College Football’s Shifting Sands

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - June 23, 2010
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Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott added Colorado and Utah

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received more and more comments about the recent maneuverings in college conferences - some questions quite face-tious and some very serious.

Among the more humorous or sarcastic offerings: “Hey, Bob, have the PacWest schools received their invites from the Pac-10 yet?” Or, “When is the University of Hawaii going DII?”

Or from the thoughtful vein: “How will all this movement among the conferences affect Hawaii?” “How will it affect schools outside the so-called super-conferences?” “Will this eventually lead to a Division I football playoff?” “Just who is in control?”

Taking these questions one by one might be the best approach.


 

No, the PacWest didn’t get an invite, but (seriously) it seems most everyone else did - Texas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and Utah and Colorado, and probably a few more. Only Utah and Colorado joined up, making you wonder if the league’s name will change to the 12-Pac or the Pacific Rockies Conference.

No, UH isn’t going anywhere except NCAA Division I. That’s where they belong and that’s where they’re going to stay.

Conference movement - whether actual or rumored - will always be scary for Hawaii. It does-n’t take a genius to tell you that. All you have to do is look at a map. But the strength of the Hawaii exemption, plus a proud sports tradition here, and the lure of traveling to paradise will always keep UH in the picture, regardless of Boise State’s departure after next year. The Warriors should consider it a great opportunity to win a few more conference football titles.

The strengthening of the so-called super conferences beginning in the 2011-12 season - with the Big Ten going to 12 schools by adding Nebraska, the Big 12 losing Colorado and Nebraska, but staying together with Texas in the lead and a new multimil-lion-dollar television contract in place, the Mountain West losing Utah but gaining powerful Boise State, and the Pac-10 expanding from the West Coast into Utah and Colorado - will probably have less of an impact on the college football world than you think. Because the Big 12 hung together, effectively becoming the BTOOG (Big Texas/Oklahoma and those Other Guys), the college football landscape isn’t going to look that much different than it does today. You’ll just tune into USC-Colorado or Michigan-Nebraska or Utah-Oregon or Boise State-TCU on TV a few more times during the regular season, adding to the matchups you’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years.

Times change, and so do conference affiliations. How many old-timers remember when the University of Idaho was in the same conference as USC and UCLA? Or further back, how about the University of Chicago in the Big 10? Or Washington University of St. Louis in a precursor of the Big 12?


For those who wonder if all this will lead to a Division I football playoff, unfortunately the answer is still “no.” As long as the super-conferences - the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-10, Big East, ACC, and that little independent known as Notre Dame - remain powerful with huge attendance and mega-television contracts and big bowl payouts, the status quo will prevail. Sad, but true.

And that answers the question about who is in control - no, not the bowl officials or the TV executives or even the NCAA. The university presidents are. The presidents recognize that college sports, especially major college football, are tremendously popular and drive up revenue, enrollment and ultimately the prestige of their universities. Yes, these presidents are academicians, but they also are business people and, as such, they fully recognize that their universities and their entire student bodies prosper when the bottom line is strong.

This recent round of conference maneuverings just made a few of those bottom lines a little bit stronger.

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