How realignment changes college football, in 20 maps


In 1896, a group of administrators from Midwestern colleges met in Chicago to define the rules for what was then called the Western Conference, which would later be known as the Big Ten. They have agreed in writing, according to an account in The next day Chicago Tribune, “to keep intercollegiate athletic competitions within their appropriate limits.” One such boundary was geography: for purposes of travel and tradition, the schools largely played regional rivals who occupied their conferences.

It is hard, then, to imagine how the founders of the nation’s oldest athletics conference reacted to news of a recent reorganization that shook college sports to its core. The Southeast Conference announced last year Will add Texas and Oklahoma To form a massive 16-team conference. Not to be outdone, the Big Ten announced this summer that was expanding to 16 teams also by adding UCLA and USC.1 For the first time, a major college athletics league is turning into a dual track.

UCLA, USC, Texas, and Oklahoma were ranked second, third, and fifth and tied at 16The tenth In the history of the first division in NCAA Team National Titles, Straight. Historically, schools like these form the bedrock of conferences rather than shatter them. Only one of the four has fundamentally changed anti-congressional opponents in the last century.2 Now, they’re all fitting into the big leagues, and it’s possible the Big Ten isn’t over yet: Commissioner Kevin Warren said it’s Could see expansion to 20 teams. The evolution of the college sports map over the past several decades has been astonishing, dismantling any idea of ​​regionalism once afforded by conferences.

More recently in the 2000s and early 2000s, university journals still generally fit into small geographic pockets. Under the old Bowl Series (BCS), for example, there were six Major Football Conferences (Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big East, and ACC), and most of them were very tight-knit — none more so than the Big Ten. We calculated the distance from each school to the geographic center of all schools in its convention, and each Big Ten team was within 500 miles of the convention center in 2010. Across the country, no Power Five school was within 1,000 miles of its convention center.

But the next four years brought a wave of mass exchanges. From 2011 to 2014, 47 schools affiliated with the football subdivision changed leagues, making it the busiest four-year period in history for reorganization.3 The Securities and Exchange Commission added Texas A&M and Missouri, and the Big Ten added Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland, venturing into a new state each time. These moves — and corresponding dominos that fell as a result — wiped out one soccer league (Big East), creating the Power Five, and it was clear that the classic frontiers of college football were being expanded. You can still see decisions made under the auspices of geography if you stare. (For example, new additions to the Big Ten were at least in states adjacent to the convention’s old footprint.) The most popular schools in the Big Ten and SEC were Rutgers and Texas A&M, which traveled 593 and 560 miles, respectively. of their new convention centers.

Even with their extended limits from 2010, the Big Ten and SEC were still entering 2021, the tightest of the Power Five tournaments. But that changed last summer, when the Securities and Exchange Commission moved west by approving the addition of Texas and Oklahoma. By doing so, the league not only increased its presence, but also snatched away Fourth and Fifth Grade Schools On the all-time leaderboard in college football. While total gains is not a perfect measure,4 The Big 12 is now deprived of its classic centers of power, with West Virginia’s next most successful school at number 27. In more recent terms, Oklahoma was the only Big 12 school to have I got to college football playoff.

Texas and Oklahoma are not exactly cultural or geographic occasions in the SEC. They’ll be 576 and 489 miles from the new convention center, as opposed to the 425 and 84 miles they sat from their 12 big enemies in 2010. They can also maintain Rivalry on the Red RiverTexas will resume its competition with Texas A&M. While the new distances are an adjustment, 29 schools (across eight leagues) have been removed from their convention centers more than any team in the new-look SEC.

However, the way other conferences have responded to the SEC’s additions has significantly distorted the college sports map. To fill vacancies, the Big 12 . has been added Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, and now stretches from Provo, Utah, to Orlando, Florida. BYU and UCF are 986 and 917 miles away from their conference opponents. to respond to who – whichThe The American Athletic Conference loots the conference in the United States of Americaand the United States Conference He did what he could to stay the same – So that league now extends from Miami to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

And the real nail in the coffin for the entire “regional conferences” idea will be the new Big Ten, the first truly nationwide college league. While only Pennsylvania and Minnesota were more than 300 miles from the Big Ten center in 2010, 10 schools now in the convention exceed that mark, counted by UCLA and USC.5 The distance from Los Angeles to the geographical center of the Big Ten is 1,621 miles.

The recent bulge in the average distances between schools and their conference competitors is evident in the overall numbers. In 2010, the average distance for an FBS team to the convention center was 336 miles. By 2021, that average increased to 365 miles. Within four years of that, the average will be 412 miles.

It’s also important to remember that all of these distances are measured as crow flies, not road trips. This is especially important for sports outside of football and basketball – and smaller schools in general – both of which rely more on bus rides than charter flights. (Everyone has a different definition of “driving distance,” but by any definition, BYU appears to be the first school—along with Hawaii, for obvious reasons—unable to drive to visit any opponent at the convention.)6 In non-revenue sports, the UCLA-USC fit for the Big Ten is very odd for many reasons: Both schools Practicing sports that the conference does not provide They do not play sports in which the Big Ten competes. They can dominate their cold-weather counterparts in some sports, such as softball and baseball, and struggle in others — all while maintaining a grueling travel schedule via bus rides.

All this means is that the time for conferences as we once knew it – small, regionally restricted groups of similar colleges with a common history – is over. And the Premier League era appears to be taking its place. Of course, the idea of ​​forming a nationwide sports league of 20 teams was unheard of. All of the four major men’s leagues in North America, as well as the Major League Soccer and most major European soccer leagues, have at least as many clubs. Nobody thinks twice about Indianapolis Colts Play road games in both Las Vegas and East Rutherford, New Jersey, during the same season. That’s because the NFL is a financially driven organization that aims to maximize its market. But that’s the point – every year, college football starts to look like the NFL. And if they haven’t already, the convention ideals set in Chicago in 1896 are a relic of the past.


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