thursday news USC and UCLA join the Big Ten Conference already in 2024 he surprised the world of university sports.
The prospect of two elite athletic programs teaming up with the most powerful Power Five conference in the country could be the most anticipated merger since Joe Walsh joined the Eagles.
Did the Eagles really need Walsh to produce hit after hit?
No, but they immediately turned out to be the granddaddy of all classic rock albums, “Hotel California,” and they got better than ever with Walsh.
The same goes for the Big Ten, that he didn’t need USC or UCLA to prove himself in the world of college sports but it grew exponentially larger with both schools as members.
What it means for the college football landscape will be the subject of intense speculation in the coming weeks and months leading up to September.
The idea of two superconferences, the Big Ten and the SEC, dominating the sport and leading to the extinction or irrelevance of the three remaining power conferences seems like the most likely outcome, at least according to pundits who somehow missed the biggest . story of the year until it actually happened.
Oklahoma and Texas kicked off the gold rush last year when the two most prominent Big 12 schools announced their decision to join the SEC. Surely we haven’t seen the latest “name” school eschewing the tradition of joining one of the super conferences and dividing up the TV spoils. And when that happens, the poor get poorer.
But who knows?
Maybe the Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 can survive as minor conferences. There are certainly enough networks and streaming services for everyone to get a piece of the TV pie, even if it’s a slice compared to the wheelbarrows full of cash the Big Ten and SEC will amass with their current and future contracts.
One of the biggest questions is what happens to Notre Dame, the only college football program that doesn’t need to share with others because it’s a maddening Notre Dame.
The Irish never needed to join a conference because NBC broadcasts all their home games in a deal that runs through 2025. They have had a national following for over a century and have done well as an independent, reaching the Football Playoffs. college American without having to earn a conference degree.
But under Notre Dame’s agreement with the ACC, the Irish are required to join the conference if they decide to relinquish their independent status before 2036. That’s a long way off, especially with the rapidly changing college sports landscape.
And if Clemson, Miami and another team close the ACC for the SEC, as some have predicted, the future of the conference would be in grave jeopardy.
The obvious choice for Notre Dame would be the Big Ten: The Irish would fit right in with the states of Ohio, Michigan and USC of the college football world. This has been discussed ever since Nebraska and Penn State joined the Big Ten, but the Irish didn’t need the Big Ten and kept the status quo.
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Times change, and Notre Dame may soon have no choice but to join a conference. But why would the SEC let Notre Dame go without making an offer that its chairman, the Rev. John Jenkins, couldn’t refuse? If USC and UCLA fit well in the Big Ten, why wouldn’t Notre Dame feel comfortable in the SEC?
Maybe coach marcus freeman he could even affect a southern drawl like his predecessor, the chameleon-like Brian Kelly, who took the money from LSU and suddenly started sounding like he was shelling lobsters in the swamp. A Notre Dame schedule with games against LSU, Alabama and Georgia each season would be just as appetizing as a Big Ten schedule, and the SEC’s dominance proves that it is by far the best conference in football.
As we await the aftermath of the exodus from USC and UCLA, we also mourn the loss of the Rose Bowl as the preeminent New Year’s Day bowl game. The tradition was already affected when they played the 2021 Rose Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one seemed to blink when the “grandfather of all” was not played in Pasadena, California, so perhaps no one would care if USC played Washington State of the revamped Pac-6 Conference in the 2025 Rose Bowl.
College football can survive anything, never mind the never-ending competition for the largest number of colleges that were built to provide education for students rather than entertainment for the masses. When it comes down to it, the game day experience, including marching bands, cheerleaders, fight songs, stadiums, old rivalries and newer traditions like the “Jump Around” chant in Madison, Wisconsin They make every Saturday in the fall a day to look forward to.
Change has always been part of the game and always will be.
In the words of the House of Pain anthem played at every Wisconsin game: “Get used to one style and you and I might change.”
Jump, America. Jump.