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Super Conferences Aren’t So Super

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Texas A&M’s departure from the Big 12 sparks many questions.

All are important, including the most pressing around these parts — “What happens next to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State?” — but I suspect there’s a big-picture question that will have ramifications for many years to come.

Is this the dawn of the super conference?

It sure looks that way.

The Aggies are likely headed to the SEC, which is sure to add another team to maintain an even number of schools. That will bring the SEC’s total to 14 schools.

Remember when the Big 12 first formed and people thought a dozen teams was a big number?

Now, four of the six BCS conferences have a dozen teams. ACC. Big Ten. Pac-12. SEC. And with the SEC on its way to 14 teams, you have to wonder how long it is before other conferences start expanding. The Pac-12 has made no secret of its desire for expansion. The Big Ten just added Nebraska, but it always seem to have its eye on Notre Dame. Why wouldn’t it be interested in others, too?

Super conferences sure look like the wave of the not-too-distant future.

I’m not a fan.

And no, I’m not some sort of stuck-in-the-past traditionalist. I loved when the Big 12 formed. Loved adding the Texas schools. Loved expanding the conferences borders.

Heck, I even got excited about the idea of OU, OSU and others going to the Pac-10 a year ago when conference realignment was all the rage. The idea of football games in Los Angeles at the Coliseum or in Eugene at The Zoo was pretty cool.

But now, as I listen to people throwing out all sorts of realignment scenarios that would result in these massive super conferences, I’m worried about all this talk. Thinking about all these different college football combinations is making me a little sick to my stomach.

The reason?

College football is different in different parts of the country. The experience in the SEC is different than the experience in the Big 12. Game day in Blacksburg, Va., is different than game day in Corvallis, Ore., or Madison, Wisc. Yes, people love their college football everywhere, so that passion is the same, but the way that passion is displayed is completely and totally unique in different areas of the country. But if you start throwing all of these strange bedfellows together, that vibe starts to change.

I mean, Nebraska playing in the Big Ten doesn’t feel like a stretch. Same with Colorado playing in the Pac-12.

But Missouri in the SEC? OSU in the Pac-12? Air Force in the Big 12?

I’m just not sure it feels right.

Sure, there are some potentially great match-ups, but they feel like great non-conference match-ups. Part of the reason why we love the idea of Boise State playing Georgia or Oregon playing LSU is because it’s not only a great clash of football powers but also a great clash of cultures. They do things different in Boise than they do in Athens, different in Eugene than they do in Baton Rouge, so bringing those teams together makes for great drama.

But making teams from vastly different football cultures into conference bedfellows?

It just gives me the heebie jeebies.

Maybe in another 10 or 15 years we’ll look back on this day as the start of a great era in college football. The start of the super conferences. The move to the future of the sport.

Then again, maybe we’ll look back on it as the muddying of football cultures, the day the identities of programs started to blend together, the day the things that made programs different and special started to be diluted.

I hope the latter isn’t the case, but I fear it will be.

Super conferences?

I’m not sure they’re such a super idea.




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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›