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Tuesday July 29 2014
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No End in Sight

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The notion that the NCAA is an organization concerned with the business of higher learning… OK, you got me, I can’t go any farther. I have done some research and… again, you got me.

I have simply used common sense and I’ve come to the conclusion that the NCAA is interested in one thing and one thing alone: Benjamin Franklin.

Not the diplomat, the one hundred dollar bill, with total disregard of the looming fiscal cliff. It is hard for me, a guy with a Communication degree, to buy anything but the obvious. To quote P-Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Puffy Combs, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Conference realignment is clearly about academics, right? If you if think that’s true, there are multiple bridges in Brooklyn for sale. Who’s kidding who here?

Old school Big East fans are all kinds of hot and bothered with the Catholic schools looking out for their own basketball interest. Who could blame them, they have been getting run over for football since the ACC pillaged the conference for Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami.

Football schools are aligning themselves with one another for the biggest payoff, but when basketball schools, like the disgruntled Catholic Big East schools do it, critics make jokes. The irony is, these seven schools will likely get the last laugh.

Contrary to popular belief, the NCAA isn’t entirely clueless. The seven schools are Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, and Seton Hall, which all coincidently are located in very large metropolitan media markets. The Big Ten expansion is based around market size: Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago aren’t exactly small potatoes and the NCAA will do all they can to join the party. After all it’s a giant money grab for all those involved.

Granted, the seven schools won’t be able to make it on their own, but they will certainly draw interest from schools like Xavier and Butler. Add those two, and the Big Ten just got company as the best hoops conference in the country.

As for the NCAA, they will be all over these historically great basketball programs. March Madness wouldn’t be the same without them. Long story short, the NCAA sees this as another new revenue source. 
   
It will be very interesting to see what the big wigs at Fox, ESPN or CBS would pay for just those seven schools. Notre Dame set a new precedent, joining the ACC for all sports with a partial football membership. Having just a basketball conference is intriguing element, perhaps adding schools where football is essentially an afterthought. Duke, Kansas and Kentucky come to mind.

Sure the Big 12 and SEC football TV deals are huge, but operating a perennial loser has to be more expensive. The era of full membership conferences has to be winding down, realistically it isn’t sustainable.

Keep in mind the Maryland administrators were honest. Finances were the primary reason behind their departure of the ACC for the Big Ten.

Many hate what the Big Ten has done, but perhaps it’s just a glimpse into the future. Possibly each and every conference will have their own television networks. Maybe places like Madison Square Garden will host double and triple headers more frequently.  And the end result is selling the product, adding larger corporate partners, and building a larger more profitable brand.

This may seem far-fetched, but the numbers don’t lie and the TV executives aren’t exactly concerned with women’s softball. Maybe the best example of an existing model would be Division 1 hockey; it’s the only sport that holds the conferences and tournament intact.

Suddenly a pay per view college sporting event seems like a real possibility and the fans will pay.

Conference realignment is both sad and exciting, losing great events like the “Backyard Brawl,” while molding a new landscape and revenue streams for the institutions themselves. Made for TV match ups will be on every weekend.

The changes, mergers, and jointures are far from over, with no end in sight. It is only a matter of time before football and basketball only conferences. In the meantime, institutions are just trying to ensure sustainability for both the long and the short term.

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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