College sports have thrived under the organizational structure of conference for several decades now. These conferences have created identities through the years, which, in many cases, involves the geographical location of the schools in the conference. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Mid-America Conference, Southeastern Conference, and Pacific 10 Conference all refer to specific regions of the country.
From time to time, these conferences have grown in size by incorporating additional teams. Currently, the Big 10 and the Pac-10 conferences have expressed an interest in growing. Ask any “expert” on the subject of conference expansion and he or she will tell you that expansion consists of many factors in addition to the regional location aspect already mentioned. Academics (admission standards, research accreditation) and athletic competitiveness in all sports, and money are some of the bigger issues.
I have been reading about the possible conference expansions and all this rhetoric about academics and water polo being as important as football brings one word to mind: parochial. I don’t expect anything different since educating America’s brightest young minds should be the primary goal of colleges and universities, but let’s be honest with ourselves. When expansion is announced where does it make headlines and generate endless discussion and debate? College football media outlets. Football is the driving force behind all expansion. I graduated from a school that is a member of the Mountain West Conference (MWC), but we never competed academically with other MWC schools. The chemistry department did not have trivia bowls with conference rivals. The English department did not meet on weekends to have essay write offs with other MWC member schools. Maybe it looks good for recruiting after a down year or it helps with those conference advertising spots during athletic events when your team is losing by 30 points to be able to promote a strong academic resume, but people rarely associate athletics and academics in college sports. Conference alignment pertains to sports and sports only, and even then, conference alignment is flexible. The smaller sports like lacrosse and wrestling are not sanctioned by all schools, so some schools compete in one conference for the small sports and another conference for the big sports.
It is time to revamp the conference structure we have come to know in college sports. We need conferences that are assembled based more on competitiveness. It is time to kick out teams like Vanderbilt, Baylor, Iowa State, Duke, Maryland, Kansas, Mississippi State, Washington State, and Indiana who show little commitment to football and field a competitive team once a generation, and let teams like Boise State, BYU, Utah, and TCU replace them.