On Saturday the University of Pittsburgh and the Orange of Syracuse announced that they would be leaving the Big East and joining the ACC.
This move comes as no surprise, it follows the recent move of Texas A&M hopping over to the SEC from the Big 12, as well as lots of other moves in the past few years that have drastically re-shaped the college football landscape.
All these moves have been not so subtly leading up to the alignment of four so-called Super Conferences, most likely comprising of the ACC, the SEC, the BIG 10 (which now has something like 12 teams, who can really keep count anymore) and the newly re-named PAC 12.
At first I was against the idea of four super conferences, I was in the camp that actually liked the old system of local rivalries, multiple bowl games that mattered, and constant debate over who should be called the national champion.
It was different from all of the other sports, it made the regular season matter more than in any other major American sport and it had the tradition factor behind it.
But this weekend I had the experience of attempting to explain the whole system to a friend of mine who has not been a follower of college football. He’s a sports fan overall, but being a Boston area native his focus has always been on the professional ranks.
I tried to start with how we got to where we are, get him to understand that in the beginning these were games were just two schools getting together and saying “my guys can beat your guys”. Then they formed conferences because people started caring about who won and they wanted to prove they were better year in and year out.
Then they started playing bowl games, mostly because it was fun and sometimes to see whether the best team from your conference could beat the best team from my conference. After all that I tried to explain how the national championship used to be just voted on and was pretty much arbitrary, which eventually led to the current BCS system.
He spent the whole time looking at me like I was explaining an alien abduction experience. In the end I never could get him to fully understand how college football works and how we got to where we are right now.
That experience got me thinking about how I felt about the college football system and where it’s headed, and I started to come around to the idea of just totally blowing the whole thing up like Clay Matthews in a shoe store.
The BCS bowl system was never ideal, we all know that, but with so many smaller conferences with varying levels of talent, choosing who deserved a spot in the playoff tournament would have been impossible. You would eventually have ended up with a huge bracket like they have for college basketball. This works for basketball because you can play so many games in such a short period of time, it would never have worked for football.
Super Conferences will give us a more uniform structure for how we set up the eventual playoff system, which even a die hard bowl game advocate like me has to admit is a good idea.
But the Super Conferences don’t just make sense because of how we will choose our national champ, it makes sense financially for all those involved. If your one of the schools left on the outside of the Big Four when they’re gone forming, you aren’t going to be able to compete on a financial level with those who acted preemptively (I’m looking at you, Oklahoma).
Let’s just face the fact that the sports landscape is changing and that college football is no longer a regional sport. All of the big schools are now recruiting nationally, and more importantly the television networks want a system that is easily sold to the average fan.
Times they are a-changin’, and as Brad Pitt channeling Billy Beane would say, “Adapt or Die”.
The schools understand this, it’s time for all us stubborn fans to get with the program too.