Debates about conference realignment and whether or not it is good for the sport have raged for years. Dave Hooker and I disagree with each other. He is for it, and I am against it. Many in the college football world came to my side last week after the Pac-12 dissolved.
However, few people are willing to call out those behind conference realignment killing tradition. You’ll hear Josh Pate (who I like by the way) consistently talk about how “average” the people who “run college football” are. Many other analysts and fans feel the same thing.
There’s just one problem: Who runs college football? Conference realignment is the end result of a Supreme Court ruling back in 1984 that stripped the NCAA of autonomy in determining TV deals and gave it back to the leagues.
With no teeth behind the governing body of the sport, it became an eat or be eaten world. Those who moved early to do the eating were the ones to fuel realignment, and they are the only people you can blame. They are the people running the bigger conferences.
However, Pate and many other don’t seem to want to do that. He has spoken highly of Sankey’s intelligence in the past, making it clear Sankey is not in the “average” camp. Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti and his predecessor, Kevin Warren, have been lauded for their negotiating tactics.
Heck, even the Big 12 is getting a ton of praise because of the forward-thinking mindset of Brett Yormark. See the trend? Everybody hates conference realignment, but they love Yormark, Sankey, Petitti and Warren. Sorry, but this makes absolutely no sense.
Nobody is more responsible for dissolving the landscape of college football. Yormak, Petitti and Warren destroyed the Pac-12 in response to Sankey’s decision to add Texas and Oklahoma. Everybody moved too fast and even jumped into the 12-team playoff without any care in the world as to how fans would react.
It’s easy to blame Larry Scott’s stupidity for mishandling Pac-12 contracts. That drove USC and UCLA to the Big Ten in the first place. However, they only had a home because the Big Ten was willing to offer one. Not all contracts would be created equal. If you really want to place blame, though, look at Roy Kramer.
Before 1992, most conference realignment involved independents joining leagues, but those created natural rivalries. Penn State was a good fit for the Big Ten. Florida State was a solid fit for the ACC and would’ve been great for the SEC, which wanted them. Miami was a good fit for the Big East.
However, Kramer, the former SEC commissioner, went straight after Arkansas, which set off a chain reaction to dissolve the Southwest Conference, a league that was actually founded a year before the Pac-12 and the SEC itself. Over the next two decades, conference realignment only got worse.
Of course, now the college football world reveres Kramer as some forward-thinking genius who changed the landscape of the sport. They conveniently ignore that the changing landscape is exactly what they’re complaining about now. Meanwhile, the conference commissioners are being absolved.
Defenders of the commissioners will say in an eat or be eaten world, they have to make these moves. I would agree. At the same time, though, you can’t then complain about the people who “run college football” making bad decisions. Who’s running it outside of these commissioners? This is the natural result.
You see this everywhere, by the way. Congress’ approval rating hovers somewhere between 8-12 percent, yet incumbents have a 98 percent re-election rate. The same people who whine the most about Congress willingly re-elect their representatives. Then they willingly patronize the big businesses they complain about controlling Congress.
Well, that issue is the same with college football. Everybody wants to complain about conference realignment, but nobody wants to actually blame the people responsible. Blaming an entity is much easier than blaming an individual. However, if you are truly upset with realignment, you have to blame the individuals.