SBD/December 8, 2011/Events and Attractions

IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum: Commissioners Discuss Realignment

Delany feels that conferences with 14-to-16 teams is not feasible

Conference realignment has become a buzzword in collegiate sports in the last two years as colleges look to align themselves based on economic and cultural factors, according to panel discussion of conference commissioners this morning at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletic Forum in N.Y. Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said realignment is not necessarily a bad thing, as collegiate board members have a fiduciary responsibility to their institutions to seek out the best possible situations. “I think it’s healthy for institutions to think about bettering themselves and putting themselves in a better association,” Banowsky said. “It’s not a sign of disloyalty.” Big Ten Jim Delany said he does not have a problem with institutions that are seeking change, but he does not believe that large conferences with 14 or 16 teams will work. He also said that rapid change and expansion puts serious pressure on a conference and can greatly alter its culture. “When people are playing Monopoly, you think about the boardwalk and the bank, but you don’t think about how it all hangs together,” Delany said. “You can’t underestimate the way people interact, and how that will change if you bring in four or six teams.” Mountain West Conference Craig Thompson conceded size and regionalism can hurt a conference with 16 teams because schools will not be given the chance to play each other. “Is it truly a confederation or a conference if not everybody gets to play one another?” Thompson said. “That’s a value judgment you have to make.” Meanwhile, Delany said a 16-team playoff is not universally supported and would not improve the current BCS model for college football. Teams already play 12 regular-season games, as well as two postseason games, and the addition of a playoff would put too much stress on collegiate athletes, he said. “With a full-blown playoff, there isn’t much left over for the other teams (other than the 16 that qualify),” Delany said. “Right now we accommodate 70 teams in the BCS. It’s a celebration of college football.”

Quick Hits:

On how TV agreements affect potential realignment plans:
* Banowsky: “We need to be able to provide assurances to TV partners that the inventory they are buying is what they are going to have. If you’re a TV partner you want some level of assurance that the institutions you thought you had done business with will be there for the long haul.”

On how a superconference of the biggest Division I schools could fix NCAA football:
* Delany: “The idea that these problems would go away after we collectivize implies that the problems are caused by smaller institutions, and that is fallacious thinking. I don’t think that having a more elite group would make us healthier. I think quite the opposite.”

On the challenges facing a 16-team playoff system:
* ACC Commissioner John Swofford: “College football is the only sport to have an alternate system to a playoff, and it’s very historical and successful. You would have to undo something that is a pretty special part of American sports culture that has been around for a long time.”

On the current consolidation of conferences:
* Delany: “I think some will work. I think others will fall apart like a poorly constructed erector set.”

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