It’s reached the point of some street game in New York City. Flip a card here, show its match over there. Have a cup with a ball in it, mix with two cups that don’t, shuffle ’em around and then have your, um, patron pick up where it is.
Pretty soon, the nation’s college sports fan base will be about as clueless as a hoodwinked tourist with knowing where the ball is.
Just when it seems the landscape of conference affiliations has settled somewhat, another continental shift kicks in.
This has gone beyond ridiculous. It has surpassed sublime. At this point, it defies description … if not sanity.
OK, we get it. Maryland felt like an outsider in a circuit it helped to create, so university regents voted Monday to jump off the ACC wagon and hitch itself to the Big Ten. Not that it will have any more cachet with its new companions in the Midwest, but at least that bigger paycheck will help sooth any hurt, or left-out, feelings now.
Rutgers is expected to join Tuesday, which would bring the Big Ten membership to 14 teams and set up a nice, even two-division circuit that can match every conference this side of the SEC athletically and blow away every other outfit this side of the Ivy League academically.
You want the ultimate, “big college” experience, where sports and studies are mixed as best as possible, look no further than the Big Ten. Of course, that was the case before the Terps voted unanimously to escape the ACC’s clutches and the Scarlet Knights entered the equation, too.
In short, what’s the difference?
Well, in reality, it comes down to this – we’re looking at intercollegiate athletics having become such a big-business entity that what we have now is a corporate-level game of who can compile the most chips, or at least the most valuable … before the entire structure comes crumbling down.
If anyone out there thought the have-nots were going to get a chance to compete with the haves in any shape or form, think again. All of these moves are about big schools, with big money, linking up with big conferences with big TV contracts.
Pretty soon, we’ll be staring at a situation where, oh, maybe four or five superconferences control everything that goes on at the highest level of college sports. Oh wait, we already have that.
Only in the near future, members from those may be the only ones playing … while the lesser lights, or those will lower national profiles just get lost in the undertow and drift out into the abyss of, say, another level of play – hmmm, Division I-AAA, it has nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
You’d figure the ACC will be fine. In fact, it should be part of the superconference shuffle throughout – along with the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 as they morph or consolidate into four leagues, or three, or two, or one huge conglomerate mess.
The Big East? We might as well bid it adieu now. The baby of brilliant basketball mind Dave Gavitt, it eventually got involved with the “real money” of college sports when it formed a football division of its operation, and soon enjoyed great success with the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse making waves on the national scene. The first three already toil their gridiron wares in the ACC; the latter two will do so shortly. In fact, you can probably throw Connecticut into the Big East-to-ACC faction now since the Huskies will be looking for a new home with its current affiliation falling apart at the seams.
West Virginia, the Big East’s dominant football program during the first decade of this millennium, bolted for the Big 12 this season.
To counter some of the defections, the Big East somehow convinced national darling Boise State to join forces with schools about 2,000 miles away from its Idaho campus; the possibility of being part of the BCS process obviously attracted the Broncos. Kiss that good-bye now. San Diego State and Central Florida were part of the tentacles-spreading, crapshoot plan as well.
It was a Hail Mary … that the Big Ten apparently has swatted down with cutthroat, money-driven disdain, leaving the Big East with none of its continuous founding football members and really, believe it or not, taking away the signature school – athletically, logistically and academically – from the conference.
What’s next? Who knows … but it seems the end is drawing ever near to the potential of any team outside of a dozen or two we all see constantly on TV having any impact on college sports, or even getting any recognition for even playing college sports.
See ya, Cinderella.