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College football realignment sparks worries over carbon emissions: study

An Arizona State study expressed concerns about how college football realignment could impact carbon emissions due to the travel for some of the schools.

The 2022 and 2023 college football seasons saw massive changes to the landscape of college football. Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington left the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten. Cal and Stanford left the Pac-12 to join the ACC. The Big 12 welcomed Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

Researchers at Arizona State concluded each Power Five conference, except for the SEC, will see a significant increase in emissions. The study said the ACC and the Big Ten will double their emissions per game.

“We’ve never had such a massive, massive realignment in terms of distances,” professor Ross Maciejewski, the study’s supervisor, told AZ Central.

The study pointed to Cal’s football schedule for the 2024 season. The Golden Bears will travel to Florida State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and SMU this season while welcoming East Coast schools like Syracuse, N.C. State and Miami to Berkeley. All of which are for ACC games.

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“Yet, we contend that there is potential to strike a more optimal balance between the benefits and environmental costs of these realignments,” the study said. “One potential avenue for achieving this goal is to consider the geographical proximity and competitive skill levels of schools when making realignment decisions. 

“By aligning schools that are closer to each other both geographically and in terms of performance, tradition, and academic mission, it may be possible to reduce the carbon footprint associated with travel as well as maintain the excitement of games.”

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The study also suggested a “strategic approach” to the scheduling process to consider the output of carbon emissions in the future.

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