Conference realignment takes away key piece of college football

By Max Baker, News + Record Intern
Posted 8/4/21

Much was lost from the college football experience in 2020. Roaring stadiums were replaced by artificial crowd noise and tailgates turned into days of watching football on the couch.

But there was …

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Conference realignment takes away key piece of college football

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Posted

Much was lost from the college football experience in 2020. Roaring stadiums were replaced by artificial crowd noise and tailgates turned into days of watching football on the couch.

But there was one thing I missed more than any: marching bands.

Make fun of me all you want or call me a traditionalist, but something about a DJ blaring Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” on third down doesn’t get me going like a marching band.

It’s traditions like these that make college football so special. The annual matchups between bitter rivals such as Michigan vs. Ohio State, Alabama vs. Auburn and Miami vs. Florida State can’t compare to anything that professional sports offer. These games divide states, and sometimes families, awarding bragging rights for the next 365 days.

So watching Big 12 schools Oklahoma and Texas, two of college football’s most historic programs, announce last week that they had voted to accept the SEC’s invitation to join the conference after the 2025 season, was a gut punch. The move will essentially end the Big 12 as it currently exists and will likely lead to other conference realignments around the country.

What will happen to in-state rivalries like Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State and Texas vs. TCU?

It will leave the schools blindsided by the move in a desperate situation to potentially find a new conference. It will create an even greater disparity between the college football conferences and will beg the question whether college football even needs conferences at all.

“What’s becoming abundantly clear, and I hate to say this because I’ve always tried to fight it, is people are trying to stay at the top,” college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on ESPN. “They’re trying to compete with the SEC, and it’s all about money. It’s no longer about tradition. It’s no longer about the things that I think college football has always kind of tried to stand itself on top of and really look at and appreciate rivalries and tradition and things of that nature.”

For two schools engrained with rich college football tradition, it’s ironic to see that they would value money over the rivalries they’ve formed with Big 12 schools over decades. Obviously, football isn’t the only sport affected by this decision. But with revenue being the main goal to those at the top, it seems that football was the catalyst for this decision.

Texas and Oklahoma aren’t the first two schools to make a move like this and they certainly won’t be the last. Missouri and Texas A&M both left the Big 12 for the SEC almost 10 years ago. However, it’s the first conference realignment in recent history to shift the balance of the sport in a way that will create a super conference.

Prior to the 2021 season, with athletes able to profit off of NIL, it was evident that the outlook of college sports was changing.

But this move strips fans of the core of what makes college football so great. And just like marching bands in 2020, we may not realize how much we miss these traditions until they’re gone.

CN+R Intern Max Baker can be reached at max@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Maxbaker_15.

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