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NCAA Realignment Frequently Asked Questions, Part Two

November 30th, 2012 at 3:00 AM
By Dan Smith

'Question mark in Esbjerg' photo (c) 2006, Alexander Henning Drachmann - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Conference realignment makes no sense, really. A bunch of colleges are dumping long held rivalries in the name of squeezing a few more dollars out of college athletics while conveniently ignoring all the players who make all that money generation possible. Realignment is so confusing, that it takes two parts to explain the latest round. Part one is available here.

What about Clemson/Florida State? I've heard rumors about them.

These are the two real money makers (Aside from the upcoming five games a year from Notre Dame) in the ACC.  The good thing for the ACC is that they don't really have a viable home. There are major cultural issues that would keep them out of the Big Ten. The SEC has no interest in expanding further into states they already have programs in.

That leaves just the Big 12. When this idea of moving was brought up a year ago, various faculty members within both schools had a near riot at the idea of moving from the far more academically prestigious ACC to the not-nearly-as-prestigious Big 12*. Within a few weeks, the academic powers that be at both university had stomped the MOAR MONEY SPROTS crowd into the dirt.

*Your author did not attend an academically prestigious university, and he can still tie his shoes all by himself. He cannot stand when people – usually bros who majored in something useless like an undergrad degree in business or communications – try to claim they're the greatest living being because they got into a highly rated US News school. We mention the academics in the ACC because it genuinely factored into realignment. 

There's also very little interest from the Big 12 itself. The Big 12 was the original attempt at forging a new conference for the BCS era, and it was formed by taking the most valuable schools in the dying Southwest and gluing them onto the Big 8. As they found out first hand, when you introduce new schools into an existing echo system, it has a decent enough chance of exploding as the old liners (Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado) get incensed at having been replaced atop the conference leader board with new guys. 

Rather than risk creating new friction, the Big 12 has decided to avoid expansion unless the schools markedly improve the bottom line. The 10-team format allows Big 12 teams to – GASP – play every team in its conference and actually crown a deserving champion. Unlike the SEC and the Pac 12, which have seen their best chance at winning the national title (Florida, Oregon) eliminated from contention due to unbalanced divisional scheduling, every team in the Big 12 has an equal chance at winning the conference. 

This is how every conference was before idiots with MBAs started convincing every conference they HAD to expand in order to stage conference title games that nobody attends (aside from the SEC championship game).

But wouldn't a Big 12 Championship Game improve their bottom line? 

A Big 12 Championship Game might help the conference competitively. At this point, they are the only major conference without one. Unlike Notre Dame, however, which has just begun a 45 day lay off until the title game, the Big 12 schedules conference games during this last week in order to maintain their teams' exposure during conference championship weekend, and reduce the lay off effect for a team that qualified for the national title.

Further, the conference championship games aren't nearly as valuable as they were sold to be. The Big 12 estimates they would only make an additional one million per school from selling the rights to a conference title game. Meanwhile, their schools would have to take a four million dollar cut in order to make room for two new schools. Unlike the Big Ten, they have a set contract with their TV partners that will not go up if they add schools. Each school currently makes around $23 million. That would drop to $19 million.

Will the ACC be able to convince Notre Dame to join as full membership to save the conference?

No.

Notre Dame is never joining a football conference unless we reach a point where the Irish are unable to compete for national titles as an independent. Considering the Irish are in the title game (and have a theoretically easier road than a team in a 12+ team conference, since they don't have to play a conference title game), it is preposterous to claim that the Irish can't compete.

The Irish gave the ACC five games a year, which was welcomed by the football powers in the ACC as great news. That's as much as the ACC will ever get from Notre Dame

Why?

Aside from the pride of being the last of the Great Independent Football Programs, Notre Dame gets their fat television contract. Notre Dame's title-game clinching win over a 7-5 USC team out-rated almost every game from last year except the national title game. There's still a huge audience for Notre Dame football, and NBC will either pony up even more money to keep them, or lose the Irish to ABC/ESPN.

Aside from all that, it would be next to impossible to maintain their yearly series games against Navy, Stanford AND USC while playing an eight game conference schedule in the ACC. They will never give up the USC and Navy games. Period.

But what if a scenario occurs where the ACC is struggling to survive?

We just got a look at what Notre Dame would do. The Irish sat back and did very very little to help the Big East as it crumbled over the last decade. After the Big East's transformation into Conference USA was made complete, Notre Dame simply cut a sweet heart deal with a better conference. If the ACC fell into similar Big East depths, Notre Dame would just do the same move again. 

And even if no conference was willing to accommodate the Irish as the ACC has, why would Notre Dame hook itself up with a crumbling ACC? If they were going to actually jump with both feet into a conference, they'd pick a stronger one than a decaying ACC.

The chances of Notre Dame giving the ACC more than it already has are so remote, and if the ACC weakened, those odds would go even further down.

What about this "Catholic League" I hear about?

Yeah, that's actually a doomsday scenario for the basketball only schools in the Big East. Many fans of the non-football Big East schools have expressed a desire to split off from the Big East and form their own league devoted to basketball and with a more regional focus. While we can understand why these schools are worried about the Great Silence of a Houston/Tulane Big East tournament game, the idea just doesn't financially work.

Any new league made up from the basketball schools of the Big East would basically be a glorified version of the Atlantic 10 conference. The Atlantic 10 schools receive $350,000 per school for their TV deal. Big East non-football schools will likely make ten times that. 

There is no market for regular season basketball on television. As Dan Wolken of USA Today mentioned on his twitter account (@DanWolken), the Conference USA football championship game outdrew a Kentucky/North Carolina regular season dream match up last year in the ratings. 

Leaving the Big East for a "Catholic League" would make sense from a competitiveness and travel stand point, but it would be financial suicide.

Ugh, this is all stupid.

You're darn right it is.

Tags: NCAA, Notre Dame, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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