-Isms: Views on life in rural America
July 14, 2022
Despite all the buzz about conference realignment, with two Cali teams headed for the Midwest’s pound-and-ground football conference, I feel a bit of a let down.
I know, I hear you. The Big 10 is more than football. Yet, this is where most discussion about the addition has centered in national sports media.
The University of Southern California and the University of California Los Angeles do not seem like the right fit for the Big 10. That West Coast offense didn’t fly in Lincoln nearly two decades ago. I can’t imagine PAC 12 teams will be the right fit in St. Paul or Iowa City or Columbus either.
Who’s next? Notre Dame? At least adding the Fighting Irish makes sense geographically.
In a perfect world, conference realignment would draw the likes of Oklahoma and Okie State into the Big 10 fold. Heck, I could even support road trips to Boulder or Columbia if they’d jump ship and join the Midwest madness.
This isn’t a perfect world, though. Conference realignment - at its deepest roots - comes down to money ... and a lot of it. Like a potential $62.5 million paycheck a year for television rights kind of deal.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, UCLA’s PAC 12 departure came at the right time. Athletic department coffers were sinking deeper in the red. Cutting programs was the next step until the Midwestern-based league stepped in, offering a fat paycheck.
Undoubtedly, every school in the Big 10 benefits from a sweetened media deal. Monetarily, the rewards help build athletic department coffers, keep sports programs afloat. From a visibility standpoint, it certainly won’t hurt seeing your favorite Big 10 team play weekly. Exposure, in theory, draws new fans. New fans spend money on merch. It comes full circle ... and the money keeps rolling in.
Will there come a time, though, when it becomes too expensive to be a college football fan? Can the average family afford to travel to Los Angeles for a weekend football game? It’s feasible to get to Minnesota or hop on the red eye to Chicago to watch a game against Northwestern. I can’t begin to count the number of road games my family attended in Big 8 country and beyond. It was doable. It was affordable. Being a coast-to-coast conference may place limitations on fans.
Eventually, the landscape of college conferences may come down to four superpowers, each comprised of teams spread across the country, battling it out for dominance - and media rights.
May the best team, -er, conference, win.