Part 2 in a series on the Big 12 and the College Football Playoff
Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs have a tough challenge playing in the American Athletic Conference, just like last season. Last year, for the most part, they lived up to the task. It is still wait and see, following a tough loss on Saturday with Memphis coming to Moody on Thursday and the likes of Louisville and UConn still to come, if the Mustangs will do so again.
That’s how it goes in one of the best basketball conferences in the nation. But the ironic thing is that the American, formerly known as the Big East, never wanted to be a good basketball conference. They wanted to be a great football conference, and they paid a big price in their vain efforts to do so.
The Big 12, meanwhile, is known a football conference, even with six Top 25 basketball teams in it. But for some, it still isn’t good enough, and it is because of that that the conference could be at risk of a similar implosion.
Having dodged such destruction once, the Big 12 continues to say it is satisfied with only having 10 schools for the monemt. But now they are having to hear pundits say they need to go back to at least 12, and maybe even more, if they are going to compete with the likes of the 14-team Big Ten and the SEC for spots in the College Football Playoff.
ESPN and others in the sports media have long predicted that college football will eventually be re-organized into four “superconferences” of 16 schools each. But it still hasn’t happened, and it likely never will to those who keep their eyes smaller than their stomachs.
Mark my words on this: The current glut of teams in the “BiG” and the SEC will not last, and it will likely end ugly.
The allure of the “superconference” is one of the biggest cases of people refusing to learn from history and thus dooming to repeat it. Even after the mess that the Big East became, other conferences continue to tell themselves, “Oh, that won’t happen HERE!”
Except eventually, it always happens. It happened in the WAC, and it happened in the Big East. Two conferences that wanted to get bigger and bigger solely because of football, and ultimately resulting in neither conference even playing football any more.
The Big East is just the most blatant example of how badly things can go wrong with a superconference. Long considered the bottom rung of the BCS conferences, the Big East decided the solution was to get bigger and thus get one of those purty conference championship games. Even as teams like Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami departed, they kept bringing in the likes of Memphis, Cincinnati, Louisville, anyone from Florida…
No one bought that the Big East played big football, though. The defections kept occurring, as Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt all left. That drove the Big East to recruit SMU, Houston, and even San Diego State and Boise State – to a conference known as the Big EAST.
That’s when the Big East schools that didn’t play football said, “Enough with this s***.” They packed up and left, leaving a little note that stated they had the right to take the conference’s name with them.
The end result? A new Big East that doesn’t even play football and the remnants of the old conference’s gluttony that is among the lowest rated of the “Group of Five” football conferences.
Chad Morris seems to be already doing the best job possible to recruit football players to SMU, but it is a challenge that, with the quality of that sport being played in the American, he can’t sell the chance of a national championship for his program like Brown can to basketball players.
The ACC is certainly the next to implode. After an embarrassing semifinal loss to a Florida State team that some claim didn’t even deserve a playoff spot, don’t be surprised if the ACC tries to get even bigger by perhaps luring more Conference USA or AAC schools. And eventually, the big basketball schools at North Carolina and Duke will certainly look at the gluttony and ask, “Is this worth it?”
But surely this wouldn’t happen in the Big 12, right? Not in a conference where there are so many established football powers that no schools there would dare break up the good thing they have, right?
Don’t count on that. Texas and Oklahoma are among the biggest opponents for a conference title game on the very claim that it puts a shot at the playoff at risk (which both schools have been on both sides of). And given those two schools almost led the charge at breaking up the Big 12 once until that huge TV deal satisfied them, what UT and OU say usually goes.
Bob Bowlsby did make a big mistake in not declaring a tiebreaker between TCU and Baylor for the championship. But making a knee-jerk response by just up and adding another two to four schools among whoever will come calling will be an even bigger one.
Because should that happen, Texas and Oklahoma will likely consider taking their ball and going elsewhere once again – just like the University of Texas did once before, leading to the destruction of one historic conference.
History can happen again, no matter how much media pundits choose to ignore it.