Friday, June 11, 2010

Now Come the Questions We're All Afraid to Ask

It was without a doubt the most exciting Thursday a football offseason has ever seen. In fact, if not for the Juice riding around in his Bronco for a few hours on LA's freeways after he killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend some years ago, I submit it was the most exciting day in the month of June in the last 20 years (I suppose calling a murder's half-hearted flee from justice exciting is probably in bad taste, so maybe that should be entertaining/compelling/riveting/interesting.). In the last 12 hours, the following took place:

-Colorado will now fly west for all of its conference sporting events.

-USC had their business (almost literally true) smashed to pieces by 67 pages of 8 1/2 X 11 paper.

-Just about every team not in the Pac-10, Big Ten or SEC was involved in a rumor that had them in a new conference.

And Friday could be even more out of control. If Nebraska formally announces they will move to the Big Ten as they are expected to, the next move on the checkers board (this is college football, no one is smart enough to play chess) goes to the Texas bloc (not quite as communist as the old school Eastern Bloc, but still a bloc) or the SEC, if it chooses to make a preemptive strike. Either one of those moves could result in two to five teams making a move to a new conference while destroying an old one. Or nothing could happen and tomorrow could be like the second day of this year's NCAA Tournament. Enjoyable, yes, but ultimately a letdown.

While expansion and its three ring circus with dozens of bears juggling Volkswagens filled with clowns and giraffes has made this offseason one of the most enjoyable, no one is asking the questions that lie beneath the surface of this madness. Things like, is this ultimately good for college football? Or, is this the first major step in the direction of a playoff system? But most importantly, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE SCHEDULE-FILLER CONFERENCES? I'm talking about C-USA, the Sun Belt, the WAC, the MWC and the MAC. THESE TEAMS HAVE TO SURVIVE IN ORDER FOR MOST OF US TO MAKE BOWL GAMES.

And in order for them to survive, they'll need as many people in their, for lack of a better term, conference district. And in districts that include the likes of Bowling Green, Denton and Moscow, that means they need as much square mileage as possible. Right now, the WAC has the jump on everyone because they have something close to 876 billion square miles of real estate, or roughly the planet Mars, so if the Big 12 does indeed collapse, there won't be much time to waste on picking away at the financial road kill that is the group of Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State.

First, a few bits of information to consider. Kansas will probably be forced to take near-I-70 partner Kansas State with them. Snatching up this pair will certainly boost basketball prowess for a conference, but not square mileage. Missouri, which has faxed its resume to the Big Ten everyday, three times a day for the last month (and twice a day to the SEC), will be a pretty easy get. Cold reality has just smashed them in the nose and they have realized just how far up shit creek in a sinking Cuban refugee raft they really are. They should be the last phone call a conference makes. And as for Baylor and Iowa State, they're not so much desperate as they are indifferent. They know they're going to suck no matter where they go, which is good news for all the other bad teams, so they should be told where to go rather than asked to join.

If I'm in C-USA, I'm making a play for the Kansas schools. Even though basketball doesn't matter in the money game, it would at least boost Memphis' NCAA Tournament resume so they wouldn't have to win the conference tournament every year to go to the NCAAs. More importantly, the four corners of your empire are Manhattan, El Paso, Orlando and Greenville, North Carlina. You now cover the Southeast, parts of Atlantic Seaboard, a few Midwestern states and parts of the Southwest. That's three different time zones, more miles than I want to count and a lot of damn people with which to market you low-level mediocre product.

The Sun Belt could overtake C-USA and become the size of the Ottoman Empire if they add Iowa State. Denton, Texas to Ames, Iowa to Bowling Green, Kentucky to Miami, Florida. You'd need like 425 divisions of the Turkish army to control all of that. And control it they would. Burning villages, genocide, the works. Plus, the addition of the Cyclones gives the conference another football team that is exactly like all of the other football teams and doesn't rock the jon-boat.

As for the MAC, well, I'm pretty sure it doesn't really exist. It's just an ESPN creation to fill a ratings black hole in Tuesday and Wednesday night programming. Apparently, Stump the Schwab just wasn't cutting it in Bristol. Have you ever seen a game involving MAC teams not played during the week? There's a reason they don't have names on their jerseys, it's because only two teams exist.

The WAC and Mountain West don't appear to be so urgent to make a move. The WAC probably would like to find a way to sell Louisiana Tech to someone else, but Ruston just doesn't have the street value it once had. And the MWC enjoys adding nothing, other than the same yearly argument that they belong in the BCS.

So there they are, the ideal scenarios for the schedule-fillers of the world (note: this term does not include Boise St., TCU, Utah, Fresno State in good years, BYU, Air Force and sometimes Houston). The key to survival is square mileage, gentlemen. Or, if massive expansion doesn't happen, it is four $800,000 - $1.2 million contracts to take four road trips a season to receive a vicious beating at the hands of school whose 18-wheeler equipment truck costs more than your school.

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