In politics, the trend is toward smaller, more homogenous government. Czechoslovakia broke into two countries. So did Sudan. The Balkan peninsula is, well, Balkanizing. Scotland will vote later this year on whether to leave the United Kingdom.
In fact, it’s rare to be both large and successful.
The United States works because the Founders designed a Constitution that carefully divided national powers among three branches and that aimed to push as much power as possible down to the states. China and Russia seem to be succeeding, although their aggressive physical growth (give us Crimea and Ukraine, or Tibet and Hong Kong and nobody gets hurt) may be as much a symptom of weakness as strength; time will tell.
One political entity has bucked this trend until now. But that may be about to change.
The trend in major college football has been to get bigger and bigger. In recent years D-I football conferences scrambled to add as many members as they could. The ACC grew from nine teams at the turn of the century to 12 by raiding the Big East in 2003. Then it did so again 10 years later to reach 15 teams. The Big 10 has jumped from 11 members to 14, without ever changing its name. The SEC and Pac 12 have also expanded.
“It’s all about football,” Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim explained. And he’s right.
The drive to get bigger was triggered first by the desire to hold an annual “championship” football game. Only conferences with 12 members were eligible, leaving the Big XII (ironically with only 10 members) ineligible to hold one. And in recent years, the drive to get bigger than 12 was triggered by the need to remain eligible for the Bowl Championship Series. More teams, more chances to produce a BCS champion.
But things may be going to change.
For decades, D-I college football has been the only sport without a real playoff. The bowl games leading up to the “championship game” add nothing. They may be exciting, they may be boring. But, unlike the NFL (or even NHL) playoffs, they have no say in the eventual championship. Instead of building drama, you’re just wasting time watching them, like the series of previews you’re forced to endure before the movie you paid $15 to see.