Even though the creation of “super” conferences appears to no longer be imminent, the realignment of the Big Ten and Pac-10 certainly created some ripples in the sea of college athletics. But if the pair of leagues had expanded to 16 teams as many speculated, those ripples of change would have become waves that would have washed away the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) setup.
Sport economist and University of Alberta professor Brad Humphreys believes the formation of four “super” conferences could have signaled the end of the current BCS setup.
“If you are a fan of the current bowl/poll system, traditional rivalries, and the rest of that, then the current outcome—with only Nebraska, Colorado, and (Utah) moving—and the same basic BCS conference configuration is a good thing,” Humphreys said. “If you want a playoff, then a 16-team ‘super’ conference configuration is better, as the BCS is probably untenable under that configuration.”
The Pac-10 made a serious run at reconfiguring its league membership from 10 to 16 institutions, but was ultimately turned down by Texas and a collection of Big XII members. It was also being speculated that the Big Ten would consider growing to a 14- or 16-team league. But for now, the Big XII will have 10 members and the Big Ten and Pac-10 will each have 12 members.
The Big Ten (which despite its name had 11 members) got to 12 teams by plucking Nebraska from the Big XII, while the Pac-10 grew by adding Colorado from the Big XII and Utah from the Mountain West. Now both those conferences are able to host a conference championship game in football, which they were previously unable to do since the NCAA mandates a membership of at least 12 schools in order to have a conference championship contest.
But just how beneficial financially is the coveted conference championship game in football? It depends on the TV deal and fan turnout, according to Humphreys.
“While the lure of holding a conference championship game in football is what started all this moving, I think the overall profitability of those games is uncertain,” said Humphreys, an associate editor of the International Journal of Sport Finance. “Sure, the SEC championship game is a huge financial success, but I don’t think the ACC championship game has produced the kind of revenue that was expected.” Read the rest of this entry »