It’s official. The Big 12 has unanimously voted to extend conference invites to BYU, UCF, Houston and Cincinnati. And all four schools have accepted. BYU will join the conference on July 1, 2023 and the other three no later than July 1, 20204. I’m not going to say the timing of this has anything to do with my recent immersion into the American but I will say that lately I have been jinxing more than kickers.
The problem with this college football musical chairs thing is that it reminds me of when I played travel soccer at the tender age of ten. It was constant jockeying - for position, more playing time and maximum exposure. There were no friends, only competition and there was no team, but rather a vehicle for success, a means to an end. When you are in the thick of it, all you see is the next step, a better opportunity. But when you look back on it later, it just feels empty.
Look, I’m not an idiot. I know conference realignment and athletic restructuring of all kinds are necessary for schools to keep up with the ever-growing collegiate infrastructure. Just like I knew leaving my beloved U-10 Central Marin Sting for the more talent-laden U-11 Mill Valley Red Rockers was inevitable if I wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. But it wasn’t without sacrifice and loss.
I know this has been coming for months, years, decades even but it still sucks. An SEC coach I spoke with tried to break it to me gently, explaining that soon it will just be the Power 5 (maybe six) and then everybody else. When that day comes, I’ll be resigned but ready. Ready to see the gap between the have and have nots finally become a chasm that swallows us whole. In the meantime, all of the jockeying for position has taken away from the sport itself. It’s the second-worst game of musical chairs I have been a part of.
Right now, fans of the remaining AAC teams probably feel betrayed. Which is how I imagine my select soccer coaches felt when I ditched them for a better team. I get it. But just like there are other me’s, there are more Houston’s, UCF’s and Cincinnati’s.
In the Sun Belt, teams like Coastal Carolina, App State and Louisiana have enjoyed recent success and would inject some youth and fun into the conference. But if you want some history and depth with your recent success, look no further than Marshall. While the Thundering Herd isn’t in the biggest market, they do have name recognition and a wide-spread passionate fan base. Plus, they sell out home games and they have a significant social media presence. An Army or an Air Force would pair nicely with its fellow service academy Navy. And you can’t forget the West Coast – San Diego State would add some Southern California cool to the conference.
The biggest thing to remember is that nothing has to be done today. The conference should take its time and vet programs, making sure the right moves are made. It would be beneficial to see how some of these teams do in this post-Covid year before making any big commitments.
Drake said it best in one of his latest bangers.
Well, summer all they did was prep, okay?
Because New Year’s they didn’t really rep, okay?
And Valentine’s Day they signed prospects, okay?
We’ll see what’s bout to happen next, okay?
Find me a situation that Drake lyrics can’t be used in. I’ll wait. And I suggest the AAC does the same.