Dick Harmon: Super conferences a bad idea for college sports

Published: Monday, Sept. 19 2011 8:00 p.m. MDT

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announces the splitting of NCAA college football divisions during a news conference in San Francisco, Thursday. Colorado and Utah recently accepted invitations to join the Pac-10 in the conference's first expansion since 1978, necessitating many changes for when the league becomes a 12-team conference next July 1.

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

The idea of super conferences is kind of scary.

It is an idea that should cool down and lose itself under a rock.

We're in a strange time right now in college athletics. Bruised egos and money-grubbers are making huge decisions that will transform what we now enjoy. It isn't all good, and it all won't just all work out.

Conferences are ruining other conferences. There is little loyalty. Folks who take an oath of allegiance to stick together go back on their word at the drop of some coin. Legendary rivalries are being dumped, traditions trampled upon.

Not good.

Today's conference expansion talk erupted when Texas A&M decided to take its hurt feelings to the SEC in August. This, only a year after Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 and the Aggies agreed to a pact of Big 12 solidarity.

It is so dumb that A&M, which has done little on the college landscape of late and will surely be a middle-of-the-pack SEC football program, has caused so much rift and had such a big say in so many other athletic programs.

"No honor, no trust," Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. "I think there's really a lack of honor and a lack of trust throughout college athletics right now. It's very unhealthy."

Syracuse and Pitt, mainstays of the Big East, are jumping to the ACC. It is rumored the Pac-10, now Pac-12, will morph into a 14- or 16-team league. TCU bolted the Mountain West for the Big East, which is now being cannibalized by the ACC.

I personally think an extended Pac-12 is dumb, especially if they create a "pod" system of shuffling around four divisions. We saw this in the 16-team WAC. It didn't work. It tore apart rivals and natural regional foes who had had longtime relationships.

Try and get in a car and drive to a football game in Austin from Pullman. Fun.

I think it would hurt Utah, which is now in a great spot in the Pac-12 South and can regularly play in the Los Angeles area, a prime recruiting ground. Other Pac-12 administrators fear the same thing — addition will actually be subtraction in exposure and meaningful presence in Southern California.

Utah fans can enjoy a trip to the desert, L.A. or the Bay Area. They can budget a trip to Boulder and have some fun. Imagine planning for a trip to Stillwater, Okla., or Lubbock, Texas.

The idea of Pac-12 expansion is "iffy" at best. Let's hope it dies.

After all, think about this: Texas and its $300 million ESPN deal with its own network isn't going away. It would be tough to blend it into the league's existing regional networks.

If that's the debate Monday, as regents of Texas and Oklahoma meet to talk Pac-12 expansion, so be it.

But what of Longhorn and Sooner solidarity, sworn a year ago to Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and others?

It would be remarkable if Texas backed away from what it's been given and doesn't have to share in the Big 12. This issue just tore apart the Big 12 fabric the past two years. Why would the Longhorns give in? Texas' tilted deal to take the lion's share of Big 12 revenue now is a better deal than a Pac-12 equal revenue arrangement, right?

But of course the Big 12 may foreseeably be in the grave. We can see a scenario where both the Big 12 and Big East are raided until neither is a viable BCS conference and leftovers unite in a mongrel league.

As CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd pointed out, it is so hypocritical of certain university presidents and chancellors these days.

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