Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Big....Something

There's been no shortage of speculation about how the college sports landscape will look in a few years and and as an avid college sports fan I've read too much of it. So much that I've experienced the gamut of emotions including fear, anger, and eventually somewhat of a zen-like acceptance. I suppose up until this point I held out hope that the Big 12 would find a way to remain viable even if they were to lose 1 or 2 teams to the Big 10+1 but the news that the Pac 10 was set to offer a spot to 6 teams pretty much shocked me into the reality that I had always suspected but hoped was untrue. The Big 12 is proper fucked.

In my mind the undoing was a conference leadership that has consistently bowed to the interests of the moneyed few at the expense of the rest of the conference. It's a leadership group that has lacked anything even remotely resembling a vision for the conference beyond mediocre TV deals that maintain the status quo. It's why other leagues are making waves and raiding this league while our commissioner is reduced to saying he's "comfortable" the league will still be together in a few years. Uhh, you're the only one, buddy. Every move Beebe has made has been laughably transparent and toothless. Granted the Big 12 faces some demographic, geographic, and historical issues that others don't have to deal with but keeping things "comfortable" seems like the primary goal of the last several years.

While a conference with better leadership and parties that are equally invested in the success of the league may have been able to adapt and survive a large part of me questions whether it's even worth it. It's not like it's any big secret that there are lots of lots of hands dipping into a very large pool of money surrounding the NCAA and pointing out the hypocrisy of this same group of people waxing poetic about the mythical "student-athlete" has been done to death. However the greedy bastards have become so brazen in recent years as to even make me turn my head in disgust. These assholes have their pockets stuffed with cash already and are clawing for even more but to what end? I'm fully convinced that college athletics is in an arms race that is suicidal or perhaps homicidal by the richest of the rich. Will it finally be enough when we have four 16-team super conferences? Across the country legislatures are cutting the budgets of state universities putting more and more of the burden on students but we're still focused on squeezing every last penny for fucking sports. Ugh.

I kind of assumed that when the cards were down Iowa State would be the ones at the table that didn't have a hand to play and everyone knew it. I mean, when your team is consistently treated as second class in your own tiny state the rest of the country isn't exactly going to be clamoring to bring you aboard. When the ACC was raiding the Big East a few years ago the University of Virginia threw Virginia Tech a lifeline and said no expansion without them but there's no way in hell the University of Iowa would do anything like that. "Uh, good luck with the whole no-conference thing Iowa State, it's just that we really could use a few million more dollars. I'm sure you understand." It's absolute insanity and so completely unnecessary. Doesn't a lot of it seem wrapped up in pride and ego and proving once and for all who the top dogs are?

The prospect of Iowa State, KU and K-State ending up homeless in all of this makes me want to puke and has me questioning why I even want to keep following this charade and pumping money into the system.


Blogger jason noble said...

Glad I'm not the only one who's been losing sleep over this. Your sentiments are pretty much mine exactly.
and what the hell is going on with KU? Is the athletic department so distracted by the ticket scandal and Lew's exercise equipment scandal that they're sleeping through all this? Or does Lew have a super secret plan that will ensure KU comes out OK?
Crass as it is to say, if KU ends up getting screwed by this, I may give up on college sports all together. I know I should be principled and reject the moral bankruptcy of college sports regardless of KU's status, but let's be honest: as long as they're dominant I'll forgive all the Calipari/Pump Brothers/athlete exploiting/TV contract bullshit.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Shawn, those links brought a smile to my face but the more I think about this the more disgusted I get. I keep picturing worst case scenarios with huge budget cuts, declining enrollments, decreased academic reputations, etc. A school like Harvard can thrive without major athletics but for a large state school they're so tied into the culture of the school that I think it could really hurt ISU/KU for a long time if things go poorly. I definitely didn't choose to attend ISU because of their sports teams but I did consider their place in a major conference as a plus and I would guess a lot of other people would as well.

As far as KU goes I didn't talk about them as much because I started writing this when I assumed they were still pretty safe because of the basketball team. Unfortunately, in the days when football and population bases are the most important characteristics your university can possess I'm not sure how much that can help. I still think it's a potential ticket out for them (and, ironically, for K-State as well, if the politicians/regents can keep them together).

I was talking about KU's position with a friend of mine tonight. He still thought they'd be ok but ISU was screwed which is a possibility but I'm not so sure. If KU/KSU/ISU and the loser of the Baylor/Colorado choice are left holding the bag I'm not sure there are any golden tickets out there so all four teams might be in the same boat. The Big East has been mentioned as a possibility for KU but that league is creaking at the seams already. Taking what's left and trying to latch onto a potentially BCS-bound MWC might be the best option for anybody. The league actually has some potential but the thought of KU basketball making road trips to Laramie and Provo and Fort Collins is more than a little humbling. But, it really is dumb of me to try to speculate when I have no control over any of it and no idea what may or may not happen.

These KU scandals are absolutely amazing and horrible, horrible timing. It came out today that Sweet Lew was testifying before a grand jury instead of attending the Big 12 meetings. Uh, that's probably not good.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I guess here is my basic point on college sports. I see Nebraska and Missouri, who have been in a league with KU and ISU since 1907 and KSU since 1913, are more than willing to leave those schools twisting in the wind (going beyond just athletics) for several million more dollars in revenue that they can use to build an even bigger weight room or more skyboxes or some other bullshit. I question why I would even want to feed into a system so fundamentally flawed that it rewards and encourages those actions. Like Jason said, it's a lot easier to look past all of that when your team is still a part of it.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Paul Hattan said...

I've been making some calls and pulling some strings for you, Ben. Looks like things will be OK.

1:33 PM  

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