Switching Loyalties

June 16, 2010

The big news in college sports is all about conference switches among NCAA Division I elite universities.  “The moves, aimed largely at increasing television revenue from the
schools’ football programs, are a signal that the landscape of college sports could be reshaped this summer by dramatic realignments that could jeopardize longstanding regional rivalries and raise a range of questions,” reported USA Today.

Colorado has announced a move to the PAC-10 and Nebraska a switch to the Big-10 (which was already 11).  Now that Texas has decided to remain with the Big 12, the potential seismic shocks do not seem quite so large.  Nevertheless, the tectonic plates are moving.

Somewhat less noticed in the national press was Earlham’s switch from the North Coast Athletic Conference to the Heartland Conference.

That, too, was about money to some degree — but about saving money, not about making more money.  Because our conference rivals in Heartland are closer to us geographically, we will spend less money on travel.  And (more important) our students will miss less class time when they travel to away games.  We are also joining a conference in which the average overall expenditures on athletics will be closer to what we spend.  Our NCAC rivals spent, on average, a third more than we did.

At bottom, however, our decision to switch was much more governed not by money but by trying to find the best competitive situation for our students, and the best balance between our academic program and our intercollegiate athletics program.

I’m having trouble seeing how the education of students is factoring into the Division I conference switches.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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