Are we beginning to see the end of traditional college football rivalries? The way these conference realignments are going, the entire landscape of college football could become unrecognizable in five years.
Nebraska bolting the Big 12 for the Big Ten killed its rivalry with Oklahoma, which dates back to 1912. College football diehards are sure to remember the days when the Cornhuskers and the Sooners battled for Big Eight supremacy. Many of those games had national championship implications. Those days are over.
The Oklahoma-Texas rivalry, which goes back 111 years, could also be on the brink of extinction. With the Big 12’s stability in jeopardy, Oklahoma could follow Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M out of the conference.
Fans of Oklahoma and Texas won’t take kindly the idea of ending one of this country’s most spirited sports rivalries, but Sooners coach Bob Stoops admitted it’s a real possibility and didn’t feel compelled to fight for it.
“I don't think it's necessary,” Stoops said during a press conference Tuesday. “No one wants to hear that, but life changes. If it changes, you have to change with it, to whatever degree.”
Many rivalries have bitten the dust over the years due to conference realignments or expanding league schedules. Penn State joining the Big Ten ended its regular rivalry longtime rivalry with Pittsburgh, which began in 1893. The two programs, which haven’t faced each other since 2000, will play again in 2016 and 2017. But it won’t be the same.
Texas’ longtime rivalry with Arkansas was also cut short after the Razorbacks left the Southwest Conference for the SEC in 1991. Texas and Arkansas last played in 2008 and will renew the series for one season in 2014.
The Florida-Miami rivalry ended in 1987 when the Gators’ SEC schedule increased to eight games. But Florida continues to play Florida State every season. The two will face each other again in 2013.
The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry is also likely to change once the Aggies leave the Big 12.
If you’re a supporter of traditional college football rivalries, this conference musical-chairs routine has to be wearing thin. But that’s the reality of college football. The formation of super leagues means fewer non-conference games. Schools that don’t want to miss a chance to earn a BCS bowl berth will downgrade their non-conference schedule for a few easy wins.
There's no need to panic yet, because there are still have some traditions that appear to be entrenched for the foreseeable future. The Alabama-Auburn "Iron Bowl" is still in effect, while Notre Dame will renew its rivalry with Michigan on Saturday night. The Fighting Irish also has their yearly match with Navy and their cross-country matchup with USC.
Florida State still has its yearly battles with Miami and Florida, the Oregon and Oregon State series is still strong, USC-UCLA is one of the hottest inner-city rivalries anywhere, while Harvard and Yale still attracts fans. Before anyone scoffs at the mention of Harvard-Yale, it’s the second oldest continuing rivalry and the third most-played series in college football.
It will be a long time before everything is completely changed, but the foundations are beginning to crumble.