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Overreacting To The SEC-Big 12 Deal

What does the Big 12-SEC bowl game mean for Pitt? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
What does the Big 12-SEC bowl game mean for Pitt? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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So the Big 12 and SEC champions are scheduled to play in a bowl game starting in 2014. This is certainly big news in the college football landscape as it transitions to a potential four-team playoff. The conferences are looking for a way to put themselves in the strongest position possible when the playoff finally arrives and this move will bring big money to both conferences.

But of course, this move was bound to lead to a few overreactions.

When the SEC and Big 12 announced their new bowl agreement Friday, they changed the paradigm of college football perhaps at the most critical time in the game's history. ACC and the Big East? Done in terms of being meaningful major college football conferences in the marketplace. One has barely made a blip in the BCS era. The other just pushed out its commissioner and is hanging on for dear life.

Meanwhile, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas just hit a walk-off at the end of a career that has spanned four decades. Asked what he would do if he were ACC or Big East commissioner today, Neinas, laughing, said: “Better get a good bowl.”

The Big East, ACC and whoever else is still playing in FBS don't have war chests. They have become content farms for leftovers.

Really, Dennis Dodd? A farm for leftovers?

Let's get our facts straight. This is a bowl game. It is not a national semifinal - although it is quite possible that one or both conference champions could appear in the playoffs. But the idea that this bowl game will send the ACC to the land of the non-AQ is ridiculous. A conference with Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech will always be a relevant one in the eyes of college football. And even if Florida State decides to leave for the Big 12, the conference still has several football schools to remain a top football conference.

But Dodd doesn't stop there.

It's what the deal represents: If you haven't noticed, the top level of college football is now narrowed to the Big Four -- Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. Those 48 schools control most of the influence, power, money and, most important, product in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That shouldn't be a surprise, but the announcement of the Champions Bowl put a face on college athletics' latest study in Darwinism.

“Nothing's changed,” one industry source said. “The Big East is diminished and the ACC is not the same as those other top leagues.”

Still, 48 schools and two major, big-time bowls. More power in the hands of the powerful. Let your mind wander. Secede from the NCAA? They certainly have the leverage if those 46 want to install their own recruiting rules and play with 150-man rosters? And at one point does a 16-team playoff sponsored by Anheuser-Busch become a reality?

Again, for the same reason as above. A conference with Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and potentially Florida State will be a part of this secession, should it occur. This new division would be dumb to not include these schools. The SEC has no reason for further expansion. Neither does the Big Ten unless Notre Dame joins. None of these schools are joining the Pac-12. That leaves the Big 12 and it doesn't seem likely that they would take all four. And thus the ACC will be included.

ACC commissioner John Swofford is also not oblivious to the fact that football runs college athletics (hello Big East). If such a move is happening, Swofford will do his best to make sure the ACC is part of this new division of college football.

But let's not speculate on what could happen. Let's focus on now. And Notre Dame. This puts the Irish in a very interesting situation. Do they risk being out of this "Power 4" arrangement by staying independent? Or do they join a conference finally?

“Now it's going to put more pressure on Notre Dame to look at the Big 12,” said one source involved in the playoff discussions.

Once again, wrong. This deal does nothing of the sort. Notre Dame only joins a conference if the Irish are forced to. And even then, I don't think it would be the Big 12, since it still seems like if the Irish join the Big Ten or the ACC. Right now, there is no major threat to Notre Dame appearing in a national championship should the Irish go undefeated (outside of the mediocre teams). The only way that happens is if the top conferences do secede from the NCAA for football and don't allow the Irish to be independent and still be a part of it. But again, let's not deal with speculation.

We could overreact to this news and feel that Pitt is now screwed. We gave up on our chance to join the Big 12 and now we're regretting it by joining a conference that will still be on the outside of the major conferences. Pitt not joining the Big 12 was still the right decision. At the time, it was still one Larry Scott decision from no longer existing and it made no sense for Pitt to consider that move. And right now, the ACC is still considered a power conference because of the membership. Whether or not Florida State is still a part of that will not change anything.

Let's get one thing straight though. It isn't good for the ACC. In the post-BCS era, the ACC doesn't have many options for a good bowl opponent. The ACC champion vs. the Big East champion Boise State? The Broncos have a great program, but that isn't going to do much to get serious TV money.

Right now, all we can do is speculate. And unfortunately, speculation leads to overreaction. Remember when it was all but certain that the Big 10 was going to 16? Or the Big 12 was done? Or that the Big East was going to split? Often times, what actually happens is nowhere near as bad as we come to speculate. That's how it's been for about 95% of realignment (R.I.P. WAC) and I'm going to assume that the same will happen in this scenario.

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