College Realignment – Will it really be that bad for us, the die-hard fans of the sport?

A few examples of why we might still have some hope, if you enjoy regions and traditions



Right, before we get into this, please understand I am all for the traditions and for the most part the structure we currently work with today. Maybe with a tweak or two, I think what we had was a good thing and would be a big supporter of keeping with how the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences stand as they are right now.


Ultimately money talks, like it does in all aspects of life. Given what happened 12 months ago with Texas and Oklahoma negotiating themselves out of the Big 12, into the money-making conference that is the SEC. Should it really come as a huge shock that USC and UCLA decided to make a similar leap from the Pac-12 to the next big money maker in the Big Ten? 


It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, after watching the Big 12 burn last year following Texas and Oklahoma’s announcement, until they managed to find a quick solution at least for the short term, by signing up possibly the best 4 options to them. Now millions of fans of schools in the Pac-12 face the uncertainty of the conference they once called home, surviving this next wave of realignment. Whether they need to make a leap to another conference or stay loyal to what is arguably a dying brand.


This impact of the recent moves is why most of us feel some level of sadness and frustration with what has happened and rightly so. None of us like change, especially when you enjoy the product you see each Saturday during the season.


The reason I’ve written this article is to provide a perspective that hopefully allows us to see that for the die-hard fans, the fans that quite enjoy the quirky side of College Football. The dysfunction of the scheduling, out of conference games, the random rivalry between schools, the questionable decisions on some top 25 polls and general supporters of College Football as a total product.


Will these changes really make our viewing that much different?


The change is already beginning; however, you want to look at it, a breakaway is inevitable. The NCAA has very little to no power over College Football. They are hanging on by a thread. Even when they investigate wrong doing, they don’t have the money or power to really force any discipline on any school. The schools will just get together and turn their back on the NCAA. They have more power and money to win any court battle that the NCAA could propose. Once the NIL era was won in court, the NCAA died.


How the breakaway shakes out, is full of uncertainty at this stage. Some suggest it will be a Power 5 breakaway. I think given the recent moves the SEC and Big Ten will be able to decide how big or small the breakaway will be. I have a hunch that the SEC and Big Ten will both become Super Conferences with 20 teams in each and they go it alone. Simply put, they have the money and the strongest schools to make this happen.


Now working off my suggestion above what I reckon we will see is some form of tier system in College Football.


No Huddle Podcast - Predicted Future Tiers
No Huddle Podcast - Predicted Future Tiers

Tier 1 – Will be your Super College Football League (Super Conferences 40 teams)


Tier 2 – The remaining Power 5 teams/conferences and Group of 5 come together to complete this next level. Perhaps some teams from the FCS also step up and maybe the remaining Power 5 conferences steal the best of the rest and then them Group of 5 conferences realign by moving schools from other conferences or the FCS.


Tier 3 – Will be what is left of the FCS with more schools being added. 


I have seen some suggest, Tier 2 will be the remaining Power 5 teams that didn’t make Tier 1, but for me there really wouldn’t be a huge amount left and the difference in level after these moves doesn’t hold them a great deal higher than some Group of 5 teams if they are in this position.


Now the above sounds harsh, I don’t doubt some schools will lose income they are used to receiving right now due to these moves and that is a worry. The bigger picture though, I think there is some light at the end of the tunnel.


Let’s face it, from the Group of 5 perspective, they’ve always felt they have no shot or hope of making the playoffs, even in a perfect winning season scenario. (Yes, I do know it was only last year Cincinnati made the playoffs. Realistically that might be the one and only opportunity that happens unless an expansion happens soon.)


My point here is deep down the way the College Playoff committee looks at Group of 5 Conferences, is that it’s a step down of sorts. Ultimately being in Tier 2 will be no different for most of these schools. The chances of being taken seriously alongside an Alabama/Georgia/Ohio State is virtually impossible. 


So, despite the scary changes, this just basically confirms what is already happening. With this new tier system, you would only imagine that the Tier 2 teams would organise a playoff of sorts. It could be 2, 4, 8, 12 or even 16. This would allow these schools and conferences to have power on their own playoffs and playoff format. 


I know for myself, that if there was a Group of 5 Playoff I’d watch it, even in it’s current format. Imagine this with a sprinkling of former Power 5 teams and for me this is a decent product still. Also, TV companies will still want to buy in for these rights. People need to realise there are a fair amount of players in this game, that will miss out on the Tier 1 breakaway and it will be in their interest to secure the next best product and invest in making that product a sellable brand in its own right. That’s before we mention big steaming services that want to get into this sector too. 


Given the above, there could still be some level of regional conferences that could succeed. This will keep some of those rivalries and local match ups we’ve come to get used to or love watching together.


In some form it will feel weird and look a little different to what we know now, but if you enjoy watching the MAC, Sunbelt, CUSA, AAC or Mountain West, is your viewing really changing a great deal if they keep a lot of the core pieces in place? 


If anything, you might just be adding bigger competition and a playoff that now makes your games even more valuable to become the best of Tier 2. Even let’s say “National Champions”


In the most part Tier 3 will be very much how the FCS is now. They could see a few schools leave for the Tier 2 level, but there is always that risk in the current format and I know the die-hard FCS fans will still be there.


I guess the hardest transition here would be for the former Power 5 teams that once was on the inside looking out, are now on the outside looking at what could’ve been. In all honesty this will be the hardest part to swallow for these fans. Some of these teams will be wondering why they got left behind when several teams are at a similar level to them as a brand or as a force on the field made it to the big dance.


Ultimately this is the world we live in, it’s going to be hard and not fair. All I can hope is the future income from TV rights and corporate partners isn’t a drastic drop off, that means they can operate to some relative level to where they are now, and they can become a big power in the Tier 2 category.


For some teams, they may have struggled in the current format. They could really flourish on the field in this scenario. Either way I understand this might be not the same but if these schools stay within their current conference and keep those rivalries alive. Over time with the additions of some Group 5 teams stepping up to the challenge new battles will begin and we will be tuning in the same way we always have done.


Another factor, NIL is ruining recruitment for many long-time fans of College Football. Deep down this has been going on behind closed doors for years, we are just seeing the affect unfolding in front of our eyes without the secret element anymore. I would imagine although NIL will be a part of all recruitment and player transfers in the future at all Tiers, I would expect Tier 2 to be more at a sensible level and it won’t be the only deal for players joining schools at that level. 


Tier 1 will be throwing all sort of deals at the top tier recruits. Once again though most lower Power 5 teams and Group of 5 teams wasn’t in the hunt for the top tier recruits anyway, so this shouldn’t have a huge effect. 


If the above is the reality we are faced with in 5/10 or 15 years’ time. I know I will be sitting here very much enjoying the potential of Tier 2 and wouldn’t be surprised if my time gets spent on watching these games as much or if not more than that of the Super Conference of Tier 1.


Money talks, but if these changes don’t bring the eye balls they desire to Tier 1, or if the damage being done means the die-hard fan stops following Tier 1 due to the chaos it’s caused and supported Tier 2, perhaps the TV companies would need to have a rethink once again. Let’s face it, this has happened before.


I hope this article has explained the possible direction we are heading towards, but more importantly if this is the way the future of College Football is heading, we as die-hard fans will still have some level of the quirky College Football we love, with potentially a couple of extra perks perhaps.


It would be great to hear if you have a similar outlook to what I have mentioned above, or whether the changes will still give you hope of a product you can get on board with? 


Please give me your thoughts in the comments below.


If you want to hear our thoughts on the latest realignment following USC & UCLA announcement check out our episode below.



 



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