College athletics realignment is under way. Superconferences! TV deals! Megadollars! Academics, traditions, and any pretense at ethics be damned.
But I’ll leave the preaching for another day.
The question facing lots of schools – those without rich fanbases and lucrative media markets – is what now? Among those almost certain to be left behind is my alma mater, Wake Forest University, a small private school that’s one of the nation’s elite academic institutions. It’s also a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which in recent days has moved from “endangered” to “on life support.” If the SEC and Big 10 do what I expect them to, five, six or more of the valuable properties will be gone and the league, as we have known it, will be history.
And it’s hard to imagine a scenario where schools like Wake are invited to the party. (Vanderbilt may hang on in the SEC and Northwestern in the B1G because they’re already members.)
I don’t care if Wake isn’t part of a
crime cartel top-tier athletic conference. What I care about is what I said above: elite academic institution. I’ve said for years I’d be fine if the Deacons dropped to Div 3, but as I think about the coming landscape an idea emerges: what if a “Southern Ivy League” were established? There are schools to build around.
Wake Forest is obvious. If they decided The Show wasn’t for them, Vandy (the Wake Forest of Tennessee) would be a natural. Also Rice, which was pitched to the side when the Southwest Conference folded. Tulane is a top-50 national U with a solid mid-major profile.
William & Mary is a fantastic school that’s established at the FCS level. Who else might you think about? Davidson? Emory is D3 but certainly has the academic profile. And you’re not playing by big-time NCAA rules anymore.
Yeah, “Ivy” is a bit much for any kind of public talk or branding, but it’s a fine idea as an aspiration and organizing principle. I’d be honored to be part of an organization like this. I’m certain not all my fellow Deacs will agree, but being part of the NFL’s minor league system … there’s not much appeal in it.