20 September 2011

Conference Realignment Shakes Up College Sports

A Mizzou Student's Editorial
via Steve Goldberg
It's September, and the smell of college football is in the air on every campus across America. As a student, you live for spending your Saturday afternoons cheering your team to victory.

However, turn on ESPN for just a few minutes and you will soon realize that the focus is not on the usual upsets and early BCS predictions. Instead, rumors are constantly circulating on television and the Internet about the schools headed for new conferences.

Last offseason, Colorado and Nebraska decided to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively. This offseason, Texas A&M decided to leave the Big 12 and play in the SEC next year. There is talk that Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma State will soon leave the conference as well.

So what does that mean for the future of the athletic programs at the remaining Big 12 schools? Six schools are left without a home; Missouri, Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas. These schools were committed to a conference that is now falling apart and inching closer to its demise every day.

As a student at the University of Missouri, I find myself stuck in the middle of all this madness. Mizzou has said they will stay in the Big 12 until the conference falls apart, but the future of our athletic program is now out of their control. The school's fate will ultimately be determined by the decisions of Oklahoma and Texas.

If Oklahoma and Texas decide to stay in the Big 12, the situation becomes quite simple. The conference will survive and will likely add one more team, possibly Houston, BYU or SMU.

If Oklahoma and Texas decide to leave, chaos will erupt in the world of college sports. According to a report in the Kansas City Star, the SEC will invite Missouri to join their conference if the Big 12 collapses.

From a geographic standpoint, this makes absolutely no sense. Missouri is a Midwest school with no ties in the Southeastern United States.

However, the move makes perfect sense from a financial standpoint. With the SEC's lucrative television deal and equal revenue sharing, the school would have more money to spend on upgrading their athletic facilities.

Analysts are constantly talking about how this will impact football and men's basketball, the two most popular college sports. However, people do not usually consider the effect of conference realignment on less popular sports, like soccer or volleyball.

These student athletes will now be spending less time in the classroom and more time on the road traveling due to the geography of the new conferences. Texas A&M illustrates this example perfectly. Its two closest Big 12 opponents are Baylor [92 miles] and Texas [105 miles]. Its two closest SEC opponents next year will be LSU [337 miles] and Arkansas [505 miles].

Unfortunately for the student athletes at these schools, conference realignment may mean more travel time, tougher opponents, and possibly losing seasons in the immediate future. However, these schools will be much more successful financially, and fans can only hope that their teams will use their additional resources to improve their facilities, recruit better athletes, and compete more challenging opponents.

Rumors will continue to circulate about these topics on ESPN and Twitter every day. Eventually these schools will make the decision that will impact the future of their athletic program forever. But for now, all we can do is wait as the conference realignment madness continues.

Steve Goldberg is a freshman sports journalist at the University of Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter @SG_Mizzou15 or find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bostonfan93.

The Big Ten Perspective
by Mizzou Matt
Financially, the Big Ten is an even better fit than the SEC for Mizzou. When the speculation began about Mizzou going to the Big Ten prior to last season, estimates were done to see how much it would cost to renovate Faurot Field. The initial estimates came back at $48 million, which would have reportedly been fronted by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, MO. The estimated payout for the first three seasons in the Big Ten? $16 mil/year. Our stadium would've been paid off after the third year according to those reports.

Another reason the Big Ten is a better fit- every single game is televised, no matter how slack the opponent. The Big Ten Network (BTN) is really the only network out there that can truly say they have the most comprehensive coverage of any school. If a Big Ten Conference school is playing, the BTN has the coverage (unless it's televised on another network such as ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC or FX).  While Texas gets the majority of the money from the Longhorn Network (majority meaning ALL), the Big Ten and BTN splits revenues equally among their members. The SEC can't claim to have every game televised at no cost to the viewer, unless it's in-state or covered online. Auburn vs Utah State is an example of this. It was available on SECNet PPV and online at ESPN3.com. Of course, the only way you can have BTN is if it's included in your cable or satellite package.

Why else should Mizzou consider the Big Ten, if an offer is made? We'd renew our rivalries with Nebraska and Illinois. From what I've learned from asking around Columbia, Tiger fans would much rather keep the rivalry with Kansas over renewing Illinois and Nebraska. Could the Jayhawks be a piggy-back contingency to whatever conference Missouri goes to? It's way too soon to tell. What conference will Mizzou go to? No idea. Right now, with Chancellor Brady Deaton being chairman on the Big 12 Board, we're committed to the Big 12. If that should collapse, what conference would be a better fit? Unfortunately for the fans, that's not in our control. The Board of Curators will ultimately decide the future of Missouri Athletics.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is merely a pawn in a chess game that is much larger than any of us can fathom at this point. Whomever extends the first offer, Mizzou can not, I repeat can NOT just snub them and severe ties. They can say they are still shopping around, and keep that first offer in mind, so if more offers do not surface, they have a backup plan in case the Big 12 should collapse. But, much like the Matt Painter fiasco in April, we cannot jump the gun, or we'll wind up with egg on our faces yet again.

"Mizzou Matt" Jeffrey is a diehard Mizzou fan that lives in the middle of Mizzou Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mizzou_Matt or find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mizzoumatt.

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