Common Sense in Conference Realignment

So the PAC-12 is the savior of the Big XII. So claims the headline in the sports section of today’s Lawrence Journal-World.

After looking over the insanity that has become college football alignment this season, the PAC-12 elected not to accept anyone’s bid to join their conference. Oklahoma, which had said it would either move to the PAC-12 (taking Oklahoma State with it) or stay put, had one of its choices taken away. It seems the Big XII is safe.

Or maybe not. Things keep changing with the suddeness of an ADHD kid’s focus. For instance:

  • Pittsburgh and Syracuse shot the Big East in the head by suddenly applying to and being accepted by the ACC this past weekend.
  • West Virginia responded by applying to the ACC and SEC and was rejected by both.
  • TCU, scheduled to join the Big East next season, is suddenly wondering what to do, since the conference seems doomed with only six football schools after the departures of Pitt and ‘Cuse.
  • A Missouri booster leaked to the Kansas City Star that the Tigers had an offer to move to the SEC with Texas A&M, only to have that blow up in their face when it seemed the Big XII wouldn’t dissolve after all and SEC officals getting pissed about a secret deal being made un-secret.
  • The Big East revealed it first reached out to all Big XII schools when it looked like OU might jump, then started talking merger with the Big XII when Pitt and Syracuse left.

Who knows what happens next?

What’s been missing from all of this talk of realignment is common sense. We’re following the pursuit of the great TV deal, while ignoring such obvious ideas as regional rivalries, fan base travel ability, and the incredible drain on non-revenue sports (which is to say everything else except men’s basketball) that all this extra travel will cost. Seriously? Kansas is going to fly across the entire Big Ten to play road matches at Rutgers. In swimming?

Moreover, the talk in the Big XII has been all about, “How can we survive if [insert school here] leaves?” Well, how about we go get someone to replace them?

Like, say, TCU? The Horned Frogs plan to join the Big East,  because they can’t get an autobid to a BCS bowl playing in the Mountain West. Hmm. Texas A&M is leaving the Big XII. Where could the conference find another Texas school with a high profile football program? Where else could TCU find a BCS conference that wouldn’t disintegrate and would severely reduce their travel costs?

How is it that TCU to the Big XII isn’t done yet?

BYU is playing an indepedent football schedule this year. Mightn’t they not be a good fit for the Big XII? Wouldn’t that put them in a position for an autobid to a BCS bowl? Better yet, BYU is a two-sport school, which means they would also elevate the standing of the Big XII in basketball.

And if we really need to mess around with Big East schools, how about picking off Marquette and Cincinnati? UC’s football program is mediocre but was recently a top-five program, and could be again with Big XII visibility to aid in recruiting. Marquette is a perennial basketball power. Both schools are a lot closer than Rutgers or Connecticut or Villanova.

The Big XII is a Midwest conference. It needs schools that are located in the Midwest. That improves rivalries and reduces travel costs. It makes it easier for fans to travel to games. Merging with the Big East or allowing the conference to disintegrate makes as much sense as Santa Claus marching in a Fourth-of-July parade.

And maybe all this is being considered. Maybe there are secret deals being put in place that are just as secret as the one the Mizzou booster blew up by leaking it to the “Star.”

But if it isn’t, it’s time officials in the Big XII put their heads together and figured out how to not only keep the conference together, but to capitalize on this insanity to make the league stronger. It’s time for some common sense.

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