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A Rundown of the College Sports Conference Changes

Courtesy of College Football Network

In light of a new college fall sports season approaching lets look into the recent news of the college sports conferences changes for the 2024 season.

It is important to note that some of these conference changes will affect either or both the 2023 and 2024 seasons. Schools that are changing conferences for the 2024 season will stay and do a “final lap” in their current conference until the end of the year if they have decided to move to another.

The college sports conferences consist of the PAC-12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt. In the past, these were easier to differentiate due to conferences mostly being made up of colleges that were regionally close to each other However, in the past two decades conferences have moved away from being only regionally based.

The most significant notable changes for the college conference are the crumbling of the PAC-12 conference and the expansion of schools joining the SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten. The PAC-12 is one of the Power Five conferences. Generally, a Power Five conference is described as very popular, very competitive, having the best players, and getting a lot of television exposure. However, the conference is facing disbandment due to eight schools leaving for either the Big 12 or Big Ten, which will leave the PAC-12 with only four teams after this year.

Courtesy of The Athletic

Not only are the conference changes expanding and disbanding conferences, as well as destroying a couple of historic rivalry games, but it also starts conversations on whether this is the best decision for the student-athletes health and careers. A big critique of the conference realignment is that it feels that money is taking priority over the student-athletes’ well-being in the higher-ups’ decision process.

Student-athletes do a lot of traveling in college sports and some of the conference changes will cause some away games to turn into very long trips, with some schools having to now even travel cross-country for road games. Taking the longer time to travel takes away time to not only do coursework but also can cause a decline in the hours of sleep these athletes are getting. Missouri’s Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz put the scenario into perspective, “Do you know what the number one symptom of cause of mental health is? It’s lack of rest and sleep. Traveling in those baseball, softball games…they travel commercial, they get done playing at four, they gotta go to the airport, they come back. It’s three or four in the morning, (then) they gotta go to class? I mean, did we ask any of them?” It puts big food for thought on how little there was a thought process on how the conference realignments could affect travel times for not only fans for games but also the players, or even if this was the best decision for them versus the best money decisions for the people in power.

It will be interesting how the conference realignment plays out this year and in the next couple of years. Not only with the trending conversation on whether institutions fail to consider student-athletes well-being. But also now with some conferences being bigger than ever, one on the brink of destruction, and future changes to how college football bowl games/playoff season will look since the playoff game process is also up for readjusting within the next two years. The residual effects of all this will be something to witness.

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