News & Politics

The Future of Conference Expansion

A long-term look at conference reshuffling reveals mega-conferences, zombies, and—ultimately—more of the same for college athletes.

Under Armour, and their uniforms, will play a big part in the future of conference realignment. Photograph courtesy of Under Armour

Things are changing by the minute in college sports. The Atlantic Coast Conference is expanding while the Big East and Big 12 are either collapsing or restructuring, depending on which report you’re reading. Trying to keep up with the latest speculation is dizzying and rather pointless in the long run. Why focus on the present, when we can instead look in to the future to see where all of this is heading? What’s in store for the ACC, Big East, local college athletics, and the human race as a whole? Let’s take a look.

September 2011: The Big 12 diaspora replenishes the Big East with some new blood like Kansas and Kansas State. They remain a horrible football conference, and commissioner John Marinatto eases up and allows Pitt and Syracuse to leave the conference at their earliest convenience. UConn and Rutgers trip over one another following them out the door to the ACC.

August 2012: No longer interested in being the basketball schools in a conference driven by football money, Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, Marquette, and Notre Dame (basketball only) break off to form the Papal Athletic Conference. The “PAC 6,” as they call it, is immediately sued into insolvency by what’s now known as the PAC 14. Georgetown is left to barnstorm around the east coast, taking on any opponent who will have them, including a few teams made up of locked out NBA players. Yeah, that’s still going on.

September 2012: Navy joins the new look Big East as a football-only member. Opposing coaches protest the move, knowing full well that they’ll have to spend an entire week scheming to stop the triple option like it’s 1956 or something. Somewhere Charlie Weis nods in vigorous agreement over a plate of ribs.

October 2012: The SEC sends West Virginia one final rejection. The letter explicitly states that they are simply too dumb to join the esteemed conference. The Mountaineers argue that they’re no worse than Auburn or Mississippi, but nobody is listening.

December 2012: Maryland officially welcomes its new conference rivals to the ACC. Its basketball team gets blown out, but at least Pitt is willing to concede that there is a rivalry between the schools, unlike those pretentious gasbags on Tobacco Road.

May 2013: Dalonte Hill delivers the highest rated recruiting class in the nation to Maryland’s basketball program.

September 2013: Spurned on by fears of the now wildly successfully PAC 16 poaching their teams, the ACC merges with the SEC to create the nation’s first “über conference.” Kevin Plank is installed as the first commissioner of the new Under Armour Athletic Conference.

December 2013: A year-long investigation by Yahoo! Sports results in Maryland landing on probation for major recruiting violations. A sweaty and disheveled Gary Williams wanders the streets, screaming “I told you so” at no one in particular.

February 2014: Maryland football manages to steal some five-star recruits out from under traditional powers Miami and Florida State. Apparently high school kids really are stupid enough to base their college choice on uniform options.

May 2016: HORDES OF ZOMBIES AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE! Max Brooks is hailed as a prophet, and becomes the immediate favorite in November’s general election.

August 2017: The entity known as the PAC 24 unhinges its jaw and swallows the Big 10 whole. Joe Paterno does not survive the ordeal. Phil Knight assumes control of the 40-school conference and declares open war on Plank’s UAAC.

September 2017: Knight and Plank reach an accord after Nike engages in a hostile takeover of Under Armour.

January 2018: Maryland defeats Oregon to win the school’s first national BCS championship in football. There is still no playoff, but everybody involved is fabulously wealthy. Except for the players.