McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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 They’ve been replaced by five so-called power conferences – the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference and ACC.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 | Photo Reprints
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

Seasonal Content
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
NDN Video
Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.