Being one of the bosses here means I get to decide when I answer these questions. So, I’m deciding to go last. I hadn’t put much thought into these questions when I sent them out a few
weeks months ago, but these are two tough questions.
Rank each Power 5 conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) based only on their 2014 performance.) Give the reasoning for your ranking:
It’s always easy to think of the conferences that have the most successful team in the current season or over the past few, but to go back to 1998 and evaluate each conference individually when so much of the landscape has changed, is well…unfair. Be that as it may, let the fun begin.
- Pac-12: In 2014, the Pacific-12 was the best because of Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA. Cal beat Northwestern at the beginning of the year and Stanford beat Maryland at the end of the year. Bowl games are exhibition, but because so many people rely on them to prove how good or bad a conference is, keep in mind the Pac-12 had the highest winning percentage (.667) of any Power 5 conference and tied for second with the Big Ten in number of overall bowl wins (6; SEC 7-5). The final College Football Playoff standings also included five schools (Oregon, Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, and USC) in its final rankings.
- Big Ten: It would be easy to say the Big Ten was the best conference in 2014 when Ohio State won the National Championship. But let’s not forgot that Indiana lost to Bowling Green, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, Michigan State lost to Oregon, and Northwestern lost to Cal. Sure there were good wins over other power five teams, but losing to Bowling Green sets the entire conference back several years, and takes them out of the number one spot in my poll.
- SEC: For some, it’s always easy to put the SEC at the top because of its run of National Championships and the appearance of great in-conference play. But really, what’s the truth about the SEC – well, it just isn’t that awesome. There are a few teams that are consistently good, but the others are small upstarts that rotate their way into the conversation once every five years or so. Other than Alabama, has there been a team that’s had anywhere near the level of consistency that they’ve had for even four years? I can’t think of one.
- Big 12: In years past, I would have argued the Big 12 is the best conference on balance of the power five (or six), but the fiasco with the lack of a conference championship and their unwillingness to declare a champion changes all of that. The reason this conference is at number four though doesn’t end at a lack of champion. Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State didn’t do the conference any favors this season. Texas has a new coach and many can argue that Oklahoma State, and at the very least Oklahoma need new coaches. Kansas and Iowa State field football teams for some reason, but no one knows what those reasons are or when they play football.
- ACC: Scuttlebutt says they play football in this conference, but it’s typically hard to tell. Florida State has "traditionally" been the best football school in the conference, and Miami plays along sometimes too, but other than that, no other school has a record of being consistently good in the conference. After winning the National Championship in 2013, Florida State didn’t do itself or the conference any favors with its lackluster play in and out of conference. Teams Florida State were expected to dominate came down to the last two minutes of play in the fourth quarter. That might make for high entertainment value, but it makes for a low football enjoyment level.
The BCS era was 1998-2013, what sport is each of the above conferences better known for: baseball, basketball, football, other.
Deciding what each conference is known for is decidedly harder. For the simple reason that collegiate athletics has so much to do with the revenue generating programs like football and basketball, but much of the conferences recognition comes from the Olympic sports, and non-revenue-generating sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, wresting, and track and field. Let's take a closer look at each conference:
ACC: It would be easy to say the Atlantic Coast Conference is a basketball conference, but don't forget the conference is pretty good at baseball and soccer. Nine of the ACC's current membership has been to the College World Series since 1998, and every member but Duke and Pittsburgh have been to the NCAA baseball tournament in the BCS era. In men's soccer, the ACC has won 13 of 26 national championships been 1984 and 2009, and North Carolina's women's soccer team has won 21 of 28 NCAA championships. Suffice it to say that the ACC isn't - or shouldn't be - known for football or basketball at this point in its history.
Big 12: Traditionally the Big 12 is known as a football conference, but consider this: the sport with the most national championships in the conference: Women’s Track (Outdoor). Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas have seven combined championships. But conference definition isn’t based solely on the number of NCAA championships, right? The conference does have three football national championships and Oklahoma and Texas won one each in the BCS era. Nebraska won the championship in 1997. So if you were to look only at numbers, and not use the eye test you’d say the Big 12 is a non-revenue generating sport conference. That’s a fair assessment, but reality says the conference is known best for football despite the successes of other sports.
Big Ten: Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The old-schoolers will tell you that the Big Ten is 100% a football conference and Ohio State winning the National Championship in 2015 proves that. I’m here to tell you something totally different. I’ll give you these schools: Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue. I’ll give you these names: Bruce Weber, Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Bo Ryan, Tom Crean, and Matt Painter. Put all that together and you have basketball. As a conference, the Big Ten has been better at basketball than any other sport the conference sponsors. While fans of wresting and volleyball might disagree with me, in my opinion the Big Ten is a better basketball conference above anything else.
Pac-12: If you were to try and define a conference by one school, you’d define the Pac-12 by USC. Or at least those of us who live on the East Coast would. Consider this though, UCLA leads the conference with 111 national titles, followed by Stanford (105) then USC (100). Those are team championships. The conference sports 469 total team championships and 2,167 individual championships. That number is mindboggling. Those numbers don’t include football championships, where USC owns 11 and the Golden Bears of Cal have 5 (FIVE???). I’d have a tough time convincing you during the BCS-era the conference’s best sport has been Tennis. In fact the conference has eight national championships in the sport. So with the sincerest of apologies to football, basketball and baseball it looks like the Pac-12 is home of tennis.
SEC: If football weren’t a thing, the Southeastern Conference would resemble the Atlantic Coast Conference. Many think because of Kentucky, the SEC is a basketball conference after it’s a football conference, but in reality, the conference is really good at baseball, gymnastics, swimming, and track. Oh, and the SEC is good at football too, where it holds more national championships in that sport (37) than any other sport. Men’s Indoor Track comes in at a paltry 27 national championships. To even suggest the SEC is good at anything other than football isn’t as far-fetched as you may thing, but honestly, the conference is known for football.
So there you have it. Seth, Mike, Caymen, Jason and Tim all ranked their Power 5 conferences. Read their rankings and let us know which of us is the craziest. If you want to get in touch with me, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @damiEnbowman.