Monday marked the day numerous changes to the college sports landscape became official — and judging by the reaction to many in the sports media the world is coming to an end.
The reaction is not quite as extreme as when many of the changes were originally announced — or worse yet when they were still just rumors and speculation — but July 1 marked the official date of the changes and provided another opportunity for doomsayers and “good-old-days preachers” to lambaste the state of college athletics.
News Flash: This has all happened before.
Yes there are an inordinate number of changes this time around in both football and basketball (notice no one ever complains about changes in NCAA hockey or baseball or tennis) and it will take some time to get used to the new conference alignments.
But those in the media — whether in print, online or on radio or TV — blasting university presidents and the NCAA for changing a good thing should have some perspective. This is not the first time changes have been made and won’t be the last. And most changes over the years have been beneficial to the universities involved and to their fan bases.
I read a column this week lamenting the fact that “the Big East that we were all raised on was put out of its misery …”. Wait a minute. I can remember — as can many other college basketball fans — when there was no Big East.
The conference was created in 1979 and the lineup that first year consisted of Syracuse, St. John’s, Georgetown, Connecticut, Boston College, Seton Hall and Providence. Villanova joined the following year and Pittsburgh in 1982.
And how many basketball fans remember the Metro Conference (officially the Metropolitan Collegiate Athletic Conference) which started up in 1974 with a lineup of Tulane, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Georgia Tech and Saint Louis.
This league changed over the years with Florida State and Virginia Tech joining and Georgia Tech leaving, and the final season was 1994-95 with a lineup of Charlotte, Tulane, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Southern Miss, South Florida and Virginia Commonwealth.
One of the most impactful changes to college basketball occurred in the early ’70s when the NCAA allowed more than one school per conference to qualify for the postseason tournament. Prior to that there was an advantage to being an independent since only conference champions (at that time only the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southern Conference had postseason conference tournaments) advanced to the NCAA tournament.
The numbers of independent teams went from as many as 80-plus in the mid-’70s to the 20s by the early 1980s, down to two last season.
The point of all this is simply to calm everyone down. Yes, we will all have to study the new football and basketball alignments as the season nears, and yes, there will be some “I didn’t realize they were in that conference” moments during the season.
But like most things in life, it’s happened before and will happen again so just get used to it.