By Jeff Levene
It is a rare occasion that I would consider something in the wide world of athletics worthy of extending beyond the sports page, but with the recent announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh would be joining the ACC, I realized this was a rare opportunity to talk about collegiate sports issues outside of statistics and historical moments.
This news has re-heated an already hot sports debate on the idea of creating four super conferences in the NCAA. Everyone from sports analysts to coaches to television representatives and marketing agents have been discussing the possibility of creating four gigantic sixteen-team conferences as a means to push towards a legitimate collegiate football playoff system in an effort to generate even more money from a rabid fan base. To some of us these changes are more important than Greece’s floundering economy, war in the Middle East, and Obamacare.
While the idea of four titanic colossuses seems like a horrifying creation from the minds of Dr. Frankenstein and Lou Holtz, a four mega-conference NCAA would mean one great thing: college football playoffs. As most of you are fully aware, the talk about playoffs in NCAA football has also been a buzz phrase for many college football fans. And I, along with most other enthusiasts, would agree that the sport needs a playoff system for an entirely fair outcome.
The flaws of the basic bowl system were highlighted during the 2004 season, when University of Southern California was proclaimed national champions, even though both Southern Cal and Auburn had undefeated seasons and won one of the four major bowls. Some hoped that the 2007 addition of an official BCS championship game would help remove controversy, but Boise State proved this method had its own pitfalls, as Boise had several undefeated seasons, yet the team was not chosen for the title game because of their weak conference.
With four super conferences, each conference champion could have an automatic bid to one of the four BCS bowl games, now the first round of playoffs, while the other four openings would exist for the four other highest ranking teams. This would answer the prayers of football fans everywhere, because it means that could two Big 10 teams or 4 SEC teams could possibly have a shot at the title; or, Boise State could finally prove they are a national championship caliber program.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid the sight of playoffs has blinded us to some of the horrors a four super conference system could bring to the traditions of college football. Two years ago, it looked like the Big 12 was preparing to crumble as both Nebraska and Colorado left to join the Big 10 and Pac-12. Meanwhile, with the possibility of an apocalyptic end to the Big 12, schools still in that conference started frantically reaching out to anyone that would consider taking them.
For teams not in super conferences, this system would be terrible. Like Boise’s problem now, non-super conference teams would be belittled because of their “weak schedule” or the glorification of how difficult it is to play in the super conferences. Teams like Cincinnati or Iowa State could also find themselves in conferences far below their playing level. Also, basketball dominated universities, such as Kansas, might end up in small and otherwise unimportant hardwood conferences. I don’t know about you but I would much rather see Kansas play Oklahoma and Texas every year as opposed to having an annual match up against Montana.
Whatever my opinion, the recent ACC additions mentioned earlier has once again frenzied the Big 12 demagogues, who are once again predicting the conference’s doom. And whatever happens, in the grand scheme of things, we should probably be more concerned with economic turmoil, a radical Middle East, or invasions by hostile aliens. But all the major changes in college football are a nice distraction from all the real world changes. So if you’re flustered by the debt in Greece or Libyan revolutions, I suggest you turn on SportsCenter to get your media thrills and horrors. I mean, who cares about universal health care when college football playoffs could be right around the corner?