It’s all happening, right before our eyes. It started a few years ago and is heating up. We just have not realized it yet.
The Big Ten and the SEC, each now boasting 14 nationally prominent college allegiances, are dead set on a collision course to dominate college athletics.
The recent additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten — be it mainly for ownership of a fraction of East Coast television sets — have driven their new conference above the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12 and all other feeble leagues that make up the NCAA — except for, of course, the SEC.
The SEC was already atop the landscape of collegiate sports, and it has been there for a while. Six-straight BCS national championships, three of the last eight college basketball championships, the reigning softball champion and two of the last six women’s basketball championships all call the SEC home.
And how about baseball and the pings of aluminum bats that wake us up and keep us awake at night every June. The SEC has had three champions in college baseball in the past four years, advancing a team to the finals in each of the last five.
For fans that adore collegiate parity, the list unfortunately goes on and on. There is barely any more room in the trophy case.
Then the SEC stole Missouri and Texas A&M — two schools known for balance across their athletic departments — leaving the Big 12 with a much less meaningful group of 10.
If any conference deserves the tag athletic monstrosity, it’s the SEC.
But here comes the Big Ten, ponying up to the bar where only the SEC likes to call the shots. Can they belly up against the Santa-sized SEC and compete? They certainly can — and most certainly will.
By sheer numbers, the Big Ten will, at the very least, hang out near the successes of the SEC. No other conference can match the depth of 14 full-fledged collegiate programs — at least not yet. More programs means more opportunities for other schools to define their season, much like Texas A&M did this year with a victory over Alabama.
Fans on this campus can recognize just what a victory over No. 1 Ohio State can do for a program. It has since helped bring two conference championships and dates with national television at the Rose Bowl.
And for all the magic the SEC has in football, the Big Ten has it in basketball. Coincidentally, the best coaches in the nation lead the best programs in the nation.
Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Michigan’s John Beilein, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Indiana’s Tom Crean and Wisconsin’s very own Bo Ryan constitute five of the best coaches that toe the hardwood in the nation. Each of their programs began this season ranked in the top 25.
The SEC boasts two premier coaches in John Calipari and Billy Donovan, both well-known for having stable hands and cutting down nets come springtime.
For football, Alabama’s Nick Saban (3), LSU’s Les Miles (1) and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (1) have all brought home national championships to the SEC.
But if SEC fans were rejoicing when Urban Meyer stepped down at Florida, they can only count their blessings a little while longer. The man that once dominated the SEC now lives comfortably in the Big Ten. He also has not lost a game yet as head coach at Ohio State.
Joining him in conference is Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Wisconsin’s (less-than-revered) Bret Bielema — four young, promising coaches that have all exceeded expectations during their short tenures.
So the Big Ten is up-and-coming in football, the SEC is up and coming in basketball. Each conference currently has a stranglehold over the sports that matter most in America. The best part of it all? Neither is leaving the spotlight anytime soon.
When college football fans sit down to watch the most important games on New Year’s Day, they will likely be watching teams from either of these conferences, much like they have for years.
Each season the two conferences send football teams to meet in the Gator Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Capital One Bowl and, if necessary, the national championship. Over the next few years, it may likely become more than necessary because the next generation of players want their piece of the pie, too.
According to Scout.com, the SEC and Big Ten own eight of the top 10 recruiting classes for football in 2013. For basketball, the two conferences have pegged four of the top six spots.
It might seem unfair that just a pair of conferences are set to rule over college athletics, but other conferences can turn those pointer fingers back toward themselves.
It was Nebraska’s movement from the Big 12 to the Big Ten that began the coast-to-coast shakeup of schools and conferences. Then A&M and Missouri followed suit and now, for better or for worse, we have Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big Ten.
Can’t blame them, though. Over the past few years and surely for years to come, the place to be in college athletics is either the Big Ten or the SEC.
Sean is a junior studying journalism and communication arts. Do you think the SEC and Big Ten are on a crash course toward dominating collegiate athletics? Let him know via email [email protected] or on Twitter @sean_zak.