The Grantland Top Five
1. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Greensboro, N.C.
What bothers us most is the growing lack of regard for geography. What bothers us is that there should be some sense, some inherent logic, to the way these things are arranged. There are always anomalies in sports (Does anyone think the Dallas Cowboys belong in the NFC East?) but college sports are defined by conference alignments in ways that professional sports never could be. All those years Pittsburgh and Syracuse seemed perfectly happy in the Big East (a conference that hasn’t been “East” for several years, unless you consider Chicago a suburb of Philadelphia), and then in one weekend, they wind up joining yet another league whose name no longer holds any geographic relevance. (Colorado:Pacific::Texas A&M:Southeast.) We might as well rename them Conference A, B, C and D; it’s all Legends and Leaders now, and no one can tell the difference.
2. The Pacific-12 Conference, Walnut Creek, Calif.
I suppose we should be thankful to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (despite the fact that he drove much of this furor), and I suppose we should be thankful to the Pac-12 university presidents, who on Tuesday night chose not to expand further, thereby (at least temporarily) halting the madness. I suppose we should be thankful that the University of Texas’ apparent inability to fit into the Pac-12’s “culture of equality” might have defused a situation that had deteriorated into Black-Friday-at-Walmart chaos.
But it still doesn’t explain why this needed to happen in the first place.
3. The Big East Conference, Providence, R.I.
The truth is that no one knows why, except that we live in frantic times, and panic is in vogue, and hard-hearted self-interest is the new charity. No one wants to be the odd man out, and that’s a good enough reason why, isn’t it? The reporters covering this story seem as perplexed by the why as anyone, but they’re boxed in by their duty, and they have no choice but to chronicle every Machiavellian turn.
Via Pete Thamel, of the The New York Times: “‘There’s an environment of panic that’s been created,’ the Notre Dame athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said. ‘Everyone is moving so fast that you lose the broader perspective. Your assumption about the rest of the industry is that the moves are going to create wholesale change, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.’”
4. The Big 12 Conference, Irving, Texas
What bothers us most is that it’s about money. Unless it’s not about money at all.
From The Oklahoman, quoting a source at Oklahoma State in reference to the Big 12 — “The problems have ‘nothing to do with finances. It has nothing to do with success. For the league to be falling apart, it’s crazy.’”
5. Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.
What bothers us most is the dissolution of classic rivalries. Sports are rooted in nostalgia, after all. I remember watching that Big East basketball championship between Pearl Washington and Walter Berry, and it branded the Big East in my mind for a generation, and now St. John’s and Syracuse will face each other rarely, if at all. As Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim pointed out, the whole thing had been f’ed up for a while now, ever since the Big East became a destination for every school with a basketball program east of the Mississippi River. What bothers us most is that college sports cites tradition when it wishes to impede progress (see: the bowl system), but disregards tradition whenever it feels like it.
And so what are we left with? We’re left with the feeling that everyone is grabbing while they can, before historians who write for highbrow magazines succeed in blowing up the system. To hell with geography, and to hell with boundaries. Everybody knows college sports have to change. Until we figure out what that means, it doesn’t matter what we think.
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