In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin traveled back to 1969 to retrieve his mojo, stolen by Doctor Evil. In his pad after arriving, he encountered an Evil operative named Robin Spitz-Swallows (the name alludes to exactly what you think it does, but that’s neither here nor there and we need not delve any further) who tried to kill the mysterious British special agent. In turn, Austin tried killing her, but it took a tremendous amount of effort. Towards the end of their battle, he exclaimed “Why won’t you die!?”
My friends, this is where we are with conference realignment in college sports. It won’t die; in fact, it’s not even getting sick.
It is the third summer in which the threat of a massive shift in the landscape of Division I has loomed over all of our heads. Stories about superconferences, television deals, new BCS playoff formats and all the rest are popping up out of the ground like ubiquitous garden weeds.
In this latest wave of realignment news, the ACC itself has been under threat. With the new ESPN television deal that was announced earlier this month, well, the cash flow to member schools won’t quite be what schools in some other conferences are making, which is where Florida State comes in to this picture. The Seminoles are reportedly looking into their options elsewhere, most notably the Big 12, and they $ure have plenty of rea$on$ why. If you missed the subtle hint, let me spell it out for you: it’s money, also known as cash, dough, bread, do-re-mi, smackeroos, mazuma, and dead presidents. The Big 12, which two years ago looked like it was on a respirator, has not only been reanimated sans Dan Beebe, but now passes out more Benjamins to its members than the ACC. Being fair, it might also be the Seminoles wanting to ensure they survive the superconfrapocalypse and be certain of their standing in a power conference when and if the playoff comes.
Let’s not single out Florida State, though many columnists have: Clemson and Miami have also been tossed in there. With the aforementioned Tigers saying that they’d also examine their options fully, you can bet a few people in Greensboro are behaving like the guy who nervously texts his girlfriend because he knows she’s flirting with other guys, all while lining up pain-dulling shots of Bacardi 151. In particular, John Swofford has been a target of ridicule from the ACC peanut gallery for agreeing to a TV deal that is far less lucrative than what other conferences have. Regardless of who is to blame for this mess, it’s a situation that now must be handled delicately or else the conference should shake apart.
Is there any reason for us to panic, however? We’ve been down this road in recent years, but instead of the SEC trying to poach Florida State, it’s the Big 12. As a matter of fact, is there a single team playing BCS football that has not been tied to a realignment rumor of some sort over the last two years, even if just to say their program will end up going rogue and drift through the interstellar football vacuum for all eternity? I know such a fate has been assigned to Boston College more than once since this chicken dance started a few years ago.
Something is quite clear about this story and why it won’t die, with all due respect to the International Man of Mystery — part of it is mental gymnastics by bored sportswriters, but this keeps coming up because schools keep ogling other conferences, for reasons we all know.
What I also know is that the conference realignment musical chairs game is getting tiresome. College football has a system now (the BCS) which is absurd, along with a bowl system for which I never really cared in the first place. Now it also has teams shifting conferences year after year en masse for a variety of reasons, but usually involve money and/or prowess. College presidents and athletic directors all say the right (noncommittal) things, but when the day is done, money talks and bullshit walks. They could all take a tip from the beauty queen below, who is at least honest about her primary motivation.
So, where will Boston College end up? I don’t know, do you? Probably not. It’s not deniable that with the current state of our athletic program, BC is not in much of a situation to dictate their terms when and if the superconfrapocalypse happens, but it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s probably not going to happen today. Until then, if it ever happens, we will probably have to endure many more “what if Schools A, B, and C go to X conference?” stories and the continuing threat of a pole shift in college sports.