Conference Realignment Shakes Up College Sports

By Steve Goldberg

Geoff Ratliff and Jeremy Sickel, Editors

It’s September, and the smell of college football is in the air on almsot 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 most of the focus is not on upsets and early BCS predictions. Instead, rumors are constantly circulating about schools headed for “greener” pastures.

Last offseason, Colorado and Nebraska decided to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10 (now the Pac -12) and Big Ten, respectively. This offseason, Texas A&M chose to jump ship as well and play in the SEC next year and there is talk that Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma State will soon jettison too.

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

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

If those two conference titans choose the status quo, the situation becomes quite uncomplicated. The conference will survive and likely add one more team, possibly Houston, BYU, or SMU. If the two cash cows decide to leave, chaos will erupt in the world of college sports and not just in the Midwest. 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 to the Southeastern United States. The move is solely motivated by financial greed. With the SEC’s lucrative television deal and equal revenue sharing, the school would have more money to spend on upgrading its athletic facilities, which would be imperative to surviving a move and consistently hang with the big boys.

Analysts are constantly talking about how this will impact football and men’s basketball, the two most popular college sports. The people making these decisions have no regard for the effect that conference realignment will have on less popular sports, like baseball, soccer or volleyball.

Student athletes in non-revenue producing sports will now be spending less time in the classroom and more time on the road traveling due to the flawed 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 will mean more travel time, tougher opponents, and possibly more losing seasons in the immediate future, which could take a negative toll in the short term. 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, which means the recruitment of better athletes and in turn competing for championships down the road.

Rumors about the so-called conference realignment will continue to circulate on ESPN and through social media by the minute. Eventually these schools will make decisions that will impact the futures of their athletic programs, forever changing the landscape of major college sports. For now, all we can do is sit back and be a part of the insanity.

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.

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