Conference realignment might be rearing its ugly head yet again. Thanks to the Big 12 looking to reach the numerical value attached to its conference name by adding a potential program, it’s possible that a basketball program will suffer because of it.
One of the names being hurled into Big 12 contention is the Connecticut Huskies. A university better known for its basketball program would be — theoretically — heading to a league for football money, and in turn Kevin Ollie and crew would be joining a conference that is absurd in its greatness.
In the grand scheme of things, UConn would be fine. The basketball program has been through realignment before, and it’s simply too good to vanish just because it went to the Big 12. Plus, the influx of football money can be an overall good thing,
The Huskies are the outlier.
Many other basketball programs would instead suffer at the hands of the wrath that is universities chasing that not at all elusive football loot. While it is certainly a case by case basis, when the Big East disbanded and historically great college basketball teams went to the AAC and the ACC, the same level of dominance and success that schools like the Pittsburgh Panthers and the like would normally have had an understandable drop.
That can be attributed to programs getting acclimated to a new league. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to do with the chasing of football money. That point needs to be made clear, as no good basketball program will actually become a dumpster fire just because its university decided to leave for another league.
Still, the musical chairs of it all has to be tiring. Not only for the coaches, but for the athletic directors who have to continuously keep up with the changing landscape of scheduling in a way that keeps their program looking like a top-notch destination for the best high school players across the country.
With all of that being said, the overall net-gain by being an addicted to football money is a positive. At least right now. Money is money, and at the end of the day that is what these universities are chasing.
Yet, in the landscape of college basketball there are dozens of teams that will never answer to such a higher power such as football money. These programs — teams from the Big East, Patriot League, Ivy League, WCC, etc. — don’t field a Division I football program.
As a fan, it does provide a somewhat neat quality to those programs.
The actual reality of the situation is that a lot of these teams are at a disadvantage moving forward because they lack the football money that allows other programs to build fancy facilities and hire big name coaches, but these non-football schools have an easier path in navigating the forever changing landscape that is realignment.
Furthermore, a basketball-only program doesn’t have to answer to any bell that rings except the one in the realm of amateur basketball, especially the ones that participate in basketball-only conferences. Whatever the Big 12 — or whichever league, mind you — decides to do as far as adding teams, not a single one will even be considered from a basketball-only conference, making for a more stable environment in the WCC, etc.
Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean those schools are better off. Money helps programs get better, which begets more money, which makes it a continuous struggle for the have-nots to keep up with the power players in the land of big time college sports. While stability can’t tangibly beat that aspect of it in its entirety, it’s certainly a luxury almost all non-transcendent college football programs aren’t afforded of having.
Honestly, and it might be microscopic in impact in comparison to money, there’s something to be said for having a stability you can offer student-athletes that others can’t.
There’s also some other far more long-term aspects of being a basketball-only conference that can payoff.
There might not be one predicted in the foreseeable future, but eventually the college football TV money bubble will have to burst. Everyone is chasing that loot, and at one point or another it won’t be there to be received. This might not be something that comes to fruition for decades, but as the sport is considered more and more dangerous to today’s youth, there can come a time where the quality on the football field is so low that it isn’t as enjoyable to consume.
College basketball does not have that issue. So, in turn — at least in theory — some of that college football money would head to college basketball. Especially since “live rights” is one of the last sincerely profitable ventures for TV networks.
To be clear about this: That’s some real Armageddon type talk when discussing football, but it can be a reality if things continually trend in a “sport is too dangerous” direction.
Anyway, money is the goal for universities, and that money funds everything. From that aspect, basketball only schools are at a true disadvantage. Until leagues like the NEC — or whoever — decide to be slightly more innovate in driving revenue (matinee basketball!), they will have a hard time keeping up with leagues that have deep pockets thanks to the billion dollar business that is football.
Being a fan, however, there’s something noble in watching basketball only schools compete. It’s like watching either the last of a dying breed of sports, or the first step of human evolution, except it is far too hard to tell which one of those it actually is. But hey, being on this ride to find out the answer is as fun as watching these — relative to football schools — financially inept universities wallop on the big boys.
I mean, football money alone should have prevented a university like Villanova from ever winning the NCAA Tournament, but it didn’t. So, yeah… football money is neat and all, except the basketball only universities can — and have — remain relevant.