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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Expansion Szn

In late September, Drum Corps International's member corps came together for their fall business meeting. While most rule changes pass in January, there were a few items that came to a vote during this meeting. Among the most newsworthy was a unanimous vote that expanded the number of performers to 165, up from the previous limit of 154, and 135 just a decade and a half ago. 

(The college football fans among you may think this isn't the expansion talk you were expecting. I'm getting there, I promise.)

While the vote was unanimous, it wasn't without criticism. The corps touted increased opportunities for participation, but critics note that it may widen the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. Members who may have previously been waitlisted or cut entirely from top-flight corps would be contributing members of other corps; might they now forego opportunities at perceived "lower" corps if they squeeze in with increased limits?

In related news, college football's back at it with realignment, and the latest moves stand to erode the FBS' middle class. This round kicked off when Texas and Oklahoma, undeniably  two of the sport's elites, announced their intentions to defect to the SEC from the Big 12. In the uncertainty that followed: The Big 12 accused ESPN of colluding with the American Athletic Conference to raid their conference (in advance of their own raid); the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 (but not the Big 12) announced an "alliance" aimed at stabilizing the sport amid what was unspoken but assumed to be SEC overreach; the Big 12, now at eight teams, sat uneasily, fearing scavenging from other conferences before launching their own offensive and poaching Houston, Cincinnati, and Central Florida from the American, along with independent BYU. The American has since responded and, after kicking the tires on a few Mountain West schools, added UAB, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and UTSA, all from Conference USA.

The American, née Big East, is no stranger to the post realignment regather and rebuild. The football side of the house needed a revamp after losing Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College to the ACC; after losing Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville to the same, West Virginia to the Big 12, and Rutgers to the Big Ten; amid the split that created the American and left the basketball schools with the Big East name; and now once more. 

Each realignment has left the conference in worse shape; moving to the bottom of the AQ pecking order in the BCS, to being left outside the Power 5 as the American. And while even from the outside looking in, the American was the consensus next conference up (to say nothing of their self dubbed "Power 6" moniker), even that claim comes into question. While the new schools add additional teams in some key media markets, they weren't even the "next up" programs from throughout the Group of 5. Expansion landing the conference at 14 teams is also notable; many assume it's in anticipation of a future raid, possibly once again from the Big 12. meanwhile, after skimming off the top programs from the Group of 5, the Big 12 staves off extinction while widening the gulf between them and and the G5 conferences. 

This round of realignment is almost certainly not done; there are currently reports of Conference USA's Old Dominion joining the Sun Belt, the conference that has been C-USA's target in previous rounds.

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