I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now, but in case you haven’t, or even if you have, it’s worth mentioning again.
Late last week, after the Champions Bowl agreement between the SEC and the Big 12 became public, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas, who is on his way out in a couple of weeks, was asked what he would do if he were the commissioner of the Big East or ACC right about now.
Without flinching, and with a the kind of confidence and cockiness that should make Big 12 fans everywhere feel very, very good about the league’s future, Neinas laughed and said, “Better get a good bowl.”
That’s if there’s time.
It’s obvious what the Big 12-SEC agreement has done to the landscape of college athletics. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have the Rose Bowl and the Big 12 and SEC now have the Champions Bowl. What the four of them have together is a stranglehold on college football. And that, we all know, gives those four conferences and the teams within them some serious power.
But what if this is just the beginning? Forget a Final Four for football or an all-encompassing playoff of any kind. What if these four leagues decide to play the way they want to play and create their own rules? Beyond the obvious that such a move could further fast-track the shift to super conferences, it also would create potential disaster for the NCAA as we know it.
The Champions Bowl is a nice concept. It ensures that even if — somehow — the Big 12 and SEC champions aren’t in the top four at the end of the season, we’ll have one heck of a bowl game to look forward to anyway.
So what if this concept trickles down a little. What if those leagues decide to pair up second- or third-place finishers in other bowls? Sound like a stretch? It shouldn’t. Forget the appeal of top-tier teams or quality match-ups. The driving force behind this move, as it is with most things these days, would be money. And if you’re the Big 12 and the SEC and you’re pairing your top teams in new bowls and doing all the work to market them and make it happen, guess what? You get to keep all the money. No sharing it with the NCAA or corporate sponsors. You keep it. And you divvy it up between the members of your now incredibly powerful leagues.
If such a move were to happen, the current postseason set up not only would lose out on top teams, big bucks and marketing gold mines, it also would have to restructure its existing bowl lineup, should the other bowl games even survive.
There’s been talk lately about raising the number of victories required for bowl eligibility from six to seven. If the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 took this next step, the NCAA would have to lower the number to five just to fill all of the bowl slots. Yuck.
I’m not necessarily advocating this kind of hostile takeover. I like the NCAA Tournament, and I would love to see college football have something similar, be it an eight- or 16-team playoff someday. And I’m sure there are more than a few obstacles to this plan that would make it tough to pull off.
But this much we now know — don’t underestimate the Big 12. What looked to be a dinosaur on its death bed just one year ago is now in the ultimate position of power in college athletics’ most important sport.
I can’t help but wonder what’s next.
Let’s move on to a quick look at the realignment talk that popped up over the weekend.
Before I hit you with these links, it should be noted that multiple Big 12 sources told me late last week that nothing was happening and that the Big 12 was not involved in any serious conversations about expansion. A couple of those same sources also said, however, that the league is always keeping its eyes and ears open to anything and everything that would make it a better conference.
I’ll have another blog later this week with some more from those sources.
Onto the links:
This report says Florida State to the Big 12 is “inevitable.”
In case you missed this, add former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden to the list of people who believe the Seminoles should stay in the ACC:
Here’s a blog that links to a couple of sites that say Clemson has reached a deal in principle to move to the Big 12, possibly with Florida State and Georgia Tech not far behind.
And, finally, a list of the seven topics that will dominate discussions this week, complete with the following at No. 3:
--- What’s next for Notre Dame? Do the Irish have much choice but to re-examine their status relative to the members of the stronger-than-ever SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12? We probably should’ve included the officially resuscitated Big 12 in the previous sentence, too. Is ND an expansion target for the Big 12? One thing we can say for sure is Notre Dame isn’t as powerful as it once was. Until its profile within the next BCS structure is defined, it isn’t necessarily any better off than the programs in the suddenly vulnerable ACC (let alone those in the sitting-duck Big East).