With a rumored alliance forming between the BIG 10, PAC 12 and the ACC fast coming to fruition, and with the SEC consolidating the prime brands under its gold-plated umbrella, it’s in my nature to wonder how such machinations affect the Sun Belt. My first impulse? Negatively.
A pair of my brilliant contemporaries didn’t agree:
I respect this take and I would wholeheartedly believe it sound were it not for one sad truth: wins no longer define a football program. The only vector that matters now is money.
Just take a step back and observe the landscape. For decades now, Arkansas and Vanderbilt have been win/loss losers in the SEC, yet both programs have zero interest in leaving for wins. Why? Money. In 2020, the SEC dolled out $45,000,000.00 to its members, whether they chipped in a winning record or not. That’s $10M more than Arkansas State’s entire athletic budget.
The scent of this hot pile of steaming cash brought Texas and Oklahoma to the yard – removing nearly all chances for either program to deliver a championship to its fans. Texas, classic underachievers in the Big 12, aren’t going to suddenly become contenders in the SEC. Oklahoma, the best performing team in the Big 12, is now just one of those other guys. But man, they’re even richer. Both can count their gold coins while watching Alabama play for the championship on ESPN.
Wins no longer matter. And if wins no longer matter, then why schedule a Group of Five team from three time zones away, or an FCS program only a handful of the nation even recognize?
COVID-19 brought with it a pandemic of innovation and hard truth. Last season, the SEC made the comically arrogant decision of only playing themselves – to hell with a non-conference slate! Greg Sankey saw the world continue to orbit the Sun without a non-con schedule, and a cartoon lightbulb appeared over his head.
What is the point of sharing TV time with other conferences if the most eyeballs are on conference match-ups? Not counting Playoff games, four of the top eight most watched college football games in 2020 were SEC conference matchups.
The SEC doesn’t need the rest of us to be rich. And it sure as hell doesn’t need the rest of us to win games because wins don’t matter. So the PAC 12, the BIG 10 and the ACC are forming an alliance, possibly (probably) to schedule more games between themselves. Money, baby, Money.
The seeds of this sad disaster have already been planted. Listen to ESPN radio pundits, and you’ll hear calls for reducing non-con games from four to two. It’s not a long leap from two to zero. The Power Five’s gambit to destroy the one organization that could slow the process – the NCAA – was met by thunderous applause. There is nobody left to stand for the integrity of the game. ESPN and the SEC are in charge now.
What can we do? I know what we can’t do, and that’s sit around and wait for the Power 4 to push the rest of us into Division 2. The conferences left holding the bag need to begin their own alliance, or at the very least, publicly push back on what is becoming the national reduction of college football.
I hope I’m just paranoid.