The Future NCAA Landscape – CXCnews

USC and UCLA could see freezing November and December games in East Lansing as they join the Big Ten.

USC and UCLA could see freezing November and December games in East Lansing as they join the Big Ten.
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As we approach an era where USC starts at 9 a.m. Pacific Time in the freezing November East Lansing temperatures is a very realistic and potentially biennial situation, let’s take a look at the options for college athletics in the future.

This move by USC and UCLA really cannot be underestimated in its impact. The dust had largely settled with Texas and Oklahoma’s move to the SEC, as the Big XII were able to fill their spots with solid emerging backup options, but this? This is, if my colleague Eric Blum (and to him, REM) it said, the end of the world — or at least regional conferences — as we know them.

The following scenarios revolve around the concept that football is the deciding factor in conference rescheduling decisions, which it has largely been so far. I understand Duke and Kansas have a lot to offer in March, but when fall comes, they won’t make it.

Start your Pac-12 praises

Realistically, the Pac-12 won’t get out of here. With regional allegiances so casually brushed aside, Washington, Oregon, and even Utah are probably now open to exploring other options, if they don’t eagerly shop around their programs. The SEC, no longer the only 16-team conference, will likely look west to expand (Manifest Destiny, anyone?) and also east to Clemson, the state of Florida and Miami. While only one of the three schools has had consistent success in recent seasons, the brands and fan bases would be massive thefts now that it’s free.

If, say, Washington and Oregon go to the Big Ten and the SEC grabs Utah, the Pac-12 is left with a whole lot of nobody. It will be a Group of 5 conference at that point, and with their media rights deal expiring in 2024, they are pretty much done.

So there are a number of options here. The remaining Pac-12 could effectively merge with the Big XII and remain vaguely in the same region (usually at least west of the Mississippi), creating a third so-called super conference. But it wouldn’t be able to compete with the powerhouses in the Big Ten and the new SEC, and would remain the little brother without signature brands.

Another option will appear if the ACC falls.

And you, Sankey?

If the SEC is able to pull two of the three ACC schools I mentioned, the ACC is ready too. Some schools — Duke, Louisville, North Carolina — will run to the Big Ten, which they are likely to adopt for their basketball programs and academic standards. Boston College would be entered into the fray, as would Pittsburgh and Syracuse. It would essentially be distributed on a parallel line from coast to coast. Big Ten and Southeastern Conference would be gross misnomers.

At that point, the rest of the Big XII and Pac-12 schools would have to attend one of the two major conferences or risk becoming a minor league within football, which would incur huge costs for the results of the universities. Even Notre Dame will finally have to participate in a conference.

This is the conclusion many consider inevitable: two super conferences monopolizing college sports with no regard for what that means for their non-football programs† One FOX deal, one ESPN deal, and that’s that.

But how does the planning work?

Well, the way I see it, with conferences that would theoretically involve 20 to 30 teams, you’d have to create divisions. Regional branches maybe. The Big Ten West would be in the Rockies. The SEC East would comprise virtually the entire existing SEC. Perhaps the college football playoff looks like the winners of both super conferences in the East and West and the winners of those playing for the national title.

This is, of course, incredibly ironic. While money and fame are at the heart of many of these decisions, creating these divisions within super conferences would literally just recreate conferences the way they were intended: you usually travel to other schools in your area, making it easy on the student-athletes, with a few major competitions across the country drawing a more geographically diverse crowd.

This, of course, is going to be one of the funniest full circle moments of all time.

What about a total restructuring?

Another option — one less likely to happen since there is no greater power in college sports aside from the NCAA, which doesn’t determine the conference structure — would be a competition of, say, 30 schools, in which the bottom four or six face regulation per year, and the top four or six of a secondary league would be promoted each year.

However, this would require many people to agree on many things, something the college sports world is known for not being able to (see: Expansion Talks). And none of these conclusions will see the light of day for a few more years, so for now we have to embrace the chaos. Countdown to the 2022 opening kick: 57 days.