With the coronavirus hammering college athletics in 2020, I think it might be time to rethink college conferences.
Yes, we went through a major upheaval a few years ago where we ended up with some interesting”changes — like Rutgers in the Big Ten, or West Virginia in the Big 12 and Boston College in the ACC — but it is some of those decisions that have created this discussion.
One of the changes that we can count on as a result of the financial fallout of coronavirus is that many schools are going to have to play much more regional schedules.
In sports like softball, this is already pretty normal operating procedure in the early season as schools look to have a big-event type trip for their teams to play some different competition. Then, during the regular season, those schools focus on their conference schedule and local competition to round out the schedule.
Now we know that many of the conference changes that were made in the last go-around were designed to help the conferences make more money off of football. The fallout is that even though you have Boston College in the ACC for football, you still need to have Boston College play all those same schools in softball, soccer or volleyball. Where there is money for the football team to charter a flight, that same ability will almost undoubtedly disappear for the non-revenue sports.
The solution is an easy one, although it won’t be popular for football or basketball fans. The NCAA needs to realign conferences on a much more regional basis. It makes a lot more sense for Boston College to be in a conference with UConn, Rutgers, UMass and Temple than it does for them to be in the ACC where they have to travel as far as Miami. Now I get it isn’t as cool for football to have to play Temple rather than North Carolina, but it makes a lot more financial sense.
We’re all used to seeing our favorite big-time school compete with their traditional conference rivals, but the reality of the post-coronavirus world is going to require all of us to rethink the way things are. It will be a difficult adjustment to make, at first, but if the alternative is dropping sports or dropping athletic departments, I think it is an adjustment we should be willing to make.