I saw an article on ESPN.com by Andy Katz who offers some interesting insight into the future of the Big 12, but also where the University of Missouri could be headed and it got me thinking about the future of college football in the next 10 years.
Katz raises a good point about how Missouri’s recruiting, especially in the hot bed of Texas, would be compromised severely if the Big 12 dissolved. Missouri’s best selling point to Texas recruits who don’t go to Texas or A & M is the fact that the Tigers face so many Texas teams. Now, if the Tigers were in the powerhouse SEC, that’s still a good selling point to play in that competitive conference.
According to sources for Katz, Missouri has held off on a major campaign to raise money, because donors want to see where Mizzou shakes out in all of this. Many are hopeful the SEC is interested in the Tigers, but if not there, then the ACC, then Big East. However, if none of those conferences go after the Black and Gold, then the school is looking at the Mountain West.
I find it amazing that writers, experts, bloggers, etc. all say that the institutions and athletic programs are not interested in big super conferences, but yet all the rumors we hear are the Pac 12 going to 16 or the SEC going to at least 14. To be honest, nobody is really sure how this will all end up, but if super conferences are formed, here is what eventually would happen.
Five super conferences would be built to 16 teams. The Pac 16, The Big 16, the SEC 16, the ACC 16 and the Big East 16. That would take up 80 of the D-I football programs, but as the years play out, certain schools would shake down to the bottom of the standings year after year all across the country…schools for example you might have schools like Kansas State, Colorado, Washington State, Northwestern, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, etc…realize being a part of 16 team super conferences is a losing proposition and those schools would break off into their own groups. What would happen is that eventually there would be 32-48 programs that would be labeled as true Division I programs and that would lead to a playoff system at the highest level of college football.
The true D-I programs will consist of four power conferences with twelve teams and would hold no particular geographic boundaries. Why would that happen? Because television deals would dictate that. No longer would fans want to see Texas vs. Arizona State or Alabama vs. Vanderbilt on conference schedules. National audiences would want to see Texas vs. USC, Oklahoma vs. Alabama, Florida vs. Penn State, Ohio State vs. LSU…over and over, week after week. ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS and NBC would each have the right to one of these four conferences.
At the end of the season, the top four of each “Mega Conference” would advance to a playoff, with those conference champions facing off in a four team playoff to determine the national champion with those four major networks rotating between semifinal and championship games.
The college football industry is driven by money. Alums would still continue to cheer for their teams, but imagine the national draw of seeing this country’s top institutions battling it out each week. You argue there are more than 48 teams in the country that could draw good national ratings? I would argue that point. For as long as I’ve been paying attention to college football, the same programs remain top of mind. Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, USC…I could go on, but you get my point. Eventually these programs will outgrow (if they haven’t already) the numerous other current D-I programs. There are just perennial powerhouse football programs. They will continue to strive. Let’s do this the right way and see the elite programs battle each other.
Before this would ever happen those, college conferences would have to grow to 14, 16, maybe even 20 programs, but eventually the bubble will burst. When it did, would your favorite college program be near the top?
You bring up the argument of what would happen to men’s basketball. Nothing. Traditional conferences could still align with other schools within their region as well as the other non-revenue sports that school’s offer. Football will become it’s own machine. They make the most money for schools, it needs to be treated differently.