The Ever-Changing Landscape of the NCAA

All signs point to Texas A&M leaving the Big XII for greener pastures. Last year conferences shifted as the Pac 10 grew to the Pac 12 (Colorado and Utah), the Big XII lost two (Colorado and Nebraska), the Big 10 gained one (Nebraska, making the Big 10 a twelve team conference–it had eleven before) and Texas A&M unsuccessfully tried to move. During the last offseason rumors floated that the Big XII would be swallowed by the Pac 10, but A&M wasn’t invited. That never happened, but now A&M is on the verge of moving to a more prestigious conference, the SEC.

The predicted crumbling of the Big XII is finally starting with the departure of the Aggies of Texas A&M. Texas is a blue blood in college football, however they went 5-7 in 2010. Mike Sherman is entering his third year at Texas A&M and has quietly built the best football team in Texas. The Longhorns have the prestige and flooded recruiting classes but on the field success has plummeted after QB Colt McCoy left for the NFL. Texas Tech gets press for their unorthodox ways and scandal, while SMU is a program reborn, looking to make the final push over the hump. Texas A&M finished 2010 ranked 19th in the AP poll, but lost  a close 24-21 battle royale with LSU. 2011 is almost a “contract” year for A&M as they begin the year ranked #9 in the nation, with a core group of established and talented athletes. Optimism and expectations are high in College Station, Texas; what does their move mean to the SEC and the NCAA?

For the past six seasons, a national champion of college football was crowned, and all six of them SEC programs. The Southeastern Conference is the toughest conference right now, with diverse style’s of play and exciting football. A move like this will bring wonderful results to the Aggies and the SEC, while potentially crushing the Big XII.

PROS FOR A&M: This is the SEC. No conference has been able to compete with the SEC on a consistent basis in quality of play. The schedule may be difficult, but A&M is ready for the challenge. Quality in the Big XII has fluctuated, something that is certain not to happen in the SEC. Recruiting could see a meteoric rise in interest from top prospects; A&M has always competed with its in-state rivals for commits. But now there is a new draw for high school athletes: come compete for a Texas school, against top programs in the SEC. The grandeur and luster of the SEC has provided the existing schools top talent for years; Texas A&M plays in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the world. The potential results for A&M and this move are astronomical, brand new opportunities for this strong program lean toward future fortunes in College Station.

CONS FOR A&M: Tough, tough, tough SEC schedule, different style of play from the spread offenses of the Big XII. If they can’t stay afloat, losses will be a regular happening for the Aggies. Also they would be competing not only with Texas schools for recruits, but now SEC schools. In 2010 period of realignment had rumors that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State leaving for the Pac 10 while Texas A&M flirted with the SEC. That never happened then, but word was that the Texas schools would excommunicate A&M for leaving them and breaking rivalries, something that would hurt scheduling in the future.

PROS FOR THE SEC: Expansion in to Texas is huge. Texas, as mentioned before, is probably one of the best recruiting hotbeds next to Florida and California. The SEC has Florida, and soon Texas will be in the loop. A&M gives off an SEC-type vibe, pro-style offense with some wrinkles in it, powerful defense and athletes all around. A&M is currently ranked top 10; if they keep it up through next year, just one more top ranked program for the already dominant conference. Diversity in cultures, schools and stadiums grow, along with added power in the BCS. Rivalries are also reborn such as A&M-LSU and A&M-Arkansas, creating more competition. Plus, A&M’s baseball team is pretty good.

CONS FOR THE SEC: If A&M stumbles and falls off as they did in the early 2000s, this could be a bust move. There’s also the possibility that A&M couldn’t compete in the SEC, and sits in the cellar with Vanderbilt. But Texas is still added as a recruiting spot, so not much harm to be had.

PROS FOR THE BIG XII: Not many, as they lose one of their better teams. A little less in-conference recruiting competition at best, and more justification for the individual school’s new broadcast networks, like Texas’.

CONS FOR THE BIG XII: Losing one of the better teams hurts. Rivalries are also lost, including Texas A&M versus: Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. The Big XII drops to an uneven nine teams, their conference name becomes an even bigger misnomer and money is lost.

PROS FOR THE NCAA: The NCAA’s power conference becomes even stronger, with more teams, more money, and more wins. A&M brings class to a shady conference (some say the SEC stands for Somebody Else is Cheating), as they are not under investigation and they have a strong military program, with great presence at football games. The SEC network brings in more money, more money for the NCAA and greater competition and quality in the the NCAA’s top conference. And finally, with updated conferences, it could be a step away from the BCS system, a possible change towards a playoff.

CONS FOR THE NCAA: Conferences as we know it may be crumbling, as the Big XII is falling apart, and reports say the SEC is about to swallow Missouri and some of the ACC, schools like Florida State and Clemson. If that happens, the SEC will have a monopoly on college football, and other top teams are left in decimated conferences. The Pac 12 has solidified itself, and the Big 10 was never touched, but the ACC is dying as well as the Big XII. Schools like Texas, Oklahoma, Miami and Virginia Tech are in rather unknown territory. If the realignment happens, it will be twice in two years conferences have shifted, changing the BCS, the competition and the entire landscape of the NCAA. Who’s to say they’re done? Next year could bring even more change.

Over time, changes do happen. Schools move up and down, conferences have evolved over time and every year, each school has a shot at a national championship (just don’t schedule the SEC). And with most change, evaluation can only be done properly after everything has been put into effect and analyzed down the road. Initially, this is great for Texas A&M and the SEC, not so good for the Big XII, and it’s up in the air for the NCAA. The move is almost imminent, but is still in the works at this point. If the move happens, look for a scrambling of other conferences to make up by adding more teams. The true evidence of the fallout will be seen in its entirety in 2014 most likely. Realignment is a tricky thing as moving forward, college football is forever changed in some way. As for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, best of luck to everyone. SEC school, see you in the title game. Now we play the waiting game, will the move be finalized, or will it fall through, leaving a very angry Texas A&M squad?

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

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