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Tax code has nothing on politics of conferences

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An old law school professor used to love to watch my classmates debate the nuances of tax law.

Is it income? Is it taxable? What is the rate? The questions would fly, but what was the answer?

At times, the prof raised his hand to halt the discussion.

“Friend, you need me on this one,” he would say, a sure sign that all the logic and analysis in the law wasn’t going to reveal the answer. Sometimes, you’ve just got to accept that the result doesn’t always make sense.

I’m not sure that my old professor has found time to follow the dizzying realignment of college conferences, let alone trace the geography-defying results that put a team from Nebraska in the Big East or folds schools from New Mexico and North Carolina in the same conference.

Tax law has nothing on conference realignment. The curious moves in the college sports world now are driven by dollars, not sense.

How confusing is it? UConn’s website attempted to trumpet the new American Athletic Conference this week by displaying the logos of members. It got five of 10 wrong.

With football starting next month and many changes just official this week, it’s time to catch up. Friend, you need me on this one.

American Athletic Conference

When the “Catholic Seven” left the Big East, they took the name and most of best programs with it. The AAC is what is left.

Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame also bolted. Louisville and Rutgers exit in 2014.

Remaining are Cincinnati, UConn and Temple, with the upper tier of Conference USA moving in to fill the void. That at least adds Memphis, along with Central Florida, Houston and SMU.

Tulsa, Tulane, East Carolina and Navy will be added in 2014 and 2015.

Boise State, TCU and San Diego State were supposed to join but never showed up.

What’s left is a ragtag group that didn’t get picked to go elsewhere.

The huge loser here is UConn, a top-tier basketball program that will struggle to sell recruits on the excitement of conference battles with Tulane instead of Georgetown.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame (non-football) arrive this season, and Louisville follows in 2014.

That more than offsets the loss of Maryland to the Big Ten.

The ACC’s biggest move, though, was the execution of a new conference agreement that effectively ties members together economically. That ensures that the Tobacco Road core of the conference will remain in place (see Big Ten).

Big East

The Catholic Seven join Butler, Creighton and Xavier to form the nation’s premier basketball-centric league. Wresting the Big East moniker and Madison Square Garden tourney site sealed the deal.

The local buzz is high, with the Bulldogs’ opponents shifting from the Horizon League’s Youngstown State and Detroit two seasons ago to Georgetown and Marquette in 2013.

The 10 private schools that form the new Big East should bring some stability to the conference movement, as well as open recruiting doors for Butler.

Big Ten

Nothing changes this year, but the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014 remains a curious reach. These are TV markets that happened to have universities, not the other way around.

At 14 schools, the media-rich conference may be at the end of its expansion phase. The ACC has effectively blocked the Big Ten from adding North Carolina and Georgia Tech, which would have completed the TV empire.

When teams travel 1,300 miles from Lincoln, Neb., to New Brunswick, N.J., the wisdom of the Big Ten’s chase for dollars must be questioned. Is more really better?

Big 12

The addition of West Virginia and TCU gets the league back to 10 teams, and that is good enough for a conference that survived poaching attempts aimed at big dog Texas.

The Longhorns now have their own TV network, leaving fans of other conference teams in the position of signing up for the Texas channel to watch their own teams.

Pac 12

With newcomers Colorado and Utah now in Year 3 and a lucrative TV network taking off, the Pac-12 has succeeded in building a stable, financially robust and geographically sensible conference.


Missouri and Texas A&M were solid additions last year.

The only change coming to the nation’s premier football conference is the creation of an SEC network. That should happen in the next year.

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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