Sunday, June 3, 2012

Changing the Landscape

     Remember the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry? The head coaching battles between Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer/ Bob Stoops were something else. What about the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh? Whoever won that game that year was virtually guaranteed a BCS berth. How about the days of when TCU, Utah and Boise State were BCS busters? Their success peeved both the Bowl Coalition and certain teams (See Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan State) alike. Ahh, those were the days. Back when NCAA FBS Football wasn't all about the money, but rather the moment. But now, these moments are being endangered thanks in part to teams like TCU and Boise St. moving to BCS conferences for more money and an automatic BCS bowl berth.
     Flash back to June 10, 2010. Not since the Big East's major overhaul and TCU's departure for the Mountain West had NCAA FBS football seen any form of conference realignment occur within its boundaries. But on this day, the Big 12 would lose two schools within their conference: the University of Colorado and the University of Nebraska. Colorado would be heading to the Pac 10 while Nebraska would fill the void of twelfth team in the Big 10, although Nebraska didn't move until two days later. There was speculation of the Big 12's potential demise as a conference because schools such as Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma were rumored to be looking into moving to new conferences like the Pac 12 and the SEC. A day later, Boise State had announced their move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference. This would raise speculation of the MWC possibly gaining an automatic BCS berth as a conference. A day after that, Texas turned down an invitation from the Pac-10 to join their conference. This was in part to the Big 12 benefiting greatly from a new TV deal. Utah would join Colorado in their move to the Pac-10 to form the newly-named Pac-12 just three days later. This week of events would prove to be important in the constant shift of the modern landscape of NCAA FBS football. The following events that occurred after June 17, 2010 (when Utah moved to the Pac-12 conference) include:
  • The Mountain West Conference luring Fresno State and Nevada from the Western Athletic Conference (August 18th, 2010)
  • BYU becoming an Independent in Football and joining the WAC in other sports (August 31, 2010)
  • Pac-12 forms its conference divisions into North and South, consisting of California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Washington State in the North. The South was made up of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, USC and Utah. (October 21, 2010)
  • Nevada and Fresno State agree to play one more season in the WAC amid a lawsuit filed by WAC officials. The lawsuit stated that the two schools failed to provide proper notice to leave the league and would owe the WAC a $5 million departure fee. (October 28, 2010)
  • Texas San-Antonio and Texas State join the WAC's football lineup after the conference would lose Boise State after 2011. Montana turns down an invitation to join. It should be noted that Montana was a member of the Pac-12's precursor conference, the Pacific Coast Conference from 1924 to 1950. (November 11, 2010)
  • TCU originally declares it's moving to the Big East in all sports starting in 2012. (November 29, 2010)
  • Hawaii, the Western Athletic Conference's longest-running member at 32 years, joins the Mountain West Conference only for football and the Big West for other sports, starting in 2012. (December 10, 2010)
  • The Atlantic Coast Conference plucks both Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East, putting the Big East on life-support. (September 18, 2011)
  • Texas A&M aggressively seeks SEC membership out of unhappiness for Texas's newest network, the Longhorn Network. This was the first addition for the Southeastern Conference since it added South Carolina and Arkansas in 1992. (September 25, 2010)
  • TCU pulls back on moving to the Big East. Instead, the Horned Frogs accept an invitation to join the Big 12. (October 10, 2011)
  • The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA announce they'll be merging into a 20-24 team mega conference solely for football operations, starting in 2013. (October 14, 2011)
  • The Big 12 invites West Virginia from the Big East to join its conference. (October 28, 2011)
  • The SEC, already with two schools whose mascots are the Tigers, add a third tiger to the mix, nabbing Missouri from the Big 12. (November 6, 2011)
  • The Big East introduces San Diego State, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston and SMU as the conference's newest members after they lose Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia. Effective in 2013, the new football-only conference will span four time-zones, over 3,000 miles will eventually feature twelve teams. (December 7, 2011)
  • Memphis joins the Big East after being snubbed by the Big East's expansion in 2005. (February 8, 2012)
     This only scratches the surface of realignment. Now Florida State is rumored to possibly move to the Big 12 while Navy is ending its independent status to join the Big East. Navy will be joined by 2nd-time member Temple, who comes over from the MAC. There are many more moves that can't be crammed into one blog post even by myself. There are also many more moves to come in the future. But conference realignment hasn't been the only component changing the picture of NCAA FBS football.
     Schools such as Ohio State, Penn State and Syracuse have been hit hard with scandals, scams and illegal activity over the past few years. But these issues don't just stem from the players/students themselves. On March 8th, 2011, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was fined $250,000 by Ohio State for failing to notify the school of violations involving the Ohio State football players and a financial arrangement with Edward Fife, the owner of a tattoo parlor who was under investigation at the time by the FBI for drug trafficking. The arrangement included trading championship rings, jerseys and other football-related rewards for tattoos. This arrangement also resulted in Ohio State suspending five of its players. Tressel would resign on May 30th, 2011 as a result of the scandal. As for Penn State and Syracuse, their assistant coaches, both former and current alike, were involved in child abuse scandals. Former Penn State assistant head coach Jerry Sandusky was accused on November 4, 2011 of molesting ten young males during one of his summer camp programs when he was with the Nittany Lions' football program . Head coach Joe Paterno would be terminated from his position five days later for failing to report any of the incidents to any authorities. This would spark an outrage from students and alumni, causing the students to riot on the State College streets of the campus the night of Paterno's firing. Many more incidents such as ex-Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino's motorcycle crash from a "Bonnie and Clyde" expedition with a younger female companion and North Carolina's not-so-sterling academic reputation have led to some major changes on coaching staffs alike.
     There's talk of a possible playoff system being implemented into NCAA FBS football. The SEC wants the Top 4 teams in the nation to face each other in a two-round playoff. Other conferences such as the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC want a playoff system where every conference champion is represented, similar to the tournament done in college basketball. If a playoff system is implemented in the future, it'll certainly be the greatest shift of college football's landscape. Not only will the schools be affected, but the corporations that sponsor the college bowls played in December and January will affected. Nevertheless, it's all a part of the evolution of not just NCAA FBS football, but in all of college sports. This isn't your father's collegiate athletics.

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