by Jonathan Ketterer
In the past few months, the topic of conference realignments for plenty of schools have made headlines, most notably for the sport of football. In today's blog, I wanted to touch on how the other sports, volleyball in particular, are being affected.
When I initially heard that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving the Big East Conference, I thought merely of football and did not even consider until a few days later that this movement would drastically change the traditional basketball power held by the conference. At the same time, I also wondered: what changes in conference memberships have had an effect on volleyball?
The most important change would probably have to be the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten that was made effective this past summer. With Nebraska having started conference play this past week, they are looking at a stretch of very tough matches against teams like #3 Illinois, #5 Penn State, #9 Minnesota, #13 Purdue, #18 Michigan, and #24 Ohio State. Despite the intimidating schedule, Nebraska has already shown some strength in having defeated the #5 Nittany Lions in a five set match this past Wednesday night. The Huskers thrived off of their full capacity crowd at Nebraska Coliseum, winning the first two sets before Penn State fought back, only to leave the home team victorious in the first Big Ten match-up between the two schools.
This match was evidence that the conference movements have provided other sports with thrilling new match-ups. In a rivalry that normally pits the two teams in the pressure-heavy environment of the tournament, the new Big Ten now allows for big, thrilling games like this to be a biannual contest, which is great for the sport. The Huskers will face Ohio State tomorrow night in their second Big Ten home game of the season, which will be sure to not disappoint, given that both teams are ranked in the AVCA Top-25.
Outside of Nebraska, there have been no real changes in the top-25 that have impacted the sport so far this season, but there have been plenty of rumors that could change this for next season. One of these rumors considered the possible move of Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac-12. While the Pac-12 has stated that it has no interest in expanding, we can still consider what it would be like for volleyball if either of these moves happened. Could you imagine a top-10 team like Texas being added to an already stacked conference with Cal, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, USC and Oregon? A move like this would certainly increase the entertainment of an already great conference schedule for each of the schools' fan bases.
All in all, you can see that with the talks surrounding powerhouse conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12, volleyball fans and football fans alike should show some attention to the moves that are being made by each school. While some conferences may be falling apart, conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have rising stock and stability that is forcing some schools to reconsider their options. These shake-ups are providing for fresh, new rivalries to begin, and for teams like Nebraska, they are renewing and building on older ones. In my opinion, it is great for all college sports to switch up the landscape and see some change, because I find that it is starting to show us some interesting match-ups that probably would not have been possible without the realignments.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!