Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Got me them old college football realignment blues

Howdy … y’all might have heard ‘bout this little spat down here in Texas between them Aggies of Texas A&M and … darn near everyone else they face on the gridiron. Actually, their beef is with the Big 12 Conference (which only has 10 members which is as close to the true as Richard Nixon ever got) … and, in particular (pronounced par-TICK-ah-lah), the Texas Longhorns (pronounced in Aggieland as little t, little u).
A&M is fixin’ to get its butt out of the Big 12 Conference because it’s not a happy camper ... or campus. Them Aggies are madder than a bunch of liberals in Rick Perry’s prayer group; they are tired of being the lil’ brother to the ‘Horns and being told what to do, who they cannot recruit (after Texas is finished getting advance football commitments for the next seven years) and why A&M gets no respect (you’d think the football stadium would be named after Rodney Dangerfield).
A&M is tired of fussin’ and feudin’ with Texas and wants out; it has been wanting to join the Southeastern Conference even since the Big 12 was formed out of the old Big 8 and Southwest Conference (they existed in the years termed B.C. – Before Cable). However, the SEC is playing coy like a girl playing hard to get from some beau.
All sorts of news outlets are reporting the obvious and all parties involved are denying the obvious … yet it’s the biggest non-secret in these parts since someone discovered it tends to be hot around here. Texas A&M will be playing its final season as a Big 12 member and will hop, skip and jump its way into new territory, controlled by a new set of schools and rules (oops, there’s yet another UT with orange as its base color).
There’s no doubt that the University of Texas IS the big dog in this big state. And nothing barks louder than the debut of the new Longhorn Network (in contract with ESPN), which will help fill their pockets like Clyde Barrow used to do decades ago. It was a shrewd move by the UT brain trust and one of the few schools in this area to have the will and overall strength of athletic program to pull it off.
Texas even controls high school athletics in this state, since all extra-curricular activities (as well as academic contests) fall under the umbrella of the University Interscholastic League (UIL). Wanna guess which “university” it means? The UIL is housed in Austin, most championships (except for football) are staged in, and around, Austin … often on UT facilities (and never in College Station). As it is said, “You do the math.”
People in the Midwest have tasted this recipe already with the advent of the Big Ten Network; it’s the model for what Austin is doing and what all other conferences wish they could do. The BTN has developed 24/7 programming, spotlighting each school, ALL sports (from gymnastics to wrestling to hockey to basketball AND football on Saturdays). And it has meant LOTS of money going into the coffers of each member institution.
The song sings “Money changes everything,” and it has in college athletics, notably football, the bell cow of the herd. When one school, or conference, hits on a profitable idea, others scramble to copy it; it’s worse than Hollywood making endless sequels within a film franchise instead of actually creating anything new and original.
It’s ALL about the money – from conference alignments to network presentations to the scandals engulfing various schools. Collegiate sports (meaning just football and men’s basketball) are drowning over who gets paid (institution and/or athlete) and who is doing the paying (regardless of the sleaze factor).
But A&M’s tantrum, and subsequent decision, has also produced a national problem. Another school will have to join the SEC to balance its competition schedule and someone will have to move into that empty Big 12 slot (and SMU or Houston are NOT big time programs on ANY level). That will have to come from other conferences who, in turn, will have to make adjustments of their own. It’s going to be a gigantic mess … again!
What is gonna have to happen, eventually, is a college football landscape divided evenly by region – West, South, Midwest and East. If it were up to us Texans, we’d call them the Hippie Dippie Conference, the Stars and Bars Gonna Rise Again Conference, the Flyover the Rust Belt Conference and the Media Elite Conference.
Grouping would be simple; every school west of the Texas-Nebraska-Oklahoma-Kansas line would be placed in the West (all of the old Pac 12/14, Utah schools, New Mexico). Schools south of the Mason-Dixon line, that resembled the old Confederacy (or continue to act like it) would be naturally paired together; it would include the SEC, most of the ACC, parts of Conference-USA and the South division of the Big 12/10/9. A school like TCU would stop foolin’ itself into thinking it has anything in common with its new Big East neighbors.
The Midwest schools, including Notre Dame, would join one another (mostly the Big 10, MAC and some from Conference-USA). The dividing line would be central Pennsylvania so Penn State would be considered Midwest by birth.
The East would see everyone not associated in the other three divisions, but no one will care if Temple, Rutgers or Maryland plays anyway. The Ivy League can do what it wishes since it thinks it’s above the sport to even offer scholarships or be involved in those dirty little post-season bowl games.
From this alignment, y’all can easily produce a playoff system to avoid the rest of us from having to find alternative programming in December to bowl games played in Shreveport, Detroit, Mobile or Clovis, N.M. And schools, like A&M, can stop whinin’ and cryin’ about who’s got all the money and who’s not playing nice in the sandbox with the other children.
In the meantime, the times they will be a-changin’ between these two bitter rivals. The traditional Thanksgiving weekend battle is totally in doubt after this November; it won’t be the same if the schools meet in early September. And for a state that often revels in its past, possessing such an uncertain future has to be disturbing.
Because everything known about rivalries, especially here in Texas, will change permanently. The time-honored College Station tradition of having the 12th Man crowd at Kyle Field, singing the vaunted “Aggie War Hymn,” won’t be the same against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt or Auburn.
I cannot imagine how these lyrics will be relevant anymore:
Good bye to texas university
So long to the orange and the white
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
"the eyes of Texas are upon you"
That is the song they sing so well
So good bye to texas university
We're gonna beat you all to…
Chigaroogarem, Chigaroogarem
Rough, Tough, Real stuff, Texas A&M
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Saw varsity's horns off
Short! A!
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
Varsity's horns are sawed off
It’ll be hard to obsess like that over … Gators. But it will be goodbye.

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