Conference realignment continues to dominate the landscape of college football. The Pac 12 has all but collapsed, with key schools Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah announcing their intentions to leave this week, after UCLA and USC already did so last year.
There were only four schools left without a chair as the music ended, Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State. The Big 12 benefitted from the collapse of the Pac 12. After Washington and Oregon left for the Big 10, the Big 12 gained Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.
While the SEC and Big 10 have the top two spots in the conference pecking order locked up, the ACC and Big 12 are in competition for third place. The Big 12 losing Texas and Oklahoma next year, probably its two biggest brands, seemed to be a gut punch. The conference added smaller schools moving up in competition like BYU, Cincinnati and UCF, but it was still getting weaker overall.
Now, it brings in programs that have been at an already high level historically. It made sense geographically for the Big 12 to add the schools that it did, with Arizona, ASU and Utah all in the relative vicinity of where the conference is based in the Southwest.
However, geography and regional rivalries seem to be out the window with the Big 10 soon to stretch from coast to coast. The ACC has taken notice. Reports have surfaced that the conference is considering adding Stanford and Cal.
While it obviously makes no sense geographically to have two schools in Northern California in a conference that’s entirely based on the east coast, it may be necessary to take steps like that for the conference to survive. There have been rumblings for a while now that the bigger name programs in the ACC are trying to leave.
Schools like Clemson, Florida State and Miami have been vocal about not being happy with the revenue system in the ACC. North Carolina, NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech have also been rumored to potentially want out
Jim Phillips, the ACC commissioner, has said on many occasions that the conference is the third best in the country, behind the SEC and Big 12. If it wants to remain that way, it needs to be open to the new world it operates in.
There are plenty of challenges it would create, with the obvious one being travel and costs. That applies to every sport, which is particularly harmful to non-revenue ones. It’s not a perfect option at all, but it almost feels like a necessary step. The Pac 12 collapsing proves that conferences are in a struggle for survival. If you’re not the SEC or the Big 10, you have to pull out all the stops to not only remain relevant, but to stay in existence.
The end of the ACC is certainly not imminent, definitely nothing like the Pac 12. However, with the direction college sports are going, that could be the case one day. Conferences have to guard against that eventuality immediately.