Impact of Conference Shakeup on College Swimming

Column updated after Texas announced it is staying in the Big 12

Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer

BASKING RIDGE, New Jersey, June 14. WELL, should we be surprised. At the start of the day, it looked liked Texas was heading westward to join the Pac-10 and cause a major change in the collegiate sports world. As of tonight, the university is staying in the Big 12 and any seismic shift is all but dead.

The dominoes started to fall in the game of conference musical chairs last week when Colorado and Nebraska got things rolling by announcing they will join, respectively, the Pac-10 and Big Ten. It was expected that other schools would follow, Texas playing the role of the Pied Piper.

With Texas seemingly heading to the Pac-10, it looked like the Pac-10 – already stacked with talent – was about to get stronger by adding another A-plus program. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were probably going to go, too, and Texas A&M was looking at the SEC. From a swimming perspective, what did this mean? Well, it meant the Pac-10 (or Pac-16, if you prefer) would become even more stacked.

With the Big 12 featuring only three schools with men's swimming, Texas hasn't had much of a conference schedule in recent years. That's been fine, though, as coach Eddie Reese annually has his club race against top competition in the form of Auburn and Arizona. Had a move gone down, the Longhorns would have had some major conference competition before embarking on their biggest team goal of every season – capturing the NCAA championship.

The Pac-10 is already stacked with aquatic talent, thanks to the presence of Stanford, California and Arizona, along with the University of Southern California. Adding Texas? Well, it would have made the conference downright scary. If Texas did make the move to a new conference, the Pac-10 (Pac-16) would have boasted four of the top seven programs in the country. The other three are the Big Ten's Michigan and the Southeastern Conference's Auburn and Florida. With a stellar recruiting class coming in and a young roster returning, USC will only make the Pac-10 that much better.

A question does arise as to whether an expanded Pac-10 would have been good for the sport of collegiate swimming. Let's face it, though, swimming has nothing to do with this decision. It's all about football and anyone paying attention to the situation knows it. Still, that doesn't mean that there wasn't a question about the impact of Texas shipping out to a new conference.

From one perspective, having such aquatic power in one conference would make for an even more enjoyable regular season and a more impressive conference-championship meet. The Pac-10 Champs, in their current form, already serve as a fine tuneup for the NCAA Champs, and also serves as a sparking point of discussion for what is to come at the year-end competition. Adding Texas simply could have enhanced the chatter.

But, would it have been good that so much of the swimming power was based in one conference? For a sport already witnessing numerous program cuts, would it matter that swimming's collegiate focus was centered on one area? Would it affect recruiting?

To be honest, the Big 12 is nothing more than a shell from a swimming standpoint because of its three men's teams. So, I'm taking the view that Texas moving to the new Pac-16 would have been fine because of the quality season-long competition it would have brought. The schools in that conference don't have recruiting issues to deal with and battle one another for top stars as it is. Nothing would have changed in that department.

Texas moving to the Pac-16 would have been an interesting development for sure. It's over now. What are your thoughts on the situation? We'd like to hear readers weigh in.

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