Shifting landscape unsettling
The news is everywhere, from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific 12, 14, 16. From the Big East to the shrinking (for now) Big 12.
Once again, expansion - which should have been put on hold once the season began - has taken over. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s announcement that it was adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse is the headline of the day. There will be more to come, perhaps even this week as schools such as Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, and who knows how many others possibly shift affiliations.
One of the criticisms of college football - and there are many - is that it lacks a true leader who looks out for the good of the game. We have a suggestion. Bring in Michael Douglas, who can reprise his classic Gordon Gekko character from the two “Wall Street’’ movies. The mantra, which should be on all conference logos, is simple: “Greed is good.’’
Consider some numbers from the new television contracts that members of BCS conferences have either signed or been offered.
Pac-12: A $2.7 billion deal, averaging out to $18.75 million per team.
Southeastern Conference: $17.08 million per team.
Big Ten: $18.33 million per team.
ACC: $12.9 million per team.
Big East: Offered slightly more than $11 million per team.
Big 12: $13 million per team.
And there is the possibility of more in the future.
Before any of this stuff started - before Texas A&M chose to bolt from the Big 12, before the Pac-12 went school surfing and focused on Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State until hitting the pause button at 12, and before the ACC made what it felt was a proactive rather than reactive strike into the Big East - the BCS conferences weren’t in any real danger. Some erosion was possible, but with the television deals, each conference was doing fine financially.
But they wanted more.
Recall the words of Gordon Gekko, and you can imagine them coming from a BCS conference commissioner or university president:
“The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them!
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms - greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind.’’
Gekko is asked, “How much is enough, Gordon? When does it all end, huh? How many yachts can you water-ski behind? How much is enough, huh?’’
And he responds: “It’s not a question of enough, pal. It’s a zero-Sum game. Somebody wins [i.e. ACC, Pac-12], somebody loses [i.e. Big East, Big 12]. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred - from one perception to another. The illusion has become real, and the more real it becomes, the more desperately they want it. Capitalism at its finest.’’
Think about that: “The illusion has become real.’’ The presidents are trying to cast an illusion that the integrity of the game is important, that student-athletes should meet certain standards, yet they - or their bosses, the Board of Regents, who are not as accountable - want the spoils of victory.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are today’s stories. Texas and Oklahoma and Texas A&M will be tomorrow’s. It will continue with the ACC going to 16 teams - count on it. Leagues will change. Rivalries will disappear.
Maybe all the negative vibes got to the presidents this week as they slowed down the process. But does anyone really believe it will last long? More money will be mentioned and more changes will come.
Presidents who preach about integrity will close their mouths and make deals.
“Integrity, loyalty, and congeniality don’t mean a thing anymore,’’ said former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese. “And no one is really in charge.’’
Embattled Big East Commissioner John Marinatto held a meeting in New York Tuesday night and came out preaching unity, even loyalty.
We heard that before from the Big East, about seven years ago, and it didn’t turn out so well, did it? When Boston College left, the Big East went ballistic.
What has been lost in the transition is that the rage came not the first time BC tried to leave - that merely caused anger. The rage came when BC, after being rejected by the ACC, regrouped with the other Big East schools to form a survival plan. Strategies were shared.
Two months later, BC was gone to the ACC. That caused the rage.
In retrospect, even Tranghese says BC probably made a move that was good for the school.
“It’s the way it was done,’’ said Tranghese, who this time watched from the sideline with some dismay as two more loyal Big East schools, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, did the same thing.
Both times it was the ACC that struck. But no one has ever suggested that ACC football was in danger at any time.
No one is blameless in this. But it has gotten nastier the past few years.
The message then was as clear as it is now.
Greed is good. Let the games go on.
But everyone in college football should be ashamed of themselves.
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.