Since the Big Ten uncorked the bottle holding the conference realignment genie back in November, rumors of more massive changes to come have been spreading across the country. Fans enjoy the “fantasy league” nature of the discussion. People in industries connected to college sports (television, athletic equipment suppliers, agencies holding media rights) simply accept that their world is in for more change. While several of the folks we’ve spoken to in various SEC athletic departments seem to dread the next round of shuffling.
Count us among those who’d like to see the biggest conferences pause, reflect, and observe how the last batch of changes turn out… before changing things once more. Unfortunately it looks as though further changes are unavoidable.
Schools want to make more money and conference swaps can help them do that. Conferences want to either stabilize themselves, guarantee themselves more money, or both. And television networks want more and more content — that means games — with which to fill their program schedules. Add it all up and it certainly appears that the era of the super-conferences is almost here.
Last month, we began a series of breakdowns on realignment and expansion. In Part One we looked at which schools might be looking to switch conferences in order to bolster their bank accounts. In Part Two we examined those 25 “up for grabs” schools to see which ones would probably be on power conferences’ wish lists. In Part Three we looked at the five remaining power conferences and their various options moving forward.
In this, the final part of our series, we try to tie everything together for you. It’s not been easy because many different people are saying many different things these days. That’s the nature of these things, of course. Everyone from an old buddy who works for a major television network to a contact/source who works inside an SEC athletic department wants us to believe he’s got his finger on the pulse of this stuff. We’ve tried to cut through the clutter and deliver what we believe to be some pretty accurate recon of the shifting conference landscape, but it’s far from definitive. This a chess game amongst world class players with billions of dollars at stake. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that sources — especially those at schools — might be willing to float misinformation to cause panic elsewhere.
So what you’re about to see should be taken as our view on this early-January day of where the conferences might move in the coming days, weeks, months and years. It should not be taken as gospel. With the television dollars, threats of litigation, and pure politics involved in these realignment decisions, what’s true at breakfast could be false by dinner.
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