Only Two Conferences Matter

The collegiate topography was barely settled from the seismic cataclysm that was Oklahoma and Texas bolting for the SEC when UCLA and USC announced their departure for the Big 10. While we will probably continue to talk about the Power 5 conferences, we are not being truthful. Really, there are only two conferences that are powerful.

When we talk about conference affiliation and importance, football is the key sport that drives all decisions and talk. In regard to football, the SEC is king. In a previous piece, I showed how Alabama and Georgia have owned the College Football Playoff, while Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma have been regular attendees. Aside from Clemson in the ACC, all of these teams but Ohio State will be or have been in the SEC. Oklahoma, soon to be a SEC team, just lost their coach, and soul of the program, to USC- which is heading to the Big 10. The Big 12 is gutted, the ACC is a quagmire of middling teams, and the Pac 12 has struggled to gain the relevance to put a team in the CFP. Saying there are only two conferences is legitimate since football is the main sport in the nation.

Men’s basketball is easily the next most popular NCAA sport. Most power rankings have ranked the Big 12 as the premier men’s basketball conference in the nation. The Big 12 will continue to be a strong basketball conference as Baylor and Kansas will continue to be strong, but they are losing two of their perennial powerhouses in Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, which most news sites have as the third strongest conference. The PAC 12 will be losing two of their three strongest programs, Arizona will be staying, to the Big 10, which is ranked as the second strongest conference. When you account that the second and third strongest conferences are adding four power house teams, it is easy to see the Big 12 slipping to a close third place.

I can agree that there is more to the NCAA than football and men’s basketball, so let’s look at some other sports. Many people complained that the NCAA Baseball tournament was really a SEC tournament as Ole Miss (the eventual champions), Arkansas, Auburn, and Texas A&M all made the Elite 8. Of the remaining four teams, only two do do have SEC ties as Oklahoma (the runner up) and Texas will be SEC teams soon.

Women’s basketball is another popular sport that will start to show the gap in conferences. This previous year, the PAC 12 was considered the top conference thanks to Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA. UCLA will depart to the second best conference. The PAC 12 will remain solid in women’s basketball, but the difference is razor thin. The SEC was the third to fourth best conference, but they are adding two of the Big 12’s best NCAAW programs while boasting the reigning National Champs in South Carolina, who is expected to repeat. Women’s Volleyball is another instance where the power will be shifting. Currently the Pac 12 is considered barely above the Big 10, but again, the Big 10 is picking up two of the Pac 12’s best. The SEC is closely behind the Big 12, but Texas is a volleyball powerhouse that will shift the balance. College softball is no different as Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Nortwestern, and UCLA were five of the eight teams to make the College World Series, which Oklahoma won. A soon to be or current SEC team has won 9 of the last 10 titles.

We could go through other sports, but these are the dominant sports. Fine, let’s talk a couple of others. Seven of the top ten women’s gymnastic programs are or will be part of the Big 10 or SEC. It’s even more lopsided for the men as it is eight of ten. A look at track shows that six of the top ten, for both men and women, are also aligned or will be aligned with the SEC/Big 10.

There is no way around it. The Power 5 is really a thing of the past, an anachronism. There is the Power 2.

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