Sports column: A new and confusing era in college sports begins July 1

Published 4:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

We’re just a few days away from the end of college sports as we’ve known it, and the start of college sports as we will know it.

July 1 marks the start of the NCAA’s sports year. For decades it was a procedural date, but this time it’s when everything gets thrown into a blender and set to “gooify.”

This July 1 is the day when the Southeastern Conference adds two new members (Oklahoma and Texas); the Big 12 goes from 14 teams, to 12, and then to 16 at the stroke of midnight; the Big Ten blows up to the Big 18; two California schools join the Atlantic Coast Conference; and the Pac-12 ceases to exist.

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There have been signs that this is coming. The SEC has been counting down the days on its social media channels, while the Pac-12 Network has a message on its crawl letting viewers know it will cease operations some time between June 28 and 30.

The Pac-12 message is on brand for a conference notorious for setting its football schedule just six days out. I’m hoping that when they pull the plug on the Network they’ll play the National Anthem followed by color bars or an old Indian head graphic.

I’m not a hardcore traditionalist when it comes to college sports. Teams have been joining, leaving and forming conferences for the past 100 years. Old rivalries give way to new ones, and others get rekindled. It’s part of the business and you can enjoy the new features or be an old fuddy-duddy.

This latest reshuffling, though, is too much at once. It’s more than just adding a team or two. It’s disruptive to the architecture of college sports itself.

For 30 years you’ve generally been able to schedule your fall plans around the SEC football schedule. Certain games were always on certain weekends. The expansion to 16 teams that becomes official on Monday changes that. Moving forward it’ll be more of an NFL-style schedule where most of the match-ups change every year.

That’s not entirely a bad thing — it’ll be fresh to play some teams more than once or twice a decade — but it’s also sad that long-running series like LSU vs. Mississippi State and Ole Miss vs. Alabama will go on hiatus.

Keeping track of all of the moves is also confusing. The Big 12 is losing Texas and Oklahoma, and adding four schools from the dissolved Pac-12 in addition to the four they absorbed from the American Conference in 2023.

The Big Ten and ACC now spread from coast to coast. Stanford and California, which might have views of the Pacific Ocean from their campuses, are in the same league as Miami and Boston College.

Who can keep up with all of that? Change and progress are fine, but please make it make some sort of sense.

I suppose, in time, we will adapt and figure it out — at least until the next round of realignment hits in October.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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