Pella Chronicle

Z_CNHI News Service

July 1, 2014

Follow closely as a dozen colleges do the conference shuffle

The most tenured coach at the University of Louisville might not find joining a new athletic conference so special. But for tennis coach Rex Ecarma, the Cardinals' move is a moment to celebrate.

Ecarma has been at Louisville for 23 seasons, battling the competition in four different conferences, which now becomes five as the Cardinals officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference. The long journey to big-time status is complete.

Ecarma’s experience at Louisville reflects the evolution - some might say turmoil - in college sports over the past two decades or more. Gone are tradition–bound leagues that generally defined a region of the country. They’ve been replaced by five so-called power conferences – the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference and ACC.

Twelve teams have adopted new conference affiliations this summer. As Louisville moves to the ACC, the Big Ten adds Maryland and Rutgers. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa are new members of the American Athletic Conference. Western Kentucky and Old Dominion go to Conference USA. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho and New Mexico State join the Sun Belt Conference.

Regional affinity has been tossed aside in favor of a new identity that favors large television markets that fuel athletic departments with untold amounts of cash. For instance, Maryland stands to rake in an extra $100 million over the next five years from the Big Ten’s lucrative network contract.

Here’s one indicator of how fast things have changed: The venerable Big Ten conference now has 14 teams, but the same name.

The whirlwind of conference expansion will likely never end, but there’s sure to be a pause in the frenetic growth of recent years. Today’s league members are locked into long-term television packages, which contain prohibitive financial consequences for those wanting out. Checkmate.

In years to come the Big 12 seems to be the only major conference ripe for growth. The great league from the heartland now has 10 teams. There are open spots but not an openness by the league to consider expansion – at least for now.

There’s much more to consider than money. Maryland, for example, was a charter member of the ACC. It has traded its 61-year tenure in that league for a new experience in the Big Ten. Not everyone associated with the Terrapins was sold on the switch.

Old rivals, such as Virginia, are gone. Who will become Maryland’s next bitter foe? That will take time to answer, not only for Maryland but for all the other teams getting familiar with new  territory.

As this major change for college athletics unfolded, it was fun to watch and exciting to speculate on how the transformation would work out. Now, with the pending start of a new athletic year later this summer – remember when it used to be fall? – fans will get to see what has been constructed.

What they won’t see are all of the teams. Teams in the Big Ten, as an example, will play an eight-game conference football schedule. That means any given team won't play against five members of the conference during the regular season. Then there are new and much longer travel considerations. How many Rutgers fans are likely to travel to Nebraska on Oct. 25, when a trip from the New Jersey campus out to Lincoln measures about 1,300 miles?

The same could be asked for other teams switching conferences across the land. Maybe no one has it worse than Idaho, which joined the Sun Belt Conference and will have trips to several Deep South states.

If travel plans present challenges, so does the move into a more competitive league. Fans once accustomed to winning big in their old leagues will need to adjust to playing in a super-sized conference where talent runs deep. Not only have leagues gotten larger, the competition is stiffer.

In basketball, the ACC added three powerhouses from the old Big East to what was already one of the top leagues in the country.

The upcoming year promises a new experience. If bigger is better, fans of college athletics have never had it so good.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Rodden, Danny.jpg Sheriff accused of lying about relationship with prostitute

    The sheriff of Clark County, Ind., faces an eight-count federal indictment that accuses him of lying about paying a prostitute for a sex act and giving her a badge so that she could claim a discount rate at a hotel.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Sideshows involving Rice and Dungy stain NFL's image

    Pro football training camps should be all about, well, football. But the talk around the NFL is about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game suspension, Tony Dungy's indelicate remarks about Michael Sam and Jim Irsay's largesse. What kind of league is Roger Goodell running?

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

Features
Facebook
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Obituaries