Friday, October 14, 2011

Stop calling it a merger

So the Mountain West and Conference USA are "merging" into a horrifically large 22-team conglomerate. Here are the details:
The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have agreed to form an association for football, hoping the move will help solidify both leagues and increase their chances at obtaining a automatic qualifying bid for the Bowl Championship Series.

The 22-team league will have a two-division alignment and will play a championship game, Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said at a news conference announcing the move on Friday.

The two leagues would maintain their independent structures in all other sports under the arrangement, which is expected to begin in 2013.
Assuming that Boise State and Air Force are gone to the Big East (which seems stupid but pretty likely), here's what'll happen: Whatever Southwestern-y schools are left in Conference USA will get shuffled in with the Mountain West leftovers to create two evenly sized "divisions" of about 10 teams each, and the two divisions won't play each other at all until a championship game. That's not a merger -- it's a championship game between two different conferences that are just being called divisions in order to set up a game that people might actually pay attention to.

The goal is to get a BCS autobid, but the chances of that happening are 0.0 percent if Boise State leaves and about 0.5 percent if Boise State stays. There are ZERO other consistent top-25 programs in that group, and that's before the Big East picks off the best of the bunch to patch its gaping holes and maintain football relevance.

In a getting-a-little-attention aspect, I guess it makes sense, but that's the only way it makes sense. Having a conference in which the two divisions never play against each other is dumb; it'd be like if baseball announced that the Pacific Coast League and International League are now part of the same league but will stick with the old-school AL-NL format and never actually play each other. What's the point? It has all the problems of superconferences but with none (or very little) of the financial benefits. It seems extremely likely that this conference-type mess won't exist in a decade, either because it gradually gets picked apart or because a large group of member schools decides it can do better and goes back on its own.

I'd say "eh, give it a try," but somebody already did -- that somebody was the WAC about 15 years ago, and the Mountain West was the scrap-it-all result. Something about history and doom grumble grumble:
"There usually is commonality and regionality to a league," Franchione says. "There was difficulty to get people to agree on the direction of things. Hawaii had a different outlook than someone in Texas. It was a broad consortium of opinions and thoughts that sometimes was hard to mesh together."
Memories are short, I guess.


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