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Post Column: Extra Point: Realignment only hurts NCAA, fans

The goal of any business or organization is to be profitable, and college sports are no exception.

In NCAA Division I football, there are currently 12 different conferences (if you include the group of independents). In men’s basketball, there are 32 conferences, plus an additional two schools without conference affiliation.

Every conference wants to be the most profitable and display the best talent. One way a conference is able to do that is by recruiting the best schools for their respective sports.

When conferences don’t have top teams, they fall behind others in terms of profit and revenue. That is a problem with a simple solution: Get schools that have better talent.

Before long, presidents of struggling conferences are throwing millions of dollars — in addition to other incentives — at universities in exchange for an agreement to be a part of a particular conference.

Conference realignment is meant not only to benefit the various conferences that make up the NCAA, but their fans as well. Lately, however, conference realignment plans have been made that could drastically change the NCAA as we know it — and not for the better. For men’s basketball, a serious impact could be felt as early as the 2013–14 season.

Every year, teams switch conferences for one reason or another. Before the start of the 2013–14 season, numerous teams will leave the Big East. Dick Vitale commented on the future realignment of the Big East in a Tampa Bay Times article: “The Big East obviously is in a state of chaos … Total chaos.”

I could not agree more with Vitale. With the 2013–14 season, a conference that currently consists of 16 teams will have six fewer. Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pitt and Louisville are all heading to different conferences.

In recent years, the Big East was regarded as one of the best conferences in men’s basketball. Infamous rivalries such as  Pitt vs. WVU and Syracuse vs. Georgetown — which helped make the Big East a top conference — won’t happen. It is almost certain  that the Big East will fall from the ranks of the elite conferences in college basketball as a result of realignment.

It is not hard to see that the current plan for Big East realignment is a horrible idea. According to that same Tampa Bay Times article, “From 2005–12, the six teams that recently left or will leave the conference … combined for 31 of its 64 trips to the NCAA Tournament. Their replacements — Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Tulane and Temple — made 13 trips to the tournament in that span.”

Conference realignment is happening more and more in both football and basketball. Realignment, a tool meant to improve the sports, is doing just the opposite. It weakens strong conferences such as the Big East. In addition to that, realignment takes away rivalry games that have been around for decades. Those were the games sports fans circled on their calendars, eager to watch on national television. Rivalries are what make sports so great. Now, many of those coveted games will not happen because of conference realignment.

The NCAA should slow down the realignment craze. The changes are doing far more harm than good — creating a “new way” of college sports when the “old way” worked just fine.

 

Christopher Miller is a freshman studying broadcast journalism and sport management at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Should the NCAA slow down conference realignment? Email Christopher at cm001111@ohiou.edu.

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