Conference Shifting in NCAA Football Creates New Opportunities for Sports Public Relations Practitioners

By: Tom Malone

In the last two years, NCAA football has seen a drastic change in conference make-ups. The Pac 10 added Utah and Colorado, shifting its name to the Pac 12. With the addition of Nebraska, the Big 10 now contains 12 schools, while the Big 12 contains 10. The Big East saw shifts in its composition lately as well.

Modern 24-hour sports journalism follows conference shifts like crazy. An individual school’s athletic department must prepare a public relations strategy to prepare for the ever-present buzz surrounding even the slightest rumor about a team’s conference jump.

Recently, West Virginia announced its move from the Big East to the Big 12, leaving scheduled teams, like Pitt, with empty game slots. Teams lose out on classic rivalry games as well, causing widespread concern among die-hard fans.

How do athletic department public relations practitioners deal with these issues?

From a fan’s perspective, we see statements released to sports journalism outlets like Sports Illustrated and SportsCenter, though we only encounter the portions that the media content creator wants the public to encounter.

Departments try (or appear to try) to continue these traditional rivalry games with teams in former conferences, though this may not always work in terms of scheduling.

The re-branding of the Pac 10 into the Pac 12 drew support through excitement generated by new television deals and a conference championship game. Public relations campaigns through athletic departments undoubtedly played a part in publicizing this excitement behind the message.

The age of the Super Conference may be under way, meaning the average athletic department public relations practitioner must create enthusiastic plans that support the new direction of the school that they represent and the new direction of NCAA football in general.

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