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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Column: Putting geography back on the map

Remind me — who exactly is in the Big East now?

The news, as of Tuesday, is Memphis is the latest school to agree to join the conference, becoming a member in all sports starting in 2013.

It’s the seventh addition to the conference in the past two months and the latest modification to a conference that seems to be in a constant state of flux.

To be perfectly honest, I have no problem with Memphis joining. What irks me is the end result that its move is a part of. The “Big East” will soon span the entire continental United States with teams ranging from South Florida to Cincinnati to Boise State to San Diego State.

If you ever needed proof that geography no longer dictates conference alignment in major college sports, there it is. This annoys me a great deal. Geography once was the driving force in how conferences were formed. Because geographically based conferences kept teams playing opponents in fairly close proximity, rivalries formed.

Most of the nation’s oldest rivalries are partially chalked up to that factor.

Now we are going to have a conference that stretches coast to coast.

One cannot expect there to be any sense of rivalry between the teams in a conference that by 2013 will have only one team that has been a full member prior to 1995.

Even grand, old, tradition-rich conferences such as the SEC and Big Ten have expanded in recent years. While neither has egregiously ignored geography to the extent the Big East has, it is not reasonable to assume instant storylines to form between teams from Missouri and Florida.

In the Big Ten, geography does not even have any bearing on the divisions. “Leaders” and “Legends” are a joke built upon the league’s current competitive balance, not what it might be in the future.

Despite what the conference might say, tradition and geography are largely ignored.

What is behind the current wave of outrageous conference realignment is no secret — it’s all about the money. The larger the geographic spread of a conference, the more major television markets it encompasses and the more television revenue there is to go around.

I would argue there are further effects, as well. A geographically concentrated conference would likely encourage prospective players to remain close to home, preserving the traditional recruiting pipelines and, at least to some extent, traditional rivalries.

With the current system, though, elite schools are able to poach top recruits from all across the country, leaving middle-of-the-road teams with only second-tier local prospects and inhibiting their chances of rebuilding or continuing any success.

With conferences as illogical as they have become, the best one can hope for is that this will all soon hit rock bottom, necessitating decisive and nationwide change in how conferences align.

When that day comes, I implore the higher-ups making the decisions to consult something besides budgets and TV contracts: a map.

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