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ISSUE: Conference realignments
OUR VIEW: At what price?
The only thing not confusing in all of the shuffling and possible shuffling of NCAA schools into different conferences is that the University of Hawaii has no interest in joining the depleted Big East Conference. The captivating soap opera “As the Schools Turn” has seen some interesting changes in just the last few weeks.
Texas Christian University decided to bolt from the Big East to accept an invite from the Big 12. TCU left the Mountain West Conference to join the Big East but then the Big 12, which lost some schools, convinced TCU that the Big 12 was a better place for them.
The Big East is trying to keep its group together and replace Pitt and Syracuse, which joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and later West Virginia, which announced its exit for the Big 12.
Like vultures flying over a carcass, various conferences continue to feed on Big East schools to recruit them. West Virginia’s decision didn’t sit well with the folks at Louisville and especially with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who evidently felt a responsibility to get involved. At the 11th hour, McConnell convinced Big 12 officials to put the West Virginia move on hold and reconsider U of L.
Thank you, Sen. McConnell for making college football a priority over the economy, health care and job creation. This seems to be an inappropriate commitment of the Senate leader’s time.
The Southeastern Conference will grow to 14, adding Texas A&M and the University of Missouri.
Should Louisville leave, the Big East has the potential to be left with only four football schools, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Connecticut. Not to worry Big East fans, they are entertaining options such as Boise State (Idaho), Air Force (Colorado), Navy (Annapolis, Md. – an actual east coast school), Houston (Texas), SMU (Texas) and Central Florida.
Boise State would be a welcome addition because of its football prowess over the last 10 years. It has a solid program but it’s in Idaho, one state away from the Pacific Ocean, which is off the west coast.
Nebraska moved to the 12-team Big 10 Conference last year, Colorado and Utah moved to the renamed Pac 12 this year and the shuffling has been frequent over the last decade or so.
What’s all the shuffling about? Can’t these schools stay in one place and play traditional rivals?
Bottom line: It’s about bids to major bowls, television rights fees and, most of all, money.
Most of these moves mean increased travel expenses and more stress on student athletes to maintain curriculum performance because of increased travel time. That, of course, also includes increased field performance expectations. Student athletes at the Division 1 level already are challenged to maintain focus on academics with the demands of high performance in athletics.
Yes the schools will prosper financially, but does that mean they will ask for less support from taxpayers? In many cases, realignments mean increased pressure for taxpayers to provide money for better facilities. It also can result in increased ticket prices, increased coaches’ salaries and, most of all, declining focus on academics.
Who will benefit from the conference shuffling game? School administrators, coaches and non-academic focused athletes. How’s that move sound to you?
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.