Column: In the Shadow of the Super Conference


Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor scrambles past Boise State defenders. If super conferences were to be formed, Boise may find itself without a conferences in the coming years.“Tyrod Taylor” @ 2010 Daniel Lin, used under a creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Picture yourself 50 years into the future. As you drive your grandson to soccer practice in your hover car, he quizzically asks, “Pappy, what was the Big 12?” Despite your fading memory, aching back, and late nights of bingo, you fondly reminisce about the good ol’ days of college football, where conferences were as plentiful as cornfields in Nebraska.

Flash back to the here and now. College football is playing a game of musical chairs. However each time the music stops, its not a pouting child that begrudgingly sits out, its an entire conference. While the possible elimination of one conference may seem insignificant in the national spectrum, those of us who know physics have the fact drilled into our minds: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The Big 12’s possible annihilation could result in a domino effect, thus dissolving the Big East, Mountain West, and others. With schools’ programs on the line, college football is on the brink of a game-changing shift in power.

To understand college football one must first comprehend the system of conferences. Conferences are groups of schools, ranging from 8 all the way to 14, who annually play each other. Some of these bigger conferences have conference championships which give automatic BCS (Bowl Championship Series) berths. BCS busters such as TCU and Boise State, are small schools from non BCS conferences who become everyone’s favorite Cinderella team in Bowl Season. However, perennial powerhouses like Louisiana State or Oregon call the Southeastern Conference and Pacific 12 Conference home respectively. These competitive conferences, which inherently have a BCS Bowl berth, annually overwhelm smaller conferences and nab up Bowl bids with the ferocity of an offensive line at an open buffet.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the BCS system, here is a little intro. Every year a schools performance is put into numbers, stats, and votes. These teams are then ranked accordingly and they are put into respective bowl games. While some games pit conference champions against one another, others showcase automatic qualifiers. The caliber of your bowl and if you make a bowl at all comes down to your BCS ranking.

Despite these smaller conferences already having the odds stacked against them, the David and Goliath situation that is college football, is taking a turn in the favor of Goliath. With the possible departures of Florida State and Texas A&M to the SEC, along with the possible additions of Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12, these already dominant conferences are about to get a whole lot better

However as the age of the ‘super conference’ may be upon us, we cannot help but wonder, how will this potential shift in power effect the little guy?

While high profile schools such as Oklahoma and Texas would survive on their own with no issues. Smaller schools such as Boise State, TCU, and Baylor will be crippled if left on the door step of college football conferences. Through this consolidation of power, these high profile programs will monopolize recruiting, money and BCS rankings, leaving the smaller schools to fight for the scraps.

As it is, the SEC and Pac-12 dominate recruiting and own 9 of the top 15, 2011 recruiting classes according to ESPN’s Recruiting Rankings. A small conference team could not even manage to wiggle its way into the top 25. However, the allure of the David vs. Goliath and the colorful turf of some of these smaller schools still coerces some of the nations middle of the pack recruits to come to their programs.

However these teams rely on one or two top players to carry them through the season instead of a whole roster of strong prospects. If these teams are left out of these super conferences, their already mediocre recruiting would become as laughable as the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the loss of TCU’s star quarterback Andy Dalton, TCU has taken more of a beating this year than Dalton took from Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh in their preseason showdown. The already shallow TCU would not able to compete with the depth displayed by such programs as Oregon and LSU if left out as an independent.

Not only would these programs suffer from the possibility of super conferences, it would crush the schools themselves. According to CNN, Boise ranked 5th among small conference schools in revenue. Not only is this surprisingly low for the pride of the Mountain West, but the Broncos would be a meager 63rd out of 68 major conference teams. Now we certainly do not want to say football is everything, but when it comes to schools revenue, football takes up a massive portion.

As we all know, but might not like to admit, college football has become a business, and that business is powered by these big name programs. The smaller schools rely on games against high profile teams and BCS Bowls to fund their programs. Last years BCS Bowls gave a rough payout of $17 million to each team that participated. Now while that may seem like a staggering amount, it is astronomical when compared to the smaller bowls, like the Papa John’s Bowl, which had a meager payout of $300,000. Kyle Brotzman, who sent Boise to the lowly Maaco Las Vegas Bowl after they were in line for a sure BCS bowl, certainly felt the heat after he cost their program a near $15 million off his shanked field goals against Nevada. One could say he is still “kicking himself” over it.

While bowl games make up a large percentage of schools’ revenue, smaller conference teams also make loads of money from playing ranked powerhouses. Last year the Alabama Crimson Tide gave schools a combined $2.2 million reasons to come down to Tuscaloosa to receive a beating. While one may wonder why a small school such as the San Jose State Spartans would agree to that, these games make up the vast majority of the annual revenue. Since these teams seldom find themselves playing in a bowl at all, the prospect of the paychecks coming from these games gets the athletic directors drooling.

Perhaps the most important reason these super conferences will be created is the consolidation of BCS power. With there being only three or four possible super conferences, the only ranked teams would come from big conferences. While Boise State may whomp on a team like Idaho State, the teams in these super conferences will play extremely tough opponents week in and week out. This type of a schedule would result in an unparalleled strength of schedule, the likes that we have never seen before. These stacked schedules would result in even higher rankings for those in the SEC, Pac-12 and other major conferences. As a result, all of the bowl games you would watch would be filled with these super teams, while Boise State and TCU would not even have a shot at a BCS game or the paycheck that comes along with it.

College football is being ruined by “football factories”. These are high profile, state schools who rely on the success of their football programs to generate revenue for the oncoming year. The coalition of these schools is placing a monopoly on college football and destroying the chances of success for dozens of schools. The unfortunate part of the situation is that there is no way to stop it. Conferences can get as big as they like and become as dominant as possible. With the confirmed additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, not only is the greed of some schools affecting College Football, however it also affects all of Collegiate Athletics, including Basketball, Baseball, and others.

With conferences losing teams at the speed of football players losing brain cells,the Big 12, Big East, and others are threatened to become faded memories in the minds of our generation. We don’t know about you, but we for one, don’t want to become ‘that crazy old hermit who still remembers the Big East.’