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Topic: Most consequential conference affiliation decisions of all time

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I would argue for the following:

First, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives (which became the B1G) replacing Lake Forest with Michigan in between their initial meeting in January, 1895 and their charter meeting on February 8, 1896. 

Why this is so consequential:
This is momentous for two reasons, first because the ICFR/Western Conference/Big Ten/Big11Ten/B1G was the first (as far as I know) really big "power conference" at least outside of the Ivy League so it set precedents for everyone to follow. 

Second, because if the conference had been formed with Lake Forest instead of Michigan I think it's fundamental character would have been very different.  Instead of being mostly made up of large public "flagship" state schools, it would have been largely a Chicago Metro Area conference, consider:

  • Chicago:  Private school in Chicago
  • Lake Forest:  Private school in Chicago
  • Northwestern:  Private school in Chicago
  • Illinois:  Large public school not far from Chicago and in Chicago's state
  • Purdue:  Large public school not far from Chicago
  • Wisconsin:  Large public school not far from Chicago
  • Minnesota:  Large public school not in the Chicago Metro Area
  • Michigan:  Large public school not in the Chicago Metro Area

If you leave out Michigan and put Lake Forest in then three of the seven members (nearly half) are Chicago area private schools.  Another three are large public schools but strongly tied to Chicago based on geography.  Only Minnesota really stands outside that.  My guess is that likely expansion targets would have been other Chicago area schools and the league never would have become the league of Midwestern large public schools that it mostly is even today. 

Lake Forest being replaced by Michigan meant that the public schools substantially outnumbered the private schools (5-2) and led to what became the B1G. 

Second, Paterno's effort to form an "Eastern All Sports Conference" failing by one vote. 

Back in 1982 the Big East voted down taking Penn State.  Paterno desperately wanted to form an "Eastern All Sports Conference" and the Big East already had BC, Syracuse and Pitt.  After turning down PSU they added Miami, Rutgers, WVU, and VaTech along with partial membership for ND. 

If the Big East had taken PSU my belief is that they, rather than the ACC would have ended up being the Eastern Power Conference to survive. 

Florida State started competing in the ACC in 1992.  Prior to that their most frequent opponents were:
  • 34 Florida SEC
  • 33 Miami, BigEast
  • 29 VaTech, BigEast
  • 19 USM, SBLT?
  • 18 USCe, SEC
  • 18 Memphis, AAC now, then?
  • 18 Auburn, SEC
  • 16 Houston, SWC
  • 10 Wake, ACC
  • 10 NCST, ACC
  • 10 L'Ville, BigEast
  • 10 UGA, SEC

I've heard that FSU really wanted an SEC invite which makes sense.  After that, their strongest connections were to Big East schools Miami, and VaTech.  With PSU in the BigEast it would have made a LOT of sense for the Seminoles to join the league. 

Imagine a modern BigEast of:
  • PSU
  • Miami, FL
  • FSU
  • Notre Dame
  • VaTech
  • Syracuse
  • Pitt
  • WVU
  • Rutgers
  • Louisville

That is stronger than the ACC so instead of the ACC raiding the BigEast to get Syracuse, Pitt, and VaTech you'd have likely seen the BigEast raid the ACC to get Clemson, UNC, UVA, and another to make a 14-team power league. 

Third, the Big8 and SWC not eliminating the dead wood when they had a chance in the mid-1990's:
In 1996 the SWC and the Big12 sorta merged to form the B12.  The SWC was collapsing and the four of their schools (TX, Baylor, aTm, and TxTech) joined the Big8 to become the Big12 which left the other former SWC members (Rice, SMU, TCU, Houston) out in the cold. 

If they had acted before Arkansas left for the SEC they could have formed the basis of a powerful conference from the top half or so of the financial contributors from each league.  This would have formed the basis for a strong conference:
  • Texas, from SWC
  • Oklahoma, from B8
  • aTm, from SWC
  • Nebraska, from B8
  • Arkansas, from SWC
  • Mizzou, from B8
  • Houston, from SWC
  • Colorado, from B8
  • TxTech, from SWC
  • Kansas, from B8
That is a strong enough core that it might still exist with a few additions (likely a NM school, a NV school, a UT school . . .)

Instead, Texas politics and the desire of the B8 schools not to leave their longtime brethren behind ended up imploding the B12 (apparently). 


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Re: Most consequential conference affiliation decisions of all time
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2021, 07:02:11 PM »
This piggybacks on your 3rd example, Medina.
A subset of the formation of the Big 12 is Arkansas leaving the SWC in 1992 to join the SEC.
Arkansas was fed up with being the only non-Texas school in the conference, and surely didn't appreciate the fact that Texas called the shots, so it left.

It joined the SEC, where it has had a little success, but not any lately, and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Hogs.

Perhaps it could have joined the Big 8.  It would have fit right into a missing quadrant in the Big 8 footprint.  Or it could have swallowed its pride and irritation, and thought about how successfully it had been able to recruit in Texas, and stayed in the SWC.  Either way, it probably would have been incorporated into the Big 12 when that conference was formed in 1994 (but didn't play a conference schedule until the '96 season).  That probably would have meant that Texas Gov. Ann Richards would have been unable to muscle Baylor into the conference, and it would have been another non-Texas school not beholden to Texas politicians.

Maybe the Big 12 with Arkansas and without Baylor--so all medium-large to large state schools--would have lasted longer than the original Big 12 did.

Or maybe the growth toward superconferences would have been greatly slowed had Arkansas joining the SEC not jump-started it.  Maybe the Big 12 doesn't form in 1994, maybe both it and the SWC drift along for another decade before making that happen.
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Re: Most consequential conference affiliation decisions of all time
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2021, 07:24:15 AM »
I'd argue that the Western Conference would have taken Marquette eventually, as yet another small private. Things would look a lot different. 

What if the Western accepted UNL back in the early 1900's?


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Re: Most consequential conference affiliation decisions of all time
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2021, 08:07:45 AM »
Some of these what ifs might have evolved much as programs like Chicago and Tulane and Suwanee "evolved" out, and others in.

Georgia Tech's going indy had some reprecussions longer term, I think.  The addition of Mizzou and A&M of course started an avalanche of things more recently. 


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