Sunday, October 7, 2012

NCAA Realignment

Recently, University of Notre Dame shifted their major collegiate sports, besides football, from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Accordingly, the Big East had a back up plan and knew of a possible departure. Starting within the next few years, future schools such as Navy, SMU, UCF will be joining the Big East to make up for the departure of other schools (UWV, 'Cuse, UND).

So this had me thinking. Will the shifting in bigger conferences change the dynamic in the smaller conferences? History has said yes and history is repeating itself. Small conferences are losing members to the bigger and better super-conferences (Pac12, Big10, SEC etc.) and/or the intermediate conferences (Big East, Big12 etc.) either to make up for a change in a different realignment conference or have an even number of programs in the league.

Now let's shift focus back to the Northeast and the Big East conference. The Big East  is the biggest conference in the Northeast and they are accepting programs as far west as Boise State, Idaho, and have accepted programs from Texas. Technically and geographically, these schools are not in the East or the Northeast region and have no clear collegiate rivalry. Most likely the name of the conference will need to be changed in a very similar matter that Pac10 changed to Pac12. So with the Big East expanding its horizons, who will be the big time conference in the Northeast? In my opinion, the Big East will still remain as the one but I think that lesser conferences will continue with their own realignment and start having a bigger impact on where student-athletes intend to go to school in the Northeast area.

For instance, the Patriots League will be the new home of BU in the next few years. The Patriots League has some really well known schools in Army, Holy Cross and Loyola, who enter the same year as BU. BU, in essence, is replacing the spot the Naval Academy used to have since they will join the Big East in the future. Accordingly and hopefully, BU will become even more well known outside of the New England area for student-athletes when BU starts to compete routinely in NY, PA, MA area and gather more attention. Of course, this brings better chances to recruit better student-athletes to bring to BU and providing the athletic department more reason to invest more into the student-athletes at BU. So maybe in a few more years (~10 years) BU takes another leap into a bigger conference (wishful thinking). On the other hand, BU doesn't have a football program to entice bigger conferences to come and get them & BU won't let academic standards slip just to join a better athletic conference. So it would have to be a 'perfect storm' for BU to leave the Patriots League in the future. With BU leaving the America East, the next possible course that the America East conference takes is to recruit another school from a even lesser conference to join the ranks. Thus a snowball effect of realignment.

As before mentioned, it takes a 'perfect storm' for a school to leave a conference suddenly and without notice. I think the 'perfect storm' is money. Bigger conferences make more money which entices smaller schools to take bigger financial and academic risk in order to get seen by the bigger conference board and gain admittance.
  •  Will the 'perfect storm' ever hit at BU? 
    • No because BU has what the 'perfect storm' is all about. The endowment has over 1.1 billion dollars in it and growing.
  • Will we see BU invest in another football team as a way to get noticed? 
    • No. If so BU will have to invest in the team, and invest into another female team because of Title IX. Also, BU does not value our athletic rivals more than our academic rivals in the Greater Boston Area to take a risk on another football program.
So the bottom line is ever since the 1st major realignment happened when Virginia Tech, Miami and Newton Community College (BC) left the Big East and moved to the ACC, this opened the flood gates for more realignment at the major, well-known conferences than in turn trickled down to the lesser conferences of the NCAA with a possible outcome of making lesser schools and conferences stronger. Clearly, the NCAA did not understand the repercussions this could have. Possible repercussions could be letting admissions lower their academic standard slip for certain students to become more competitive in sports. Would it be nice to see the Patriots League as a well-known conference? Yes. Will it happen soon (~10 years)? Sadly, No.

Now, will realignment still continue to occur in hockey? I think so. Reasoning is that it just happened and will take place in 2014. I think the only conference in hockey that has potential to grow beyond 2014 is the soon to be Big Ten conference. With Penn St joining, there might be more teams within the conference willing to add ice hockey to their athletic programs. Hopefully, this happens. Adding more big time schools with hockey can only raise more awareness about college hockey and possibly expand it beyond the typical cold weather states.

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