Conferences, Bottom Lines Expand as Relevance, Rivalries Contract
If you're confused now, just wait until Arizona joins the SEC and 5,000 cowbell-clanging Mississippi State fans show up in Tucson looking for the Grand Canyon.
But let's not point them all toward Mexico yet.
"What direction the process takes still could go in different directions," Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott (pictured) said after getting the go-ahead Sunday to flirt with Longhorns and Aggies. "Everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that has some very bright days ahead of it, to a bigger conference footprint."
Wherever we get in this New World Order, the people who'll get walked all over are the fans. Really, have you heard anyone not wearing a suit clamoring for all these conferences to go on an expansion safari?
The only other group lobbying for change is GPS manufacturers who stand to make millions from Midwesterners trying to pick their way around Corvallis.
The driving force behind everything is money, which isn't a ridiculous motivation. I'm not going to tell an athletic director trying to pay for 22 sports to pass up an extra $10 million a year. It would just be nice if they admitted what all this realignment talk reconfirms.
College football is primarily a product, not a sport. If the suits cared about the sport, they wouldn't be replacing rivalries and tradition with chaos and geographical vertigo.
What they care about is TV sets. The more they compile, the better the deal they can cut with networks and cable carriers. Like college basketball, football is becoming nothing more than programming.
And no, I don't pine for the newsreel days when Army dominated college football. I'm not against progress. But is it a step in the right direction when conference teams never play each other?
I sort of liked it when Auburn would always play Florida. Now you never know what the split SEC schedule will bring. And that's with just 12 teams, each of which can only designate so many "rivalry games."
What will these proposed mega-conferences do? In one scenario, six Big 12 teams would join the Pac-10. That means Oklahoma would play Oregon less often than Bob Stoops wins a big game.
And will Arizona declare it must play Arizona State and UCLA every year, while Texas has to play Texas A&M and Oklahoma?
And why should Baylor fans have to schlep up to Madison instead of Stillwater? That's not a conference, it's a business arrangement.
Boardroom mentality has turned college basketball into a meaningless four-month exhibition. Football weekends will never become that inconsequential because there aren't 35 of them every season. But what will all this mean to deciding a national champ?
You think the BCS is hated now? Wait until the Mountain West gets the Big 12's defunct automatic bid and a super-conference runner-up ends up in the Gator Bowl.
No doubt, the suits will come up with a plan. They'll say change is good. Just as they're saying academics are vital in this equation.
Texas is supposedly favoring the Pac-10 over the SEC because of its scholarly reputation. If academics really mattered, the average SAT score for incoming football players at Texas wouldn't have been 320 points lower than the typical freshman.
Football players at Cal wouldn't have been 43 times more likely to gain "special admission" to the school than non-athletes.
Players are primarily actors performing for our viewing pleasure. All the directors care about is getting them on the biggest, most lucrative stage possible.
Coming Fall 2012: The Pac-16 Tuesday Night Game of the Week!
"I can't say for sure here today that there are options that will achieve these goals where the Pac-10 can stay true to its DNA and its special values," Scott said. "But there are some very exciting possibilities out there."
In other words, DNA, Schmee-N-A.
The building blocks of college football are no longer rivalries, geography and tradition. They are TV markets.
So welcome to the New World Order. I miss the old one more all the time.