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Patrick Hruby

Nonessential Collegiate Athletic Association

The Atlantic Sports Roundtable asks: will the Borg Ten, SuperPac and other Mutant Conferences Kill the NCAA?

The Atlantic

From the Pac-12 (for now) to the supersized SEC, College sports' superconference arms races continues. In this week's Atlantic Sports Roundtable, we discuss the implications of realignment brought on by Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten.

Hampton Stevens: ... the implications of conference consolidation go far beyond what happens on the gridiron, court, or diamond. The bowls are in trouble, for sure. As athletic conferences become increasingly rich and powerful, it gets ever more likely that we will see the rise of four or six "super-conferences" of 16 teams each that will decide to stage their own championship, and tell the polyester-blazered bowl committees and to buzz right off.

But it gets bigger still.

Conference consolidation could even mean the end of the NCAA and the racist, exploitative sham that is "amateur" athletics. Fueled by plenty of TV money, there's nothing to stop some new league of unified college super-conferences from simply ignoring the hypocritical suits in Indianapolis and giving the players a fair share of the revenue they generate for their schools ...

Patrick Hruby: ... Conference realignment is about money. Well, that and musical chairs. For the power BCS conferences, gobbling up outstanding academic institutions with proud athletic programs as-yet-untapped major television markets like Unicron with the munchies is a way to increase their network and cable provider financial take via the bargaining power that comes with near-monopoly status. For schools like Maryland and Rutgers, meanwhile, assimilation into the Borg Ten is simply a matter of survival. Like sports media (hi, ESPN!) and financial services and seemingly every American and global industry that does not involve blogging from somewhere in Brooklyn, consolidation is the order of the day—and when the superconference shuffle finally stops, the aspiring big-time athletic schools who have failed to find a lucrative new home are going to be completely out of luck ... what's to stop the Bigger Fourteen, the Pac-16 and their ilk from starting their own postseason men's football and basketball tournaments, thereby financially kneecapping the administrators in Indianapolis? (Note: rhetorical question). Sadly, I don't think that would necessarily mean the death of amateurism. Not when schools, coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners all benefit from not sharing the wealth ...

Jake Simpson: ... I think the larger question of super-conferences boils down to what the point of college athletics is. If the long-term goal is to give student-athletes appropriate compensation in some form and create a true market unburdened by the NCAA's cartel-like ways, then super-conferences may be the way go. But if that's the goal, why exactly should we have college sports at all? Isn't it just a younger version of professional leagues, an anachronism that pre-supposes the college experience should include young athletes? Shouldn't we just have real minor leagues/development leagues instead?

If you're like me, if the point of college sports at all is to instill a sense of camaraderie among a group of players, alumni, and other fans through competition and tradition, then realignment sucks. Plain and simple ...

Read the full article at The Atlantic online