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Of Course Conference Expansion Is Not About Basketball

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In the midst of an otherwise decent article on why this round of conference reshuffling is different from the last couple times around, Michael Rosenberg wanders of track with a statement that is technically true but wholly irrelevant:

And since this is all being done for TV money, it is all about football. It is telling that in the last two decades, no league went after Kansas, Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. College basketball, a national obsession every March, is not even part of this discussion. And if the school presidents aren't giving a thought to basketball, you can be sure they don't care a bit about the various soccer players, lacrosse players, sprinters and swimmers who will be going pro in something other than sports.    

Sure, conference expansion is – and always has been – solely about football, but the above example isn't realy proof of that. UNC and Duke are only geographically situated to be in one other conference, the SEC, which they snub academically and basically abandoned to start the ACC in the fifties to begin with. You won't see that happening. Kentucky is in the SEC, the conference with the biggest pot of money, and often dominates the conference in their preferred sport. They'd never leave for browner pastures, either. Only Kansas being conferenceless is a testament to basketball's unimportance at this stage, and even that's being overblown. Unlike football, a basketball team can have quite a bit of success while not being in a top-flight conference, and if the thought of seeing the Jayhawks in a February bracket buster seems strange, fans can adjust.

I wonder, though, if the rapid changes this time around could possibly lead to the decoupling of football from the conference system all together. It's not unprecedented. College hockey alignments bear no relation to the typical BCS conferences, and the Big East is already a completely different conference on the gridiron than anywhere else. If they're raided again, they could instead add more basketball teams, and just allow the football programs to be independent. It's not likely – unlike hockey, football is the primary revenue generator in college athletics – but a bifurcated system where only three or four superconferences exist in football, and the rest of college athletics exist in a more suitable eight to ten team conferences, might be a more reasonable way of doing things. After all, do you think those UCLA water polo teams have the cash to travel to Texas a couple of times a year?