The Big Two

Goodbye ACC. So long, PAC 12. Aloha, Big 12. The Power Five conferences will, by the time this decade is out, be the Power Two.

That’s the clear implication from a lot of observers, the most recent of which appeared in this morning’s State Journal sports pages. The paper ran a piece by Omaha World Herald writer Tom Shatel in which he suggests that the Big 10 and the SEC have become too big to fail and the others have become too small not to.

It comes down to money and TV. As the conferences negotiate new TV deals (now including streaming) they want to tap into major, mostly coastal, markets and they want coast-to-coast reach to cover all four time zones in the continental U.S. That’s why the Big 10 first expanded to Maryland and Rutgers and now to UCLA and USC.

But it is, to a large extent, a zero sum game. When the PAC 12 loses the two L.A. schools its leverage with the networks and streaming services is dramatically decreased. Ever more tempting offers are made to the remaining teams by the Big 10 and the SEC and, before you can change the channel, the weaker conferences go poof.

That will leave just the two big dogs and maybe something like 48 schools. At that point — and this is not in Shatel’s article — why not have a super bowl of college football? The two conferences will look a heck of a lot like the NFC and the AFC. So, why not set up the season and the playoffs just like that?

What this all reenforces is the reality that big time college sports — especially football — is big business. And when those new media contracts get negotiated the players need to get their share of the pie.

Shatel also suggests that the Big Two will have no further use for the NCAA and they will leave it in their dust. Good riddance. The NCAA is a band of busy bodies set up to perpetuate the myth of the “student-athlete” and to enforce nitpicky rules to make sure that players get as little of the gold as is possible.

So, overall, I think this consolidation is more good than bad if it disposes of the NCAA and it recognizes the value of players.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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