Do you remember that guy from high school, the relatively average looking, C-plus student who was not particularly funny or athletic yet somehow scored one of the hottest girls in school?
They dated for a while until she realized she could be with a popular jock or an Ivy League-bound Winklevoss-ian type of guy. She finally leaves the average Joe, despite his attempt to make her feel guilty and his threat to tell the whole school she breaks wind in her sleep. The community-college-bound protagonist is left with the bleak realization that all is downhill from there.
Sorry to tell you, Bears fans, but Baylor University is that guy.
Baylor is being reported as the “ringleader” in an attempt to keep Texas A&M from making the jump to the SEC. The school is refusing to waive its right to sue the SEC if the Aggies do leave. Baylor’s fight to keep the conference intact is not a result of its underlying principles of loyalty and its appreciation for historical significance. It comes from greed and the widespread—but often unspoken—habit of higher education institutions acting in their own self-interest.
If the Big 12 crumbles, Baylor will likely find itself in Conference USA, trading games against Texas and Oklahoma for battles against Southern Miss and Memphis. That is not good for business.
While it is true Texas A&M is being victimized by Baylor’s desperation, the Aggies' attempt to flee the conference is a result of their disdain for Texas’ new TV network and the dollar signs of the SEC. The beginning of the end for the Big 12 has long since been underway, and the Aggies’ announcement the school was leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC came as no surprise. Colorado and Nebraska have already bolted, Missouri previously explored doing the same and Texas seems uninterested as it continues its crusade to become the Notre Dame of the Southwest.
As is the case any time the sports world and the court room combine, the biggest loser is usually the fan. We do not really care what the result is—just get it done so we can figure out what has changed and go back to enjoying the games. The longer it takes for the Big 12 to reduce itself to the “Normal-Sized Nine” and eventually the “Super-Screwed Six," the longer the fans have to wait for any shred of consistency.
All of the recent movement of Universities and realignment of conferences leaves a jumbled mess of arrows pointed in different directions on a map like in BASEketball. The NCAA is turning into another professional sports league; I keep waiting for schools to start trading players and sign free agents.
The best part of all is that while the NCAA enterprise (which is what it has become) continues to act in its own self-serving style where cash is king and integrity takes a back seat, NCAA athletes are expected to conduct themselves like boy scouts.
Players cannot skip class, transfer schools without forfeiting eligibility or accept cash and gifts, but Universities can sign independent TV deals and change conferences whenever they see fit. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing, but that is what happens when you live by the “do as a say, not as I do” mentality of the NCAA and its University members.
The good news for the fans is their unique ability to find a way to enjoy sports even when the discussion is not about the game. If Texas A&M wants to leave and the Big 12 disappears like LeBron in the Finals than at least we can have a little fun prognosticating about where the nine remaining schools will end up. Here is what I would like to see:
Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will fulfill the prophecy and head west to join the new Pac-16 super conference. Those four schools would be joined in the Pac-16 East by Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah (I recommend they call it the Pac-16: Big 12 Division).
Kansas and Kansas State will become the ninth and tenth members of the Big East Conference in football. While the Big East will still be one school short of a conference championship football game (TCU joins the pack in 2012), imagine the basketball implications. The Big East will have 19 teams including another national powerhouse in Kansas.
An 18-game conference schedule allows a full round-robin to be played and we get to see the likes of Kansas-Pitt, Kansas-Syracuse and Kansas-Georgetown every year. You cannot tell me this not an amazing option for all parties (fans included).
The Big Ten will add Missouri, who already has a natural rival in Nebraska and the conference will be able to tap into the St. Louis market. Plus Missouri is a fine academic institution and the Big Ten can pretend like that still matters in the selection process.
That leaves only Iowa State and Baylor. Despite an in-state rivalry with Iowa, I doubt the Big Ten will want the Cyclones. The most logical landing spot for the Bears is the aforementioned oblivion of Conference USA. Unless Iowa St. wants to test the Mountain West waters, they will probably end up there too.
It goes without saying who the winners and losers would be in this hypothetical dismantling of the Big 12 and resulting nationwide realignment. On second thought, maybe I don’t blame Baylor for trying to stop it.