JON DALY: Sixteen years ago today, a Heisman Trophy winner from USC was in the news. I’m talking of course, about O.J. Simpson. He was riding in a white Bronco while the LAPD were in cold pursuit. Here in 2010, a USC Heisman winner would be headline sports news once again for all the wrong reasons, but the news about the NCAA’s sanctions on the Trojans has been eclipsed by other events.
Right now the Great Realignment of 2010 is more of a whimper than a bang. The way folks were talking, it sounded like changes would’ve been more radical. Then again, the Pac 16 would have still been more Pacific than the Pacific Coast League.
The Wall Street Journal suggested that college football should take a page from the English Premier League’s book. I don’t know about relegation, but there are some big conference/small conference alliances that might make sense. For instance, the MAC could partner with the Big 10 and if the Akron Zips are MAC champs, they could supplant Northwestern in the bigger conference. The WAC could partner with the Pac (12 as I write this) and the Sun Belt could partner with the SEC.
Then again, the Pac 16 would have still been more Pacific than the Pacific Coast League… But we care more about college sports than minor league sports. Why? For some, it’s the biggest game in town. This is true for places like Nebraska and Alabama. Others went to these sports powers or are affiliated with them somehow. For some, having the last name O’xxx ties them to Notre Dame. But for someone like me, who lives in the middle of the Bowash megalopolis, it’s the diversity of offensive and defensive philosophies. These guys aren’t as good as the pros, but they play a different game. In football it could be the flexbone or spread. In hoops it could be the 2-3. Anyways, that’s one aspect that makes me overlook the corruption in the college sports world; not that the pros are much better.
I think that I enjoy sports more when they are not just a clash of two opponents, but a clash of competing philosophies. I was always more of an NFL fan, but I started following college football more recently. This is in part because UConn is now in the Big East for football as well as hoops, but the NFL is getting stale. Some say that most teams run the same few plays. In More Than A Game, Brian Billick writes that what variety there is in the NFL is in how the teams line up, not what they run. I suppose there is a difference between 4-3 and 3-4 teams. And Miami has its Wildcat, but no team has an offense like Mike Leach or Urban Meyer runs.
I’m happy that the Big 12 still exists. I finally got used to it. Up until recently, I thought of Nebraska and Oklahoma as being the powers of the Big Eight. And those Texas schools? They were in the Southwest Conference. There’s something to be said for conference identity and traditional rivals. Although I remember ABC thinking that Connecticut was part of Big Ten Country and piping in to OSU games, I’m a more of a recent fan of college football. But I’ve been following college hoops for many years. I spent 500 words on football because that’s what is driving this realignment, but I felt like I had this view for years. Never realized how dear college football is to people in the hinterlands. I remember when the Big East started. The six foul rule is one thing that stick out in my mind when I think about the Big East. It made the conference distinctive during the 90s.
Anyways, Nebraska is in the Midwest, as is Ohio. But there’s a difference between the Great Lakes and the Great Plains. But I’ll probably get used to this new conference alignment; as soon as another realignment is on the horizon.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Let me make this easy: the realignment is fine with me, because it left Big East basketball undisturbed. I’m a one issue guy, you see.
My big fear was that the Big Ten would poach Syracuse or Pitt, that several teams could leave for the ACC, and what is easily the best basektball conference in the NCAA would become a casualty to 2010 economic realities. As it stands, that tension between programs like Georgetown- great in basketball, not even a member of the conference in football- and the football-heavy programs like Rutgers, Syracuse (though they’ve been down lately) and Pitt threaten to tear it apart every year.
And every year, I pray we’ll get one more season.
For all the complaints about the Big East in this year’s NCAA Tournament, I believe it was the best conference in basketball. Georgetown, after all, got ambushed by a ridiculous three-point display by Ohio, and Syracuse, for my money the best team in the country, was not close to the same without Arinze Onuaku.
And we are a year removed from the Big East giving the NCAA four of the Elite Eight and three of the Final Four.
I don’t think enough is made of the history inherent in the Big East- only the ACC can compare, and the level of basketball being played over the past few years has left the ACC in the dust. Let us hope the fates leave Big East Basketball alone, just a bit longer.
CHRIS PUMMER: While this summer’s college conference realignment now seems mild compared to the crazier schemes hatched by the imagination, the process still managed to produce a pretty serious loser.
That’s the Mountain West Conference — and perhaps by extension Boise State.
The MWC isn’t shy about it’s desire to be included in the BCS fun with the big boys. The little-respected conference still wants an automatic BCS bowl bid. And perhaps if one of its teams goes undefeated, as Utah has twice over the last decade, a chance for that team to play for a national title.
Don’t mistake my pointing out what the MWC doesn’t have as saying the conference should have those things. After Utah, TCU and BYU, the conference lacks in football programs credible enough to think any team emerging from the regular season with a perfect record is worth a second thought for a title shot.
The near collapse of the Big 12 nearly offered the MWC a chance to boost it’s stature by absorbing some strong programs that might otherwise have been left without a home. In Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri — three teams rumored to be possible targets should the Big Ten and Pac-10 take a pass — the MWC could have added three teams with BCS bowl appearances this past decade.
With the addition of Boise State, which jumped from the Western Athletic Conference, the MWC could make a case that it was deep enough in strong football programs to elbow its way into an automatic BCS berth, along with a boost in prestige.
But the Big 12 held together and Utah bolted for the Pac-10, possibly weakening the MWC. If Boise State thought it would be earning more respect playing in the MWC that it got in the WAC, it may be mistaken.
Without the Big 12 disbanding, the MWC has no clear path to improving its level of play through addition. TCU, BYU and Boise State will remain flight risks, especially if future realignment threatens to finalize the list of teams that get an invite to the BCS party, and those left out.
Instead possibly taking the Big 12′s place in the conference hierarchy, the MWC finds itself again at the back of the line.