Five-Step Drop: Expansion Extravaganza
1. The face lift of conferences in collegiate athletics is now officially underway as Colorado has officially made the jump to the Pac-10, and Nebraska is all but in the Big Ten. Obviously, we can expects tons of speculation, complaining, excitement and anything else on the gamut of reactionary commentary in the upcoming weeks.
One thing that really annoys me is the complaining about the conference names. The most common gripes from the masses:
- "Colorado isn't "Pacific," and don't even get me started on Oklahoma State!"
- "Why can't the Big Ten count? They can't take the Big 14, you know. What about the Pac-10? They have 11 teams now!"
Or, more generally:
- "Don't colleges know anything about geography or math?"
My reply? Don't people know anything about branding? Does MTV predominantly feature music? Does Pizza Hut only serve pizza?
I don't know if the conferences will change names or not, but they don't have to. In fact, I'd argue they shouldn't. The Big Ten and Pac-10 are solid brand names. The WAC (read: Western Athletic Conference) has Louisiana Tech in it. The Atlantic 10 has 15 members. You can watch annoying twentysomethings make fools of themselves on MTV nightly and you can most certainly eat pasta or chicken wings at Pizza Hut. It's called branding, people, so let's get our heads on straight and pay attention to things that matter.
The name of each conference most certainly does not.
2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's All-American defensive tackle from last season, weighed in on his alma mater's impending move to the Big Ten via Twitter: "I don't understand how my Nebraska, one of the corner stones of the big 8 and big 12 is going to leave and go to big 10 country!"
I'd only say this: I believe Suh will understand a lot better in a few years when he hits free agency. Money talks, my friend.
3. A columnist for the Topeka Capital-Journal makes the argument that Kansas and Kansas State should individually seek out the best deal and not necessarily stay tied to one another. On the whole, I agree, but it really seems like the two schools are going to need each other -- unless Kansas gets a Big Ten or ACC invite -- in order to help make their new conference home more competitive on the whole. For example, what if they are forced to go after a so-called "mid-major?" Having both schools together strengthens the conference collectively and would help to soften the blow, at least a small amount.
4. Speaking of potential step-down homes for the Kansas schools, Conference USA has hired a consultant firm to assist in the realignment game. We don't know if it is hoping to pick up pieces like the Kansas schools, target others or simply protect itself, though. I'd guess it's getting ready to pounce on Big 12 (or possibly Big East, down the road) leftovers, but that is pure conjecture.
5. Finally, a plea for the Midwest schools of the Big 12 to "ride this mess out together." Seeing as how it came from an Iowa State-area paper, it's certainly a self-serving argument. In this scenario, the Big 12 actually remains a BCS conference and taps into Conference USA, the Big East and the Mountain West to stay 12 teams strong. Would the likes of Rice, UTEP and SMU be enough to offset the significant losses sustained? No, but it's a much better scenario for the conference than completely crumbling. I'm just not sure the league could pull this all off. It's a lot of juggling.