Group of 5, especially AAC fans, love to debate which teams are most deserving of a power conference invite. Fans have a bullet lists, and essays, to explain why the Big 12 actually needs to invite their program if the conference hopes to survive.
It’s a nice thought. It makes you think, if your team is worth a Power 5 invitation. With that invitation, you can build facilities on par with any P5 school. You can win a P5 conference championship, make the College Football Playoff. You could win the College Football Playoff Championship.
The problem is that it’s unrealistic.
The ACC, B1G Ten, and SEC are full with 14 teams each. The PAC 12, isn’t reasonable geographically unless you’re in the Mountain West. Besides that, they’re struggling to find value as it stands now. Meanwhile, the Big 12 is adamant that they don’t want to expand their conference.
Frankly, why should they expand?
You expand your conference to do one of a few things. The first, is to add value. This brings in much larger media deals, which means each program gets more money. Value, is why the SEC went after a program like Texas A&M.
There’s also some worth in using conference realignment to try to create more of a competitive balance, open new media markets, and create new recruiting pipelines.
There’s only so many G5 schools that hold any value, at all, in these regards. UCF would be a new market for the Big 12, so would Cincinnati. Both have large student bodies, and therefore large alumni bases of fans. Both are in large media markets, and have access to fertile recruiting grounds.
Here’s the issue, they’re just not big enough brands. They can be popular locally, and have large alumni bases all they want. That’s just not enough to get a P5 invite these days. You need to have a huge fanbase which goes beyond the city you’re based within.
Now, there’s potential for a number of AAC programs to get to that point, but they’re simply not there yet. They won’t be for a few years at best. It’s a process that takes time, often by having fans from the time they’re kids, and into adulthood. For a young program like UCF or USF, this will come, but they’re competing with deeply entrenched fan bases like Florida State and Florida.
Until these G5 programs create enough value within themselves, a conference like the Big 12 won’t come calling. Think about it like this, if each Big 12 team is worth $20,000,000 a year in a media contract, and UCF’s value is $10,000,000. Why would they invite UCF? UCF would not bring more revenue to them, and they would only be forced to cut their shares down by about a million dollars a season.
It’s worth pointing out that a $10,000,000 annual media evaluation for UCF is generous. Given the AAC’s new media deal, each team will receive $7,000,000 each. Even if UCF is a large part of why they got that kind of money, it still doesn’t come close to the Big 12’s value.
No amount of access to Florida recruits makes these schools want to give up that kind of money. No amount of potential, future fans, can make the Big 12 or another P5 conference cut its revenue shares.
Simply, no G5 school is worth a P5 invitation.
Once you accept this, you can focus on one problem in a team effort. The conference, in this scenario the AAC, needs to raise its reputation to be on par with the P5 conferences. By doing this, you can build your own fan base up. This will raise everyone’s value, garner larger media contracts, and earn you a seat at the table.
It’s a long, slow, process. Oftentimes, it seems unfair. You can beat P5 teams more often than not. You can win New Year’s Six games, and even have an NCAA recognized National Championship. It still takes years to get the respect you deserve.
College football is an oligarchy. The old guard won’t just let you walk through the door. They don’t want to share their power and money. You have to become impossible to ignore. That is the only way to make it in this sport.
Don’t wait on a gift of conference realignment to save your program. Save yourself.