Super conferences are on the way and the cash will follow

Sep 10 2011 - 5:03pm

LOS ANGELES -- College football is a billion-dollar business ... here are my two cents:

Super conferences appear on the way, so let's get on with it. Rearrange the deck chairs, cut the checks, board up office windows, consolidate and reconfigure.

"Things change," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said this week as his school contemplated a move from the Big 12 Conference to the Pac-12.

Fine, but let's disassociate "collegial" as college's root relative. This isn't collegial, this is cut-throat.

A word you never hear mentioned in realignment talk is "basketball," because it's only the tail on this dog. You also never see summits called based on the hardships of non-revenue student-athletes who soon will be making Big East Conference treks from Forth Worth (Texas Christian) to Lake Effect Snow, N.Y. (Syracuse).

Football is the impetus for all.

Change is inevitable. It can mean progress, but it can also be unseemly. Will you like yourself in the morning?

This is a new "Gilded Age." While unemployment soars and mortgages foreclose, the NFL and college football are stockpiling money.

The difference is the NFL has a central government to monitor the pace of greed. You need 24 of 32 owners on the same side to pass legislation. You have a union that protects the players and a commissioner who, unlike the NCAA president, didn't run one or two of the teams he might have to discipline.

To wreak havoc in college, all you need is a phone.

A few years ago, the Atlantic Coast Conference blindsided the Big East by taking three of its schools -- and then went to lunch.

The current chain-reaction wire was tripped by Texas A&M's contempt for Texas and its exclusive television network. The Big 12 had already lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12.

Texas A&M's departure to the Southeastern Conference was temporarily delayed Wednesday by legal objections from Baylor and other Big 12 schools. But the prospect of Texas A&M leaving has understandably created panic. Oklahoma reached out to the Pac-12 and that's why we're suddenly two speed-dial calls from Big 12 demise.

And that's fine, right? This is part of the grand scheme to form four, 16-school conferences and break further away from the 50-something other schools that keep pestering the big boys with lawsuits.

Everybody that matters gets rich.

Academics are an afterthought. The Big Ten touted Nebraska's admission in part because it was a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU).

Nebraska has since lost its AAU accreditation but, shockingly, isn't being sent back to the Big 12.

Cornhuskers football, though, is ranked No. 10 by The Associated Press.

Don't blame conference commissioners. They're hired guns for their presidents, who hide behind their bow ties and bluster. Truth is, the presidents need football money to deal with budget shortfalls. They just don't wish to be the faces out front on this.

The NCAA watches helplessly as conferences conduct daylight raids. The NCAA lost control of football in the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled it could not restrict television access. That led to the most powerful conferences becoming independent contractors who have cashed in on football's enormous popularity and growth.

The Pac-12 doesn't need to expand -- it recently signed a $3 billion deal with ESPN/Fox.

Some Pac-12 presidents are said to be pushing back, but that could be so they don't appear too predatory at the expense of others. In fact, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has led the arms call to 16.

None of this has been proved illegal, or even necessarily wrong. But it can be seen as unbecoming for institutions of higher learning.

It's a new day, even if you preferred the old ones. The collateral damage is forsaking traditions that made you great in the first place. Nebraska to the Big Ten already cost us Nebraska vs. Oklahoma.

Obla di, obla da ... "Life goes on," Stoops said the other day, sounding like an Oklahoma coach itching to trade the Dust Bowl for the Rose Bowl.

Stoops said it wouldn't even be necessary to continue the Texas-Oklahoma game if the Sooners left for the Pac-12 without Texas.

"I know people don't want to hear that," he said.

Texas versus Texas A&M will soon cease to exist. Shoot, it's only a game ... that dates back to 1894.

If the Big 12 demise splits Kansas and Missouri, what becomes of the Border War?

Years ago, a successful coach from a mid-major conference was asked why he hadn't left for a more prestigious powerhouse.

"Bigger isn't better," he said. "Better is better."

But eventually Dan Hawkins left Boise State for Colorado ... which, less than five years later, fired him.

QUICK SLANTS

Good place to find baby sitters? Texas coach Mack Brown said 18 freshmen played in last week's win over Rice. This week, Texas plays host to Brigham Young, which has 32 married players.

Second-year Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is under fire after television cameras caught him in a sideline tirade during last Saturday's loss to South Florida in South Bend, Ind. Kelly was defensive when the subject was broached at his weekly news conference. "Did I hit somebody?" he asked? "Did I strike somebody?" Kelly then confessed, "I'll have to do a better job controlling my emotions."

Here we go again. Only one team in this week's USA Today coaches' poll top five defeated a ranked Southeastern Conference team on the road. The coaches voted that team, Boise State, fifth.

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