Conference Realignment happening nationwide
University administrators explain the process of how schools switch conferences
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 01:12
In 2004/2005 three teams left the Big East: Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami, all of which went to the ACC. At the time, such moves were considered unprecedented.
Fast forward six years to the announcements that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC and such changes have become the norm. The NCAA is currently experiencing a major conference re-alignment and uncertainty is rampant.
"These are turbulent times in intercollegiate athletics and every member of every major conference has been affected," Pittsburgh's chancellor and chief executive officer Mark Nordenberg said in a press conference.
Since June of 2010, 11 schools have officially declared a change in their conference. The conference which has by far seen the most change is the Big 12. To it, West Virginia and TCU were added from the Big East. But Missouri and Texas A&M left for the SEC, Nebraska left for the Big 10 and Colorado left for the Pac 12—formerly the Pac 10. Back in September, ESPN reported that powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma were also considering a move to the Pac 12, no such moves have been made yet.
The Big East also seems to be in trouble. In addition to TCU's and West Virginia's departure, Syracuse and Pittsburgh left for the ACC and the Big East has yet to officially add any new teams.
The Mountain West saw Utah leave for the Pac 12 and BYU leave to be an independent football school—West Coast Conference in everything else. The conference was able to acquire Boise State from the WAC, though there is much speculation that the university will soon leave for elsewhere.
That just might be the beginning.
Jason Cook, the Chief Communications Officer of the Texas A&M University system said in a telephone interview that this instability was one of the primary factors that influenced the school's decision to initiate conversations with the SEC in the summer of 2010.
"[The move] was about stability from a conference standpoint," Cook said. "We thought that the SEC and the big 10 were the most stable. If and when college football goes to super-conferences, we want to be there for that."
Cook said that such instability has been around since the conference's inception.
"There were a series of events within the Big 12 regarding T.V. negotiations with our contract," Cook said. "There are also some ongoing issues that were going on in the Big 12 and current issues that had been around since it was formed."
According to Cook, these conversations accelerated as a result of a series of events, one of which was the 20-year contract for the "Longhorn Network"—ESPN's new network that will air 24 hours a day coverage of the Texas Longhorns.
Overall, the process took 14 months between the initial contact and the official announcement in late September of this year.
Over at the University of Pittsburgh, the official process lasted for less than a week.
The ACC's expansion committee met on a Tuesday, and on the same day, the ACC's Council of Presidents met though the night into Wednesday and approved Pittsburgh for consideration. That day, ACC commissioner John Swofford met with Athletic Director Steve Pederson and the decision-making process began for Pittsburgh. By the end of the day Friday, a letter had been submitted regarding Pittsburgh's official request for ACC consideration. On Saturday, the Council of Presidents voted to officially extend an invitation, which Pittsburgh immediately accepted.
Pederson expressed similar sentiments to those of Texas A&M regarding instability as a motive for joining the ACC. He said in the press conference regarding the school's moving to the ACC that schools have to do what's best for themselves as an institution and when the landscape is changing, it is crucial to keep conversations going regarding a conference change.
According to a story from the Boston Globe, the attention was directed to Pittsburgh when UConn did not have the needed support from the schools of the ACC. This was the result of Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo's refusal to allow UConn, a regional rival, into the conference.
"Making the decision did not take long and was not very difficult," Nordenberg said." "It was one of the most brief decision-making processes that I have ever been a part of."
Further requests for comment from Pittsburgh were denied.
"We did address our conference transition back in September in a lengthy press conference setting," said Senior Associate Athletic Director E.J. Borghetti via email. "I think at this juncture, we will let those comments about the process and our move to the ACC stand."