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College football is a hair over three strenuous months away. We have no choice but endure these dog days of football-less summer. The next best thing to watching it, however, is discussing it. In that respect, the summer of 2012 has blessed us.
First, let’s rewind two years ago. In the summer of 2010, college football fans nationwide had their eyes and ears affixed on the Big 12 Missile Crisis. The University of Texas and ESPN put a firm handshake on the birth of The Longhorn Network, a network devoted to constant UT sports (and some academic) coverage. The contract between ESPN and Texas was inked to the tune of 300 million over 20 years. This seemingly unbalanced distribution of power and wealth in the Big 12, among other things, led to disgruntled conference members, which in effect resulted in these schools seeking conference affiliation elsewhere. The PAC 10, Big 10, and even the SEC to a lesser extent, had eyes on certain Big 12 members. When the dust settled, Colorado had packed up their spliffs and headed for the west coast, and Nebraska took their historic program to the Big 10. Wheels officially in motion. The Big 12 stayed content with 10 teams, perhaps aware that the landscape of collegiate athletics would be drastically changing in the coming years regardless. The following year more teams sought outside conference membership, but this time the SEC was in pursuit.
Missouri and Texas A&M traded in their overalls for bow ties in 2011. SEC acceptance meant more money, more reputable football, and the hallowed SEC tradition. It was a no-brainer for them. These programs were attractive options due to the television markets they would pack with them on their way to the southeast. The SEC quickly closed on suicide bids Missouri and Texas A&M with a gentleman’s nod and three fingers of Johnnie neat. The two vacant spots left in the Big 12 were filled with programs from lower-tier conferences, West Virginia and TCU.
This takes us to the present. The summer of 2012 has started off in a similar fashion to the two previous. Conference unrest and turmoil is grabbing headlines again, but this time it’s moving east. Headliners this summer are Florida State, Clemson, and Notre Dame. Other schools are being thrown around too, like Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami. You’ve picked up on the theme by now if you’re a male between the ages of 12 and 95. These are teams from the ACC, save Notre Dame who is independent. The ACC is officially on notice. Why? The recent announcement from the SEC and Big 12 of a bowl game between each conference winner (If the conference winner is in the national title game, the second place team in the conference will take their place in the bowl game.) has thrown NCAA football off kilter and appears to be the first step toward the demise of the BCS. The ACC is ripe for a ravaging. Their basketball roots make them a less-sustainable option in the world of college football domination.
“Playoffs?! Don’t talk about…playoffs?! You kiddin’ me? Playoffs!?”
Yes, playoffs. That’s the direction we’re headed. Well, playoffs and super conferences. The aforementioned teams being rumored with instability want to sit at the big boys’ table, and seats are filling up. The way things are progressing, we’re looking at four eventual super conferences. These power conferences will likely each have 16 programs, with the winner of each conference representing a seed in a 4-team playoff to determine a national champion, a real national champion. Be patient, though. A playoff system is likely, but it’s still a few years out.
Expect the dominoes to start falling. There is smoke beginning to build up over Tallahassee and Clemson. Word could start trickling out as soon as tomorrow that these programs are officially seeking other conference affiliation, and the Big 12 appears to be their desired destination. If these programs decide to apply for acceptance to the Big 12, announcements should surface in the coming months.
The wildcard here is Notre Dame. With four super conferences forming, the Irish may have hop on board somewhere. Their independent nature makes their situation more in-depth, but their athletic administration understands what’s at stake here. With their stout tradition and widespread appeal, they’ll get their pick of the litter.
There is also the issue of the scraps, the leftover programs that aren’t included in the formation of the powerhouse conferences. What happens to the little guy? As far as I know, they’ll keep doing their thing with limited revenue and no hopes of a title shot. The BCS Titanic is going down, and only the first class passengers get lifeboats.
Stay tuned. College football could be changing in a big way.