A 500-Word Rant: The Day After

In the 1983, made-for-TV movie The Day After, viewers were tuned in to a fictionalized scenario where Lawrence, Kansas was decimated by a nuclear bomb and followed along with the aftermath.

Well, let’s just say that life imitates art.  Only this time, Steve Guttenberg ain’t showing up to offer any hope.

I have always considered myself a mostly rational Kansas fan.  I tend not to jump too quickly on homerific predictions or inflated levels of potential.  But, that version of me was vaporized yesterday when a warhead emblazoned with a stupid-looking hick in red overalls with a white “N” on them.  Nebraska has essentially dropped a nuke on the University of Kansas’ athletic department.

So, how do I react?  I’m fucking pissed beyond description.   That’s how.

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College Football Conference Expansion Hoopla

In December, the Big Ten conference (the bestest and richest athletic conference in the galaxy) announced that it is studying the idea of expanding.  The Big Ten did not announce whether it is thinking about expanding by one team (preferably Notre Dame) or whether it might pull a Big East or a WAC and create a superconference of up to 16 schools.  This stuff fascinates me, and I have been reading expansion plans from bloggers and columnists all over the internets for the past four months.  The following are two proposals with a sliver of realism that I would really enjoy:

Scenario A

-Notre Dame stupidly turns down the Big Ten yet again.

-Big Ten grabs Texas.

-Big Twelve starts to panic, as Texas is responsible for 40% of the already crappy TV contract.

-Colorado bolts for the Pac-10, which also takes Utah from the Mountain West.

-Big Twelve counters by poaching TCU and BYU from Mountain West.

-Mountain West is now on its heels, having lost its top three programs.

-WAC steps in and invites New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State.

-They accept and the Mountain West folds, leaving Wyoming, Colorado State, and Air Force homeless.

-The Big East is now the only major conference without 12 teams, and the new WAC is looking stronger.  Notre Dame is also feeling the heat.

-Big East pressures Notre Dame into joining for football and invites Memphis, Central Florida, and Temple for football and basketball.

-CUSA is now two teams short, so it steals Louisiana Tech from the WAC and Middle Tennessee State from the Sun Belt.

-The WAC picks up Wyoming to get back to 12 teams and the Sun Belt Continue reading

A Revolution in College Athletics

The current set-up in college sports that you and I grew up with is soon to be a thing of the past. We will look back upon them with fond memories and a little drool on our chins, saying, “Back in my day…” College athletics are set to undergo a radical transformation.

It will begin with the two biggest sports: football and basketball. For much of the now departed college basketball season, rumor swirled of the NCAA’s impending opt-out. In other words, they can void the current contract with CBS and put the men’s tournament on the open market for the highest bidder. But with the new TV deal will likely come an expansion of the tournament from its current 65 team format to a 96 one, eliminating the National Invitational Tournament in the process.
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The big money in college athletics is on the gridiron. The basketball change may leave some ripples across the land, but a major shake-up in football will affect all other collegiate sports. The rumor mill began last year when the Big Ten, the NCAA’s richest conference, publicly stated its desire to add at least one new member. In doing so, the Big Ten would have twelve members and would be able to play that all important conference championship game.

However, the Big Ten may be looking to add more than one team. Tony Barnhart, aka Mr. College Football, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a recent blog post, “The Big Ten is looking at three plans: Stand pat with 11 teams, add one team (hopefully Notre Dame) or make a blockbuster move and go to 16.”

It seems unlikely at this point that the Big Ten would not expand. They’ve announced intentions to do so which would lead us all to believe they will follow through with those plans. Adding one team would give them the minimum number to have the coveted championship game. And every one loves to say Notre Dame is the obvious choice because they are. But the Irish have been reluctant to join in the past. This is what leads many, including me, to believe that a “superconference” is in the making.

A superconference of 16 teams forces Notre Dame to join. Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick even admitted so at a press conference for the Big East basketball tournament (of which Notre Dame is a member): “The college landscape is as unstable as I’ve seen it… You could each invent a scenario that would force our hand.” He went on to say that Notre Dame would like to maintain its football independence.

