What happens to WVU football after UCLA and USC leave the Pac-12 to go to the Big Ten a year after Oklahoma and Texas bolt for the SEC?
A year ago, Texas and Oklahoma shocked the college football world with their decision to leave the Big 12 conference and join the mega powerhouse that is the SEC. At the initial word of it – and as a WVU fan – I loved it. Not losing to Oklahoma every year and getting to watch Texas become Vanderbilt was an awesome idea. And it still will be.
In my shortsightedness, I didn’t realize it was just the beginning. Fast forward to now, and the two Big 12 schools’ departures have created an exodus and realignment frenzy. At first, it made some sense why Oklahoma and Texas would want to join the SEC, it would increase their competitiveness. Oklahoma was always in the mix for the college football playoffs and Texas, well, Texas can always say that they’re Texas.
Many questioned the move when it hit the sports world but soon it became apparent to everyone why this was happening. Money. Money money money. It’s what makes the world go ’round and keeps the lights on. The SEC is one of the highest-earning conferences and Texas and Oklahoma took notice of that. The two programs saw the jump to the SEC as a real way to create more revenue. Of course, more revenue helps entice recruits, provides schools with state-of-the-art facilities, and gives them the ability to offer things that other schools can’t.
Now the realignment is about to get even more egregious because two teams from southern California are moving to the SEC’s biggest rival, the Big Ten. The same Big Ten that’s home to states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Nebraska. It makes no sense for UCLA and USC to want to go play halfway across the country in the middle of winter. Except of course for the money.
These moves are unprecedented. In just one year we have seen four of college football’s most iconic and historic programs bolt for other conferences – conferences that compete no less. And because this is college football, where the rules of the world mirror a middle school playground, each conference is just going to try and big time the other. These moves will essentially create the second coming of the arms race between the Big 12 and Big Ten. And even though it probably won’t be good, it’ll be exciting.
But exciting isn’t always what fans want.
This restructuring is exuberantly highlighting college programs’ pursuit of greater revenue in exchange for traditional rivalries, customs, and regional loyalties. The leaders of this realignment movement don’t care about schools’ history with their conferences, the style of play that’s unique to them (looking at you, Big Ten), and the ability of fans to attend games. Though this might not drastically change anything immediately, it will eventually.
Just ask the West Virginia Mountaineers.
It’s been almost 10 years now since WVU ditched the Big East and moved into the Big 12. After the move, WVU now had nine new schools to compete against that resulted in losing some of its excitement. It’s also been ten years of WVU seeing the repercussions of realignment because of the lack of proximity to our new rivals. I mean why the hell is WVU playing in Lubbock, Texas, and soon they’ll (maybe) play against UCF in Orlando. Like, what is that?
Nothing about a widespread conference realignment makes sense. Can you imagine if the NFL was about to have this issue, like if The Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and The New Orleans Saints were all in one division? As stupid and greedy as the NFL is, this would still never happen.
College football doesn’t have to be this shortsighted and annoying, but then again, this is the NCAA so it looks like this is where we’re heading.
Soon there will be a lot of letdown and bitter college football traditionalists who won’t be able to do a thing about schools realigning. This is because it is less about football and more about business.
The realignment will create exclusivity in college football. Every other conference will be on the outside looking in at the Big Ten and SEC once they consume up all the detractors and create a super-conference. I don’t even know how many teams they’ll take on but why would they limit themselves? More teams mean more money. With all the realigning, the Big Ten and SEC are almost guaranteed to expand from their current roster of teams. But what remaining Power Five teams get in?
Hopefully what happens is that WVU gets the old band back together and is thrown into a conference with their old ACC companions. So what if WVU isn’t in the same conferences as Alabama, LSU, Michigan, or Ohio State. A meaningful schedule against Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and Maryland sounds good to me even if we aren’t in the upper echelon conference.
When the dust settles from all the movement it looks like there will be two major conferences with regional divisions. But we’re years – decades even – from seeing what the final product of this all is. What teams will make the cut? Not one really knows, but like many programs, WVU will have to sit back and watch the game of musical chairs.