One-Conference-Fits-All Approach Fails

One-Conference-Fits-All Approach Fails

In the last few days in conference realignment, Maryland and Rutgers left the ACC and Big East respectively to join the Big Ten; Louisville switched from the Big East to the ACC; Tulane and East Carolina moved from Conference USA to the Big East (the latter in football only); Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee went from the Sun Belt to Conference USA; Denver traded the Western Athletic Conference for the Summit League; and the for-profit Grand Canyon University joined the WAC, becoming the first school of its kind to catch on with a Division 1 conference. The inevitable result of all this horse-trading: In 2022, the Pac-28’s University of Phoenix will play for college football’s national title in University of Phoenix Stadium. (They will lose to Alabama, the champion of the Confederate Football States of America.)

It’s surprising it took a for-profit school this long to get in on the action. For all of these institutions of higher learning, switching from one conference to another is all about profit maximization. This is more a truism than a criticism: Major athletic departments do everything they can to wring every dollar from their football and basketball programs. For the University of Maryland, moving to the Big Ten means an instant bump of $12 million in annual television revenues with the promise of more to come when the conference renegotiates its TV deal in 2017. But if this is a blatant cash grab, then Maryland isn’t grabbing as much as it could. That’s because joining up with the same group of schools for all sports doesn’t make sense.

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