Is football bad for basketball?

If you’re a mid-major program, Matt Melton makes an argument that it sure is.

Why have mid-major teams been squeezed out of the tournament over the past few seasons? You can blame football, and more specifically conference expansion. It began with a small ripple in the middle of the aughts when the ACC grabbed Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech from the Big East. The Big East responded by raiding Conference USA, Conference USA took some teams from the WAC and the MAC, the WAC stole some teams from the Sun Belt, and the MAC and Sun Belt pretty much stood pat. This is an abbreviated retelling, but that’s most of the important stuff. Aside from a few teams joining FBS, things were quiet for about five seasons, but then there was a seismic shift.

Beginning with the 2011 season, the Big 10, Pac-10, and SEC brought the Big 12 to the brink of extinction. The Big 10 added Nebraska, the Pac-10 added Colorado and also called up Utah from the Mountain West to get to twelve teams, and the SEC poached Missouri and Texas A&M. To survive, the Big 12 added West Virginia from the Big East and called up TCU from the Mountain West. Elsewhere in the major conference landscape, the Big 10 eventually added Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East, while the ACC further depleted the Big East by adding Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. The Big East again bolstered their membership by grabbing school further down the food chain from Conference USA. The Big East eventually ceased to exist after the 2012 season, but was rechristened as the American Athletic Conference. Conference USA again seized teams from the Sun Belt, the Sun Belt acquired teams from the WAC, as did the Mountain West who also lost BYU to independence. With no pipeline to replenish their lost members, the WAC went extinct and exists solely as a basketball conference now.

While these changes were driven by football, they also had and continue to have a profound impact on college basketball. When football teams change conferences, the basketball programs often move as well. While college football only has ten conferences (formerly eleven when expansion began) at the FBS level, college basketball has 32 leagues in its ecosystem. Changes at the top trickle down to the mid and low-major conferences. For some teams, this has been beneficial as they have been called up or graduated to major conferences and seen their profile expand. However, one needn’t ask Kirk Cameron what life is like for those left behind.

When programs graduate to better leagues, it makes it even harder for the remaining mid-majors to garner at large bids.

Eat or be eaten.

I suspect we’ll look back in another decade or two and realize we severely underestimated the effect of conference realignment as it went through.

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18 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

18 responses to “Is football bad for basketball?

  1. Sherlock

    The previous round of Conference realignment was driven by a business model that we are watching crumble before our eyes. Live sports may be the thing that slows the death cable television subscriptions, but the model is moving more and more to individual choice. Soon streaming services will negotiate with the Conferences. Then, people will grow tired of paying for access to content from the 13 other schools. Eventually, we are going to able to purchase access to the content of individual schools. When this happens, Conference unity as a means of securing more money will become mostly irrelevant. The question here is, what happens to the conferences when money is not the issue? Culturally and academically, Georgia, Florida, and Vanderbuilt have almost nothing in common with the other SEC schools. Our SEC affiliation is actually harms our academic reputation. I can actually see a future situation where Georgia, Florida, and Vanderbuilt swap places with FSU, Clemson, and Louisville to join the ACC.

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    • Otto

      The old Southern Conference was larger when UGA was a member. I will be interesting to see if the larger conferences break up as the TV model unwinds. Almost everything is cyclical.

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      • Sherlock

        Yeah, I can see some merger of the SEC and ACC into a 32 team Super-Southern / Eastern Conference in a last ditch effort by the WWL as a means of trying to save its business model. That being said, the long-term future of our University doesn’t lie with the SEC West. The non-sports cultures are too different and the size of that difference is increasing at an increasingly quicker rate.

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  2. ASEF

    Last year’s champion: Villanova
    Likely champion this year: Gonzaga

    I’m sorry, what was the question again?

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    • Did you read the linked article?

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      • ASEF

        Just the parts you embedded unfortunately. But I do think he’s confusing a “2nd tier in your conference” problem with a mid-major problem. The premier jobs and opportunities in CBB are the programs branded at the top of their conferences. The 2nd level P5 jobs are the worst because they come with the most unreasonable expectations. Everyone sees Villanova or Gonzaga having steady tournament success and assume it should be a snap for Georgia or Alabama or Cal or N.C. State or….

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    • You mean the team that is a 2 point dog is the “likely” winner?

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      • ASEF

        Kenpom has Gonzaga as a 64% favorite, which I’ve been told means about 4 points. And that’s not taking into account UNCs starting PG having two sprained ankles.

        Honestly that game could be a 15 point Zags win if the officials let them play their style.

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        • rpcpisme

          Are you saying that Gonzaga doesnt play by the rules? Therefore, when forced to play by the rules, its the referees fault?

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          • ASEF

            Is that serious?

            Every team in all sports has preferences for style of play. Refs can reward or penalize those preferences as a simple matter of honest judgment.

            A really physical game tends to reward the bigger team, and that’s UNC. A tighter game rewards teams that like to drive and cut, and that’s Gonzaga.

            Pretty basic really.

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            • illini84

              Right, you cite the one tout that picks Gonzaga and it’s “pretty basic”.

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              • ASEF

                Kenpom isn’t a tout. It’s an analytic, a more mature basketball analog to Connelly’s s&p+ for college football. That result mirrors Fivethirtyeight’s analytics as well.

                Kenpom is the Bible for college basketball junkies. It’s pace and opponent adjusted, etc. Don’t know why people are so upset at the idea Gonzaga is considered by some reputable number crunchers to be the favorite.

                And that’s without any adjustment based on the two injured ankles for Berry.

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  3. Cojones

    At least Henley won his Championship today and will head for Augusta.

    Good Dawg! pat, pat

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    • Macallanlover

      Quite a Sunday finish for him, 10 birdies in a final round. Very impressive! Lexi was robbed tonight by another BS fan intervention (anonymously of course). One sixteenth of an inch on a mark for a one foot putt from yesterday’s round cost her four freaking strokes! They need an “inadvertent minutiae” exception to stop the wannabe rules officials at home to stay out of the tournaments. LPG should get blasted for that ruling, there was only one camera angle involved, could they really be sure?

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  4. Derek Dooley 2.0

    I can’t generate any care. I’m trying. But I keep thinking about Football season.

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