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2023 CFP National Championship - TCU v Georgia

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Fans around the world of college sports have been expressing concerns about the direction of amateur athletics for years. The elements that usually seem to come under fire the most are the transfer portal and NIL collectives that have been established. While those things certainly have their negatives, it doesn’t seem to be the thing that could cost college sports fans.

That lies on the shoulder of conference realignment which threatens to tear apart some of the traditions and rivalries that are the fabrics of that level of athletics. Two years ago, Oklahoma and Texas’s announcement that they were leaving for the SEC set off another round of realignment chaos after nearly ten years of stability. Since then, it has become chaos across all sports. Prior to last year’s college basketball season, 26 teams changed conferences from the previous year, and more movement is coming over the next couple of years.

The biggest dominos, though, could be on the horizon. Reports of the eventual dissolution of the ACC have been floating around for years, but this spring it has become a reality that the conference will eventually fold. Seven of the conference’s fourteen full-time members are said to have done their homework this offseason on ways out of the conference grant of rights, which is in place until 2036. The agreement seems pretty airtight, but the fact that schools are looking into it tells you all you need to know.

When this eventually comes to fruition, there are many historic rivalries that could be lost, including the Big Four in the state of North Carolina which have been a major part of this conference since the beginning, especially on the hardwood. Just about every rumor that has come out this offseason has North Carolina and NC State going their separate ways because of the pursuit of the TV markets by both the SEC and Big Ten. As for Duke and Wake Forest, it seems like both could be left behind with what is left of the ACC and could be snatched up by different conferences. For an area of the country whose sports passion is built upon these college rivalries, this would be a major blow to the interest in college sports.

Chris Vannini, senior college football writer for The Athletic, agreed with this notion earlier today when he dropped by the Mac & Bone Show. “There was a lot of talk the last couple of years that the NIL, portal, realignment is causing people to not like college football. Well, attendance went up last year for the first time in forever and the TV ratings were great. I do think long term, though, when you look at stuff like realignment and conference fall apart and certain conferences break away, then you have a real probability of that happening.”