Remember just a few years ago when the college sports landscape wasn’t all about scandals and FBI investigations? Everyone’s favorite topic from a macro-perspective from 2010-14? Conference realignment.
It’s the process that brought Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland into the Big Ten in the early part of this decade. And like the tectonic plates beneath our feet, it’s a topic that’s always there in the background, even if we don’t perceive it on a day-to-day basis.
As the Big Ten made explicit in their bids to take on Rutgers and Maryland, the driving force behind conference realignment are potential TV audiences associated with each school. Based on the structuring of the TV deals around the country, it appears that the next major round of conference realignment could come around 2023. Whether it comes sooner or later, conference realignment activity is certain to heat up again in the future.
When it does, it will impact Illinois athletics directly. The schools that I’m eyeing in the next round of realignment will have strong basketball traditions to provide quality wins when the Illini’s basketball program is rebuilt and closer approximates its historic highs. At the same time that I’d want the potential for quality wins for basketball, I’d also want to add wins of any kind for football. With that in mind, the top three schools I’ll be eyeing are...
The ACC seemed to be more on the giving side of the last conference realignment period, and I’m assuming that will be the case again in the future. Virginia has built a strong basketball program under Tony Bennett, and he seems unlikely to leave any time soon.
The strong basketball culture is matched with a football program that is comparable to Illinois’, as the Cavaliers won two games in 2016 and clawed their way to a 6-6 record last season.
Few schools have quite the chasm between their football and basketball programs that Kansas does. I would be very excited to watch a rejuvenated Illinois basketball program regularly take on Bill Self and his perennial title contenders on the court, while the hapless Jayhawk football program could provide a steady stream of conference wins for the Illini in the West Division.
Dino Babers’ football program seems mired for the time being after posting consecutive 4-8 records in 2016 and 2017, which isn’t out of the norm for the team historically. Syracuse football has only won more than nine games in a single season once during the 21st century (2001), which sounds awfully familiar to Illini fans.
On the basketball court, the Orangemen have consistently made the NCAA Tournament and competed for national championships, winning the national title in 2003.
Who would you like to see the Big Ten chase in the next round of realignment?