Posted: April 25, 2013
A few days ago, the Presidents of the ACC schools approved a Grant of Media Rights. This essentially means that should a school depart the ACC, its media rights remain with the conference through the 2026-27 season. Many others have posted more details on this and I will not go any further in way of explanation. Many (if not all) are hailing this as a good thing, as it will effectively stop the conference realignments that have been occurring over the past few years. I strongly disagree and think this is a bad thing for college football in the long run. Yes for now this stops all that realignment stuff that was ugly, confusing and a money grab. The ACC did what it needed in order to protect itself, but it is not good for college football.
Let me start with posing the question of what was the end game in all that realignment? To me, as a fan, my biggest complaint with college football was that the national champion was decided in part by highly subjective means rather than play on the field, such as scheduling, strength of conference, polls of people who don’t watch the games, etc. Realignment was helping to cure some of that. It was making the process of awarding a championship more towards winning games and less on the other subjective criteria. Is the subjective still going to matter? Yes, but we were heading in the right direction.
Early last week, I wrote an entry that discussed a new model in college football scheduling that would have conferences continuing to expand and having almost exclusively conference games. Since that post, the Big 10 has announced a nine game schedule and there is chatter of the SEC (or at least Les Miles) wanting to expand the SEC conference schedule so a player coming into the SEC would at least get to play every other team at least once in their career. These are good things. In addition to us fans seeing better games, more conference games mean the conference title is a better reflection of play on the field and less about who you did and did not play from the other division of your conference. This is all good, but how does realignment play into this?
With the College Football Playoff at 4 teams and not likely to expand anytime soon and even then it is tough to see it ever expanding to more than 8, it was my hope that conferences would get larger to make the conference titles more meaningful and essentially the preliminary rounds of the College Football Playoff. Please read Blow Up College Football Scheduling? for more details on my thoughts on these scheduling issues. Expansion could be achieved by the SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC adding a few more teams. But more likely, I had hoped the Big 10 would pick off a few more teams from the ACC. This would then result in either the other conferences (and I am looking at you SEC) adding some current ACC or Big 12 schools thus necessitating some additional poaching and scaling up of the current American Conference, Mountain West or Conference USA schools or something to that effect. Larger conferences means more teams in play for conference titles, thus a larger “preliminary” playoff before the College Football Playoff.
After the ACC Grant of Rights, this is likely to not occur. The only major conference without a Grant of Rights is the SEC. You would have to be criminally insane to leave the SEC on purpose (I’m looking at you Vanderbilt), because of money and the fact that it would be career suicide for that AD and President. This means the only way the major conferences expand is by going after the American Conference, Sun Belt, Mountain West, Conference USA, or Mid American schools. This is a scenario I just do not see happening. I can see the SEC adding a Clemson, FSU, or Virginia Tech (to name a few), but I just don’t see them adding an East Carolina or Troy.
Therefore, I think we are at the end of the realignment process and I feel we only got halfway before it has come to an end. What we are left with is a great game with a good but not great conclusion, a conclusion that relies more on the subjective than this great game deserves. I wish we had come closer to absolute objectivity, knowing we could never get all the way there, but a few steps closer would have been nice. As John Malkovich as Teddy KGB said “Just like a young man, coming in for a quickie. I feel so unsatisfied…”