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Conference Alignment (5/9/10)

By Paul Bessire

Sunday, May 9 at 9:27 PM ET
Collegiate conference realignment always seems to make for great sports radio fodder. Who is going to join the Big Ten (to give it 12 teams)? Should Notre Dame have a conference? Does the Big East deserve to be in the BCS? Does it have too many basketball teams? That's just a start to the popular debates.

And while answering those questions can be compelling and a conversation in which I may join (I could get real nerdy and apply the "traveling salesman" theory or just advocate that the English soccer tiered style), there is a fundamental issue with current conference realignment that transcends those questions and should probably be resolved first.

Athletic directors are glorified fundraisers. Like most in a similar position, the biggest issue ADs have is to find ways generate enough income to cover expenses. Instead of strictly focusing on ways to raise/make the money, ADs can also drastically impact their programs' bottom lines by reducing costs. What are the greatest costs for teams? Travel.

Notre Dame actually has it right (never thought that I would utter that statement). Hockey does too. The best approach to conference realignment is to look at it differently per sport. Focus should be on creating powerful, traditional, intriguing conferences for "revenue-generating" sports (football and basketball). This is where much of our debate exists.

Yet when Cincinnati joins the Big 12 (after Missouri joins the Big Ten), it's not just the basketball and football teams that have to travel to Texas Tech or Colorado (and vice versa). The "non-revenue-generating" sports (everything else) are affected as well. It's not cheap to send the Lady Bearcats soccer team 1,210 miles to Lubbock.

The Lady Bearcats should play the majority of their games against local DI teams and traditional rivals. Xavier, Miami (OH), Dayton, Louisville, Indiana, Ball State, Ohio State, etc. could comprise the conference, rather than Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, etc. Those matchups would probably of far greater interest to players, coaches and "fans" any way.

Enacting this change would keep costs down from the sports that don't make enough to cover them. And the sports that make the bank and then some could do what they need to do to bring in as much as they can.

It's not a prediction, but it is based on the most important numbers - dollars and sense. Makes all the sense to me.

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