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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

East Coast Irrelevance

If we're not careful, big-time college football could go extinct from the eastern seaboard.

Already, as the landscape changes and we start to look ahead to a college football playoff, the consolidation of power in the conferences-formerly-known-as-BCS-AQs not named the ACC and Big East seems to grow more evident. The Rose Bowl will continue to pair the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, and the SEC and Big XII have agreed to send their champions (or another, should their champion find themselves in the playoff, which I'd imagine they often will) to the new concept Champions Bowl. While neither of these bowls will necessarily factor into a playoff scenario, the message is clear: This is the company we choose to keep, and sorry, east coast conferences, it isn't you.

What's an east coast school to do?

Well, moving west clearly isn't an option. But while you can't change your location, you can change your neighbors. West Virginia did so by making the move to the Big XII. We've already heard the scuttlebutt about Florida State potentially following suit and taking Clemson or Miami with them. Some seem to believe that should this happen, the ACC will get all apocalyptic and schools like Virginia Tech and NC State will bolt for the SEC, if they'll have them. In fact, one could look back and consider Penn State forward-thinking by aligning themselves with the then-solely midwestern Big Ten instead of an eastern conference. Even Syracuse and Pittsburgh headed for a southern exposure--remember that the ACC was nearly as southeastern in geography as the SEC before adding Boston College and those two--but may have simply launched themselves from one eastern also-ran conference into another.

We already know that college football in the northeast isn't the driver that it is in other parts of the country. What other region could host a debate advocating the banning of college football and rule in favor of the affirmative? With the entire eastern seaboard in mind, while there may be regions of the country that could successfully host two major conferences, the east coast is not one of them, locking the ACC and Big East in a blood feud for scarce resources that could leave both irrelevant. Any team getting a serious look from the SEC, Big XII, or Big Ten (I feel confident that the region is safe from Pac-12 raiding for now) will take it seriously and most likely jump. With the future of the east coast conferences as the will of the others, they will sit uneasily in a Cuban Missile Crisis staredown, knowing that if they blink, we could be talking about the Atlantic East in the same breath as the MAC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA.

It's more than just the football, though. Consider this: With the departure of West Virginia for the Big XII, there are no Sudler Trophy winners in either the ACC or the Big East. College marching band's highest honor has completely left the east coast conferences, and it's not as though it was that strong before. Someone's still winning in the east, but it's not at the FBS level. The four non-FBS winners all sit squarely in ACC territory: FAMU in Florida, James Madison in Virginia, Western Carolina in North Carolina, and UMass, which has since made the leap to FBS, in Massachusetts. The two other Sudlers found in east coast states belong to the Big Ten and SEC, in Penn State and Georgia, respectively. The remaining trophies reside in those two conferences, the Big XII, the Pac-12, and most recently, with Notre Dame. Sound familiar?

We've all heard of the east coast bias in media. We may find ourselves coming to the point in college football where there's virtually no east coast towards which to be biased.
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