No room for the little guy

“It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine),” R.E.M.

I’ve been mulling over this column for several weeks with all the talk of the impending collapse of the Big XII Conference following the announcement by Texas A&M that they would be heading to the Southeast Conference. The movement is toward the formation of “Super-conferences” that would gain near total control of the extensive media dollars.

It seems everyone was talking about Texas – and their bidding partner, Oklahoma – and speculating where the Longhorns would end up.  Certainly 16 teams from the Big Ten, Southeast, and PAC-10 Conferences would threaten the very existence of the Big East and ACC.  

As we watched the early games last week, we were shocked by the scrolling line that the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University were headed to the ACC. The ACC took matters into their own hands in strengthening their position. Speculation immediately centered on Connecticut and Rutgers also fleeing the Big East to give the ACC their own super-conference with a stronghold on the media capital of the world, New York City.

A multi-billion dollar operation, college football can be a threat to the American college president as the drug of choice. Many a soul from Southern California to Ohio State to Miami has been traded for booster and BCS dollars.  As I’ve written before, so many of these conference affiliations make little sense. TCU’s move to the Big East last year is the epitome of ridiculousness. Can a possible appearance in a BCS Bowl game override the loss of academic integrity that comes with 2,000 mile mid-week road games?

So many loyal conference members are going to be left holding the bag. If Texas and Oklahoma fly the coop, the Big XII is dead. Football playing members of the Big East play the role of “nowhere men,” while conference administrators throw out their nets hoping to reel in schools that have been stood-up elsewhere. My biggest concern is that the 48 or 64 members of the super-conferences will eventually make a clean break from the NCAA.

I’m not so naïve as to think the NCAA is a perfect organization, but they do encourage level competition for tens of thousands athletes, who as the commercial says, “will be turning pro in something other than sports.” The greatest threat will be to the most wonderful of all athletic events, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. In this new world, there will be no room for another VCU story.

All of this stems from the necessity in our society to crown a national football champion. We will continue to crown a champion.  It won’t be Boise State; two superpowers will clash in mid-January at the cost of forfeiting great tradition.



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