And so the dominoes have started to fall—although not in the direction everyone thought.
While Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was sitting smugly holding a full house, Pacific-10 Commissioner Larry Scott may well be holding four aces. IF Scott ends up stealing Texas for his conference then he will have out-maneuvered Delany—perhaps showing that a Harvard education is more valuable than a North Carolina education. (Just joking Tar Heel fans).
What’s far more significant here than exactly where everyone lands is this simple fact: the college landscape is in the process of changing forever and it isn’t going to change for the good. Nothing ever changes for the good when the only motivation involved is money and that is ALL this is about—nothing else.
Here’s one thing I don’t EVER want to hear again from my friend Bill Hancock; from his henchman Ari Fleischer or from any of the BCS college presidents: “The BCS must continue to exist in order to preserve the tradition of the bowls.”
That’s always been a bogus argument but now it rings even more hollow because this dismantling of the conferences—The Big 12 is on life support as we speak—is absolute proof that NO ONE in power in big-time college athletics could care less about tradition.
Tradition? It’s bad enough that Nebraska and Oklahoma don’t play every year anymore. Now they won’t even be in the same league. Texas Tech-Washington State is tradition? Nebraska-Michigan State is tradition? What if Delany, having been shunned by Notre Dame and lapped by Scott on Texas, adds Maryland and Syracuse to his wish list? Can you imagine how Maryland fans would feel about annual games against Iowa and Northwestern instead of Duke and North Carolina in basketball? The Big Ten may be overrated in football but Maryland and Syracuse would be buried in that league as opposed to the even more overrated ACC and the rarely rated Big East. Of course Maryland and Penn State have tradition in football (Penn State traditionally hammering Maryland) but how about a Maryland-Penn State basketball rivalry? Can’t wait for that one.
There are a lot more issues involved here than the breaking up of football and basketball rivalries—although that matters a good deal. Football teams travel to games by charter and, most of the time, so do big-time basketball teams. That’s not true of soccer teams or wrestling teams or field hockey teams or volleyball teams. The Oklahoma State non-revenue teams are going to love those trips to Pullman, Seattle, Eugene and Corvallis. The same—obviously goes for Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A+M. And in reverse for the Pac-10 teams. Eugene to Stillwater in December—what a delight.
You think the Maryland non-revenue teams will enjoy trying to get to Iowa City in January?
Let’s be honest, none of that matters to the presidents or the commissioners who are putting these deals together. This is all about chasing money and trying to jump on board before the train leaves town. How do you think Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and Missouri are feeling right now—especially Missouri which thought it was going to get a Big Ten invite only to be left standing in the rain without an umbrella. The only thing missing was a crumpled note saying, “My darling I can never see you again,” from Ilsa Lund/Delany.
Beyond that, how do you think Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe is feeling these days? Beebe took over the league from Kevin Weiberg in September of 2007. Soon thereafter Delany convinced him that an ACC-SEC proposal to change the BCS to a ‘plus-one,’ format—which in affect would have created a four-team playoff en route probably to an eight-team playoff—was a bad idea. If you believe Dan Wetzel, the outstanding Yahoo!.com columnist who knows more about BCS finances than anyone (he’s done a book on the subject) that decision may have been the Big 12’s death knell. If Beebe hadn’t trusted Delany—and since he knows him and succeeded him as commissioner of The Ohio Valley Conference in 1989 there’s no excuse for that—then The Big 12 would probably be so flush right now that schools wouldn’t be looking to jump ship. It might even be better off financially (according to Wetzel) right now than The Big 10. Which might explain why Delany told Beebe it was a bad idea.
But the league’s real demise—ironically—may have come in February when Scott convinced Weiberg to move west and become his No. 2 man. Weiberg was commissioner of The Big 12 for five years, so he knows all the players in that conference. He was also Delany’s deputy at The Big 10 for nine years which means he (A) knows the league (B) knows how to set up a TV network since he was involved in the start-up of The Big Ten network and (C—perhaps most important) he knows Delany’s psyche and knows when Delany says, “I’m going to make a left-turn,” you better watch out on the right.
It is probably not coincidence that soon after Weiberg’s arrival, Scott, who has spent his entire professional life in tennis, has proven to be the wild card in this scenario, swooping in to stand on the verge of creating the first super-conference—one that will include Texas if things go Scott’s way on Tuesday when the school’s board of regents meets. If Texas goes, the other invited Big Twelve schools (Colorado has already jumped) will follow (although Texas A+M seems to change by the moment). End of Big-12; start your engines on The Pac-16 (or whatever it is called) being the most important—and perhaps most lucrative—conference in college athletics.
To keep up, The Big Ten, the SEC and the ACC will almost certainly have to go the 16-school route. That will probably mean The Big Ten going after Syracuse, Maryland, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers—Notre Dame (again) and God knows who else to try to get to 16. The SEC will likely try to recruit Florida State, Miami, Clemson and either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech from the ACC. The ACC would be left to plunder The Big East yet again going after Big East schools left out by The Big Ten including perhaps Connecticut and Cincinnati. Big East football would go away.
Of course there are about a million things that can happen in the next few months. What we know for certain though is that they WILL be happening. This is no longer speculation. Where everyone will land isn’t certain although it is becoming clearer by the day. Once the musical chairs have all been grabbed and some schools are left standing, college athletics will undergo another sea change.
Whether the super conferences will bring us any closer to a true football playoff is hard to say. About the only thing the BCS Presidents may like more than money is power and control. IF they can find a way to hold a playoff just among themselves—in other words leave out schools like Boise State, Utah, Hawaii and any other upstarts that might pop up—they might very well do it.
They might even forget about the great tradition of the bowls. In the end, there’s only one tradition any of these guys care about—the time-honored tradition of the rich getting richer. It has never been more in play in the cesspool that is big-time college athletics than it is right now.
John recently appeared on The Jim Rome Show (www.jimrome.com) to discuss 'Moment of Glory.' Click here to download, or listen in the player below:
John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases
The Golf Channel will be airing a documentary based on the book "Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story," with the premiere showing Monday, June 14 at 9 p.m. ET.