were pretty illuminating. At the start of the series, you all thought that there was some serious “trouble” brewing. Two thirds of the votes were cast for the response highlighting the money, professionalism, Name Image and Likeness issues being seriously warping factors that will eventually result in government involvement.
That poll was conducted in February. We’ll ask you, at the end of this if you still feel that way now that the series is nearing a close and you see the cause and effect on the conference churn. It looks like EVERYTHING is going to change, and the issues are going to get even murkier.
Notice that the one Conference that doesn’t seem to have budged all that much is the one that all the media speculation is surrounding, and Virginia Tech doesn’t even play in their mix of teams being considered. The ACC is being spotted for evisceration with the big rumor of Notre Dame going to the B1G, with an assortment of other teams in the pile like Florida State and Clemson going to a 20-team super conference based out of the SEC. And no, no one is speculating about the Hokies.
The crickets chirping are so loud that the sports media would be stunned if Tech won a football game this season. The write-off of the program seems to have begun; along with the complete write-off of the ACC as a “power conference”.
Summing the big “It” All Up
What we have been left with over the extended series is a picture of college football that is fundamentally unstable and unsustainable. The conferences are managed by a few dominant programs that draw the most amount of cash money to the till.
SEC Looks Headed for 20 Teams
The king conference is the Southeastern (SEC) which is soon to be a full 16 team semi-professional football league without the need to play outside the conference to complete a 12-game schedule. The league is, however, unbalanced as far as program capabilities and quality with perpetual basement dwellers like Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina playing games to support the records of giants of college football. None of those programs would be poor football teams if they existed in other conferences along the lines of the Sun Belt or even the ACC. They are just unable to compete against the likes of Alabama, Auburn (Though they have been struggling of late, too.), Texas A&M, and soon to be added Texas and Oklahoma. That situation will probably not continue, and the SEC’s bottom might just swap out with the tops of other conferences in the Power 5.
B1G Goes Pacific for Media Market $$$
The Big Ten (B1G) is no longer in relative stasis. That horse left the barn when they added West coast media market giant Los Angeles to their negotiating pile. Before the Los Angeles team moves, there were only a few teams that could sustain the travel and competition level to match dominant Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan programs (not just playing comp, but monetary program strength). The reality of the B1G is that it is a top-heavy league with an abundance of above average and average programs. Its big appeal is local and traditional rivalry matchups with some conference and non-conference teams. The loss of Notre Dame’s non-revenue sports to the ACC and the dominating growth of the SEC looks to have shaken up their thinking.
PAC 10 Again, Now and Much Poorer to Boot
The PAC 12 looks like the west coast version of the Big XII. It had few really dominant programs and not much impulse to either grow or revamp what it had. The conference has lost a huge media market in the loss of the Los Angeles based teams. Their advertising market appeal is going to get a major revenue in the next round of negotiations with “The Mouse”. The main issue is similar to the B1G (which will have a huge television market share) in that there just aren’t the quality teams in the region to expand or swap with. There isn’t much in the way of leverage to push change from either internal forces or outside pressure.
The Leftovers - Big XII and the ACC
The Big XII and the ACC are in weird positions. With this churn going on the standing ACC media contract routinely gets grades ranging from disastrous to pathetic. The Big XII lost its two big market teams in Texas and Oklahoma, and the rest of the better teams of the conference are desperate to find a better revenue base. Suffice it to say that both conferences are ripe for what looks to be coming; a complete and total realignment of Bowl level college football into six super conferences at three levels of competition and market potential. The Big XII has already been mostly victimized by the moves, and the ACC is the dying wildebeest with the vultures circling overhead, waiting for the lions to do their work.
As far as the middle and bottom four groups of conferences that look like they’ll form up from the wreckage, we’ll have to leave for the fates. There are hints that it will be most of the G5 conferences rebalancing, with left over lower tier teams from the P5, but that’s pure speculation at this point.
What’s this All About? Why the Total Destruction of Amateur Bowl Level College Football?
We’ll talk about the opinions as to the whys and wherefores in the next article, but for the short explanation that gives us a clue as to what happened to cause this mad scramble all we have to say is; “follow the Benjamins”. That’s not what college football is supposed to be about, so the cognitive dissonance of the entire enterprise is now resulting in complete chaos.
So, we ask again...
Given What you know, now, what answer do you think will happen by 2030?
This poll is closed
College sports decouples from football. The football programs sort into 6 super conferences with the top 2 conferences being professional.
The NCAA loses complete control of major conferences and appeals to congress to write new rules governing collegiate sports which de-monetizes most of the leagues.
The FBS completely reorganizes into an amateur league and a professional league. New regulations will be needed, and pro teams will decouple from universities, completely.
I don’t know. This is nuts. It’s all about how much money is being thrown around by the media. It’s all so corrupt now, and so sickening I just don’t care anymore.
We’ll wrap this up with the article that I thought that we’d end the series on; the path there just changed, a whole lot. It’s sort of like body surfing… the waves are all different every time you look, but you are still eventually going to end up being smashed into the beach.