The Coming Era of the Superconference and Why It Works for the BCS

Just as a matter clarification when I talk about the BCS I am speaking about the current set up. ie no playoff format at all, just an independent adjudicator picking the two best teams from the sea of contenders and setting them up to play the final game of the year. This is an idea that I have been kicking around for quite a while, trying to converge on the best way get it across.

The basis of the argument is this. Soon, very soon the first domino's in the next greatest money grab in intercollegiate athletics will kick off. This has always been an inevitability. The next logical step in the decades long process which has changed college athletics from diversionary exercises in the early 20th century to entirely for profit endeavors today. I am not making a moral judgment on the role sports play in universities. Sports, not academics, define many a university in this country. That is an irrefutable fact. For better or worse that is the state of things and even given the large amounts of money spent on athletics instead of academics the US still has far and away the best higher education system in the world. The list of the top 200 universities in the world on littered with some of the most recognizable sports programs in the country. So while there will be much talk about how academics will play a large role in the selection process of various conferences considering various schools, the truth of the matter is that money will dictate every single step of the process.

The expansion and realignment process will be create another barrier separating the haves from the have not's. The basis of that separation will be based almost entirely upon money and little else. So as a result you will see some of the programs that are currently in the have not category, your Boise States, BYU's, Utah's ect move over the the have's side of the arrangement.Very few people realize just how monumental the gap between the average Sun Belt or MAC school and the average BCS conference school is. The difference isn't 10 or 20 million dollars in revenue, it's 30 or 40 and it is going to get bigger. When the superconferences take their final shapes they will do so by cherry picking the most profitable athletic departments from the Mountainwest, Conference USA and the Western Athletic Conference. Those conferences stripped of their flagship institutions will descend to the level of the MAC and Sun Belt or cease to exist in any form at all.

The end result will be about 80 schools spread across 5 or maybe 6 conferences and a still independent Notre Dame. Within those confines will exist almost every athletic department of note. And the current post season format will continue to exist and the calls from institutions themselves for a playoff system will stop. The people who were continually making the most noise for a playoff system over the past few years have been fans and administrators of schools who have been left out in the cold so to speak by the current system. Boise State, BYU, Hawaii and Utah have been at the heart of all the condemnations of the system, primarily because they have not been party to that system. But those schools, with the probable exception of Hawaii, will find their way to a money conference in the next 5 years or so and flush with all that new found cash they will promptly shut the hell up about it.

The only way that a playoff like what you see on the lower divisions comes to be in division 1A is if there is pressure from inside the system to change it. But with the most likely catalyst's of change like BYU or Boise State finding the additional money received as part of the Big 12 or PAC 10 a compelling reason to let the matter rest the pressure to effect change will dissipate from the system and we as fans will wind up with more or less the same set up we have now. The people who truly run the system now are bowl reps, university presidents and conference commissioners none of whom have any interest at all in altering the system now or in the future. The only way we would get a playoff now is if there was continued and sustained pressure from conferences outside the arrangement eg. the Mountain West or WAC in that direction. When the BCS conferences absorb the flagships of those conferences they have no basis to exert pressure on the system. In that way we will get what we have had for the foreseeable future in the sport.

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