But the question is, can they? With the possible realignment of 16 teams in the Big Ten, Notre Dame would have to join out of necessity. For one, adding five teams most likely means at least one and probably more Big East teams would be absorbed. Frank the Tank, a blogger who writes about Chicago and University of Illinois sports as well as other topics, states that “Syracuse and Rutgers (along with the Irish) are virtual locks” for a 16 team Big Ten. Both universities bring the New York City market with them which is one market the Big Ten has yet to fully penetrate (especially with the Big Ten Network television channel).

And if the Big East is torn apart (again), that leaves the question of automatic bids to the NCAA tourney and a BCS bid in football. Notre Dame is basically given a BCS bid without conference affiliation as long as they finish in the top 12 of the standings. But it could still force their hand in other sports. And we cannot discount the possibility of a change in the BCS format if the rest of college athletics transforms. I do not specifically mean a playoff, but it is logical to think that a seismic shift in conferences could result in changes to the current format.

Frank the Tank goes on to look at possible Big Ten candidates sans the three locks mentioned earlier. One such scenario involves bringing in Maryland and Boston College to “capture the entire Northeast, while, at least on paper, adding New York, Boston, and Washington markets.” Another possibility is to get Nebraska and Kansas from the Big XII which adds a basketball and a football power for balance as well as adding new markets. Finally, Frank writes Texas and Texas A&M could come together as a political package (one couldn’t go without the other).
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While I am not willing to discuss every possibility, it seems logical one of these three moves is going to happen. But whatever the Big Ten does, it will force the other conferences to react. The SEC stands next to the Big Ten in terms of economic superiority. Do they expand as well? If the Big XII, ACC, or Big East is ransacked, what becomes of those conferences and their automatic bids? Does the Pac 10 answer?

It is clear that a revolution in college athletics is in the immediate future, possibly as early as the 2012 football season if the decisions are made soon. At this point, the Big Ten holds the key to everything. They could add only one team and the landscape would probably remain similar to how it is. Or they could make a tidal wave and transform college athletics to something we’ve never seen before. Eventually, the superconferences will come to fruition, so why not start now?

Conference Comparisons After Round 1

For college sports fans with teams who suck, it seems the default mechanism nowadays is to champion the strength of your conference to make yourself feel better about said suckage. We’ve all had conversations with Big East conference homers in basketball and SEC conference homers in football (I’m pretty sure I am one).

Every year the Big Dance acts as the rule that the conferences are measured against. Whoever dominates the tournament has bragging rights for the year.

So… How do the conferences stand up after round one? Have a look below:

  • Big East – 4 of 8 teams remain = 50%
  • Big 12 – 5 of 7 teams remain = 71%
  • ACC – 4 of 6 teams remain = 67%
  • Big 10 – 4 of 5 teams remain = 80%
  • SEC – 2 of 4 teams remain = 50%
  • Pac 10 – 2 of 2 teams remain =100%
  • Mid-Majors – 11 of 33 teams remain = 33%

Obviously of note in that comparison should be the relative success of the Big 12, ACC, and Big 10 versus the relative failure of the Big East and SEC. The fact that the Pac 10 won both of their games is commendable, considering how terrible that conference looked all year. Also noteworthy is the fact that 11 mid-major teams are still alive after the first weekend.

These numbers alone don’t tell you that much in the grand scheme of things. What’s really interesting is looking at how the conferences have performed in terms of seeding. To analyze this, I’ve listed the number of teams that have performed at or below their seeding for each conference.

  • Big East – 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 3 teams played below their seeding. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • Big 12 – 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 2 teams played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • ACC - 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 1 team played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • Big 10 – All 5 teams performed at or above their seed. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • SEC – 4 teams performed at or above their seed, while 1 team played below their seeding. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • Pac 10 – 2 teams performed at or above their seed, while 0 teams played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • Mid-Majors – 30 teams performed at or above their seed, while 3 teams played below their seeding. 6 teams performed above their seeding.

This is where it gets a little more interesting. With 3 teams playing below their seeding and 0 teams performing above their seeding, it’s safe to say that the Big East has under-achieved compared to the other conferences. The Big 12 had 2 teams perform below their seeding, but they also had one perform above their seeding.The other major conferences performed as you would probably expect.

Obviously, the big winner in all this is the Mid-Major fan. 30 of 33 teams played at or above their seeding, while only 3 performed below their seeding. In fact, the three teams that performed below their seeding actually lost to other mid-major teams. An impressive 6 teams performed above their seeding.

What have we learned from all this? Getting the most teams in doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best conference in terms of quality. Not this year at least…