SBD/December 6, 2012/Colleges

IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum: ADs Discuss Lack Of Trust Amid Realignment

Manuel and Yow said holding realignment talks can hurt relationships with other execs
The flurry of conference realignment in college sports has created an "erosion of trust" among schools and conference commissioners, and an unhealthy environment in higher education, according to a panel of athletic directors at the ‘12 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. Missouri AD Mike Alden, whose school moved from the Big 12 to the SEC this year, used that phrase to describe the current climate of secret talks and backroom deals schools are making these days in the rush to put their institutions in better financial position. One example is Maryland, which recently jumped from the ACC to the Big Ten. Nobody knew it was coming and it was a messy process, said N.C. State AD Debbie Yow, who previously served as Maryland's AD. Yow said, "The presidents of the ACC trust each other and had an agreement that they would be contacted (by a school leaving the conference.) Obviously there wouldn't be any attempt to keep them from someone else but they would at least know. That's the trust factor and that didn't occur. I know (ACC Commissioner) John Swofford was trying diligently to get in touch with people and they didn't respond for two days. Not cool.” She added, "They're going to be missed, there's no question about that. But they're going to be on a plane going to Madison, Wisconsin, to play men's basketball in the middle of winter. Good luck. I hope the money is really good."

EASIER SAID THAN DONE: UConn AD Warde Manuel said that for schools considering a move, it is not easy to have those discussions in private, knowing the rumors that surface over those talks could hurt negotiations. UConn is one school that has been mentioned as a candidate to move from the Big East to another league, possibly the ACC. He said, “The complications are the discussions we have at the Big East, different conference meetings with presidents and commissioners. The Big East has done a lot of great things for us and we've done a lot of great things for the Big East, but the landscape has changed. So I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't continue to look at what else is going (on) around me as it relates to what's to the benefit of Connecticut." He added there are a lot of "side conversations, rumors, innuendo, what's happening out there, what's going to happen." Manuel: "You just have to get through all that and concentrate on being better."

QUICK HITS

-- Alden, on the school moving to the SEC: "When you transfer to a new neighborhood, you have to learn who your neighbors are. We know over the course of the next several decades it will be a tremendous move. We weren't relevant in Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa-St. Pete. Our footprint went from 45 million households in the Big 12 to 89 million overnight. To expose Missouri to a broader audience has been a driving factor in all of this."

-- Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, on Big Ten realignment: "Nebraska involved a dating process before we got married. With Rutgers and Maryland, we got married and now we're trying to figure out how to live under the same roof."

-- Yow, on realignment: "If the money were the same, nobody would be switching (conferences). It's all about the money."

-- Yow, on the feeling of isolation that Maryland felt being on the outskirts of the ACC: "One time coach (Gary) Williams said, ‘Up here in Alaska,' as a way to refer to the ACC. When (I) was at Maryland we used to call the ACC the All Carolina Conference. You always feel that way when your headquarters are in another state."

-- Manuel, on traditions lost by realignment: "There's a lot of concern among the fan base that the things that 'I grew up knowing and loving are changing in front of me and it's going to have a negative impact on me.'"

-- Yow, on traditions: "There will be some pain as anybody changes conferences. ... There's no appreciation for the history of that particular school. Maryland played Duke in men's basketball. Tens of thousands of alums are familiar with that tremendous rivalry, and it died.”
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