Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Million dollar musical chairs

The college sports landscape was flipped on its head...almost. In the end (assuming this is the end, at least for this year) the only moves made were of no real consequence. Yeah Boise State will switch conferences in 2011, but still not to a BCS conference. And yeah, Nebraska and Colorado are leaving the Big 12, but they don't drive business in football or basketball anymore, and really no one even cares about the latter.

It seems as though the Big 12 will be left with 10 teams and keep all their big names (and have to change the conference name? Probably not, since the 'Big 10' has had 11 teams for years now.) They are not allowed to have a football championship game anymore, with just 10 teams, according to the current NCAA rules. But that will be the biggest, and really only, side effect of this whole hoopla.

The Big 10 will now have 12 teams after adding Nebraska. The Pac-10 will be stuck at 11 for now after adding Colorado. No one knows what Notre Dame will do, although they will most likely stay independent for 2010 and 2011. The prize pig, University of Texas, will stay right where it is. The Big 12 commissioner can step back from that ledge after almost being forced to fold, or combine with the Mountain West conference and possibly lose his BCS automatic birth.

The interesting thing through all this was how meaningless college basketball is in the grand scheme of things. It is considered just as much as women's field hockey. Kansas, one of the top five college basketball schools in the history of athletics, was not wanted by anyone. Do you need any more proof than that? To top it off, they are okay at football; they aren't terrible. But they aren't good enough.

My real confusion with this whole story was how the Big 12 became everyone's candy dish to pick at. I completely understand that money drives every move and every decision. The schools were considering moving to increase their income. I get that. But why was the Big 10 more profitable than the Big 12? They have been a worse football conference for years. The Big 12 is not only really good and competitive nationally in recent years, but has also been, without a doubt, the most entertaining conference to watch. Led by high powered offenses, almost every Big 12 team the past decade or so has been fun to watch, win or lose. Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, and the other 'bad' Big 12 schools have even had their years of offensive dominance. Throw in power houses Oklahoma and Texas, and I don't get why this conference was making so much less money than the less talented, less exciting, less successful Big 10. It doesn't add up. The Big 10 has their own tv network, and the Big 12 doesn't? Who's idea was that? Would you rather watch a 55-49 barn-burner when Texas Tech plays Kansas or witness the debacle that would be an Iowa vs. Wisconsin game where neither team tops 17 points?

After lots of panicked athletic directors and fans, the realignment of college sports seems to have fizzled out. But it sure was interesting while it lasted. And if this could come up so suddenly and seemingly out of the blue in 2010, it might happen again in 2011 or a few years later, when television contracts are up for review. It actually is kind of fun that there is a chance, whether slim or realistic, that the whole landscape of amateur sports can be flipped at the drop of a hat, or in this case, the drop of a wallet.

In the future, be prepared for the possibility of more movement. I wouldn't mind seeing 16+ team power conferences and a change in the BCS. Whether it worked or not, it would be fun to try. Imagine having four power conferences, the SEC, Big 10, Pac 10 and the BFC. The Big 10 and Pac 10 would eat up the rest of the Big 12 with one getting Texas and the other getting Oklahoma. The SEC would devour all the good ACC schools, including Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State and Clemson. Rutgers, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and the viable Big East schools would be Big 10 bound. The rest of the schools around the country who mattered would join the BFC. BFC of course stands for Big Freakin' Conference, and would be the fourth major conference in college football, containing schools from all over the nation. Now who wouldn't have fun with this? Watching USC play Texas every year as Pac 10 rivals wouldn't plant you in front of the tv set? Oklahoma would join Michigan and Ohio State as they grew a three way monster rivalry. With Florida now playing Florida State and Miami year in and year out, the best high school Floridians would have their hands full deciding where to attend. The winners of the four conferences could play a two round championship tournament, deciding once and for all who is the best team every season. This would be fantastic.

Boise State and Utah would still not be involved.

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