BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: MLive.com)
When ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported USC and UCLA would go to the Big Ten on Twitter last week, I had no words. I wanted to think this was fake news. I had to reread the tweet just to make sure I was not being had. College sports fans had to do the same, too.
Shame on us for being shocked. We should have known this is the business of college sports. Universities move to different conferences all the time. We see this way too often.
Still, no one would ever think USC and UCLA would leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten of all conferences. After all, USC and UCLA serve as flagships of the Pac-12. If anything, those two universities played a role in trying to get Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to come to the then-Pac-10 conferences years ago.
Now, both colleges are moving on. It won’t be long until Colorado, Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State Oregon, Oregon State and Utah move on to another powerful conference that would eventually dissolve the Pac-12.
Action Network’s Brett McMurphy reported last week that ACC schools such as Florida State, Miami, Clemson and North Carolina could join the SEC. If it comes to fruition, SEC would have 20 teams. Smart money says it will happen in response to what the Big 10 did that has the conference with 16 schools.
At some point, when does the madness end?
For all intents and purposes, the Power Five is done. It’s now the Big Ten and SEC, and nothing else. If a college is not listed in that conference, it means those programs are not worthy of playing in big games for college football. That’s the long and short of it. This means those teams could get the shaft of playing important bowl games.
College sports might as well be dead now that there are really two conferences while the other conferences in name only sit at the kiddie’s table. It just stinks.
With all those universities moving to the Big Ten and SEC, do those conferences even have any meaning anymore? It’s more of a mercenary conference than a traditional conference. It’s hard to call it the Big Ten anymore when it’s now coast-to-coast rather than just the Midwest universities like the good old days when the Big Ten was really the Big Ten. It’s hard to embrace the new SEC when it’s saturated with more teams that shouldn’t be there.
Conference realignment stems from power, prestige, money and television. Traditions be damned.
The Big Ten yearned to go after the SEC in college football for a long time. This is what expansion is all about. The more teams that conference gets, the more chances it can get in playing with the SEC teams. The Big Ten wants to be more than Ohio State for college football. It wants so many teams, and that’s why Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren (a football guy from his Minnesota Vikings days) pushed for USC and UCLA to come to his conference. This is about supremacy here. Of course, SEC would not sit by and let the Big Ten make all the moves. That conference would respond accordingly just to flex its power, even after adding Texas and Oklahoma. The SEC does not need to add any teams, but the conference can do it since it can.
The Big Ten and SEC aim to create the most drama, best stories and increase TV ratings. This explains the expansion process. The more, the merrier as they say. Getting schools like USC and UCLA enhance the Big Ten because of what they accomplish in their respective sport. Same can be said about Texas and Oklahoma enhancing the SEC based on their successful pedigree.
Always follow the money. More billions have to be made. It’s never enough. That’s what conference realignment is all about. That’s why the Big Ten and SEC keep expanding. That’s why colleges ditch history and tradition from their own conference to start a new chapter. Everyone benefits from the move except the student-athletes, who now have to do so much traveling to go along with doing schoolwork, not to mention attending practice.
Oh, and don’t forget television. This is about FOX and ESPN battling each other and dictating colleges on what to do. FOX has so much invested in the Big Ten and ESPN has so much invested in the SEC. Oh, Fox owns the Big Ten Network and ESPN operates the SEC Network. The only way those networks survive is by adding more college teams in the respective conference. This gives the Big Ten Network and SEC Network more power to promote its product in markets such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma and other areas.
While all this benefits the conference, it does not help the game at all. How can anyone be up for UCLA going up against Rutgers on a Fall Saturday or a wintery Wednesday night at Piscataway? How are the bowl games and playoff games going to be any better now that expansion dilutes everything? March Madness is unique in the sense teams played each other despite not being familiar with one another. Now all that is out the door.
It’s hard to get into Rutgers Big Ten games. Yes, Rutgers basketball managed to do well in a tough conference, but no Midwestern school is going to get riled up or worked up about playing Rutgers. Maybe football can be a different story, but I doubt it. As good as it is for the school that it is in the Big Ten, it never made sense based on geographical reasons.
I can only think the fine folks in Southern California and the Midwestern cities can’t get into UCLA and USC playing the Midwest colleges. It just doesn’t seem right.
Then again, fans never matter in sports. We are just pawns to big business and nothing more. We have to deal with it.
Players don’t matter since colleges treat them as indentured servants.
The revenue college sports and the non-revenue college sports did just fine without realignment. There was no reason for it.
But greed got in the way.
Greed could be the death knell of college sports altogether.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6