The news this week that Texas and Oklahoma were looking into the possibility of leaving the SEC’s Big 12 Conference was the first buzz of what could be an earthquake in college sports.
“Football is really out here. We saw it with the coming of the college football game. The NCAA has no control over this event and the money coming into it. And that, in a way, is the tail wagging the dog here.”
– Ryan Bamford, UMass AD
While the relocation of these schools will not come tomorrow, where there is smoke, there is fire. I can’t remember any of these demo balloons coming.
When this happens, there will be a clear domino movement between Division I-FBS schools from the Big 12 to independents like UMass and UConn.
Ryan Bamford, athletic director for UMass, said, “I think we’ve all expected a realignment of some conferences, given the pandemic and what we’ve been through over the last year and a half. If there’s movement, there will be a dripping effect, I’m sure. There will be some reorganization of some institutions. I think everyone is assessing where they are, what are the strengths of those relationships now and their place in conferences now, and if they feel they can improve that situation, I think people will be active participants trying to sort out their situation.
“I would say this is likely to be another big reorganization in college athletics” if there is a lot of movement.
Bamford is starting his eighth year at Amherst. It wasn’t at UMass when the schools’ last seismic shift occurred, a shift that saw the Old Big East lose major programs like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College to the ACC, and the Big Ten took on the Rutgers and the original ACC Maryland team. It came one year after Texas A&M and Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.
Now, if such a move were made, the SEC would be even more of a “premium conference” for football than it is now. It would also make the conference a better basketball league and in baseball and softball, forget it.
“The NCAA, it remains to be seen, what the future holds for the organization and how much impact it will have,” Bamford said when we spoke Thursday morning. “There is a lot of thinking in the industry that conferences are going to be independent and control a lot of the competitive environment going forward. Obviously there is a need for tournaments and what will that look like in the future? We are in the early stages of what will be a real sea change in college athletics in the next 10 years” .
Bamford said the division in Division I athletics could grow because of this.
“It’s all paid, it’s based on the financial statements on TV agreements. Now you have a file [NIL] Where student-athletes can monetize that, which is a good thing. But it’s moving toward a really different financial investment model for sports organizations and departments,” Bamford said. “I think it’s likely to create a bigger gap and a bigger gap between the Power Five schools and Autonomy Five and the rest of us in Division One.”
BREAKING: #Texas and #Oklahoma — the founding members of Big12Conference — are leaving the league, according to sources https://t.co/RFQ2dWVupn.https://t.co/K0WFqSfSeT.
— Chip Brown (@ChipBrown247) July 23, 2021
Which, of course, could have an impact on the sporting department at Bamford. The football team operates independently, while the vast majority of UMass teams compete in the Atlantic 10. The A-10 is nothing but the Power Five League.
“I want to make sure that the University of Massachusetts is in position for the next 100 years of college athletics. This is going to be a very important period of time as we try to think about the next step for our athletic program as an institution.” “Making sure we set ourselves up for long-term success will be crucial to the decisions we make in the short term.”
Could this short- and long-term future include adapting UMass to a different conference, possibly an all-sports league if the Big 12 collapses?
“We love Atlantic 10. We love our all-sports conference. I want to make sure we are in good shape there with the right partners and right peers. That is the most important thing for us,” Bamford said. “Then make sure that if we stay independent at ball The football, that we have competitive opportunities, that we have the opportunity to go to the Bowl, that we have the opportunities to be visible from TV and from a live broadcast point of view.”
The athletic director said that being an independent football player allows UMass to be “smart” if a conference comes calling for the school that you think is a good fit for where you’re heading athletically.
Knowing what will happen now is another issue.
“Trying to predict where this is going is really hard,” Bamford said. “I’d like to tell you that I actually feel like we’re in a position of little strength for being independent [in football]. I think you’ll see more schools that are likely to take their football programs into stand-alone mode and try to find an all-sports conference. Football is really out here. We saw it with the advent of the college football game. The NCAA has no control over this event and the money coming into it. This is, in a way, the tail wagging the dog here.
“I think it will continue to be a major decision and inflection point for adverts across the country.”
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