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College Football

In Realignment, It’s Survival Of The Fattest

Custom painted Pac-12 University of Colorado Buffaloes football on display at Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World Las Vegas on July 21, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Louis Grasse/Getty Images

The end of big kids' college sports as we know them are not yet among us, but we can see it from the highway. All it takes is one meeting of the college presidents and a proposal from one of them that the Southeastern Conference votes to kill and eat Vanderbilt to make room for Florida State. And we'd include the Big Ten and Northwestern, but nobody wants any part of that meal these days.

And don't think that's not on someone's short-term agenda. There are going to be four college conferences, maybe even three, and it's going to happen soon—think next Wednesday and adjust from there. The Pacific-12 Conference is now the Pacific-10, the Pacific-Six by Labor Day, and Fuck It Let's See If The Big Sky Will Have Us. And at that they may be rejected for lowering the tone at Weber State.

This is close to the last real lurch the power conferences have to make until they finally turn on each other in the long-anticipated remake of the Civil War—eviscerating the Pac-Number To Be Determined and the ACC (Amalgamated Carolina Conferences) is just the warmup act. The next power move will be when Arizona and its ambitious president, Robert Robbins, decides that Colorado's move to the Big 12 is worth recreating, and then lures Arizona State and Utah to remake the Big 12 as the Big 16. The Big 10 then has a decision to make viz. Oregon and Washington, and that decision is whether to be the Bigger Big 16 or the Big 18.

And the SEC will sift through the best remnants of the ACC (or as it will soon become, Superconference USA) to see if it can get to 20 teams before the other two.

The rule here is simple. The few eat their fill and leave the many to fend for themselves, and in a country in which sports fans label shop for the biggest games and competitions, a massive chunk of the nation will no longer need to care what happens in college sports. The big-time survivors will eventually turn on each for a larger slice of a shrinking pie because of capitalism, and sooner rather than later today's big winners will become tomorrow's blue plate specials. Ohio State is looking at you, Illinois, and it has a knife, fork, napkins, and a condiment holder. And Mississippi State, your ass is Georgia's because it will eventually want your share in addition to its own.

This is not some plaintive cry for gentility from the SEC and The Two Bigs, because nobody's that stupid. They've all been heading toward this ignoble but tasty end for more than a decade now, and once you develop a taste for someone else's appetizer, you're keen to have their dinner and dessert too—even if they themselves are the meal rather than just one of the people at the children's table. And the ones who aren't absorbed are destined to learn how quickly athletic programs wither and die when not propped up by TV money. To put it another way, when was the last time you tore yourself away from a family gathering to watch the Sun Belt Tournament, Brought To You By Macon Ned's Bail Bonds?

When NC Charlotte football coach Biff Poggi fulminated after being asked only three questions at the AAC Media Day, he was performing a dress rehearsal for about 20 other coaches who are about to learn what dismissal feels like. And soon enough, 20 more after that. It'll be bad enough when there's nobody to ask you about your passing game, but that will be followed by the indignity of nobody caring about your passing game, or your team, or you. American sports fandom has always been built on snob appeal. It's why you watch track and field at the Olympics but nowhere else, or the Premier League but not MLS. All sports, like all politics, are local, and a championship your town never gets to dream about is no championship at all.

But that's tomorrow's problem for tomorrow's administrators and future program murderers. Today, the fat are back on the gorge, and the stuff on the plate that's still wiggling will stop moving soon enough. It can all be boiled down to this paragraph in Yahoo's Ross Dellenger's comprehensive piece on how college sports as a national phenomenon is headed for the shitworks.

In early June, at an event in Washington, D.C., (SEC commissioner Greg) Sankey fielded questions about the evolving landscape of college sports. During a question-and-answer segment specifically about conference realignment, Sankey told the crowd before him that his hope was there would be no more realignment this cycle. 'I hope everybody stays where they are,' he said. 'I welcome everybody to remain and be happy.' Seated mere feet from Sankey, in the very front row, was the host of the event himself. None other than Robert Robbins, the president of Arizona.


Yeah, this deal's done, and all but the hardiest survivors are awaiting the next chop. It's just a matter of watching the dead wash up onto the beach, the weighted bags tied around their feet the giveaway. That's right, Vanderbilt. Your arse is up next—you, and your one-sixteenth share that those two bastards in the previous paragraph already want as their own.

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