Here is the most delicious irony of all: One of the things keeping the final thread stitched to the fabric of college athletics is men’s college basketball. Which is absurd considering college hoops wields all the influence of college water polo when it comes to conference realignment.
Except it’s kinda true. For now.
The news that USC and UCLA are in "conversations" with the Big Ten(which is akin to saying you’re going to "look" at a puppy; you always come home with a puppy) pushes us one step closer to the brink of the absolute collapse and reconfiguration of college sports, where college football operates like Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL and every other professional sports enterprise. Namely, it consolidates into one giant beast, divides into sensible geographic regions, negotiates a television deal that has more zeroes than I can count and kicks off into the brand new world, the rest of the NCAA be damned. In some ways, it would be better if they just did this. Rip off the Band-Aid and get it over with already.
Because we will get there eventually. Right now, in offices in Clemson, S.C., Tallahassee, Fla,, and Eugene, Ore., folks are frantically trying to figure out if Greg Sankey and Kevin Warren prefer red wine or white, while new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is wondering why he didn’t just go back to being in charge of the Nets. Conference realignment, after all, is a lot like chiropractic realignment; it never quite ends. Remember when Maryland and Rutgers jumped to the Big Ten? That move swallowed a conference (the Big East) whole.
But along with greed, the thirst for power, a need for global domination and general flexing, one of the hard stops for Touchdown Tyranny is the big 68-team elephant in the room. What to do with the NCAA Tournament? No one cares about basketball, in and of itself, in any of this. It’s not alone, but except for when it comes to March and betting and check out the hottest betting sports
No one cares about fencing or field hockey, soccer or squash (happy commuting Penn State Olympic sports, by the way) or academics or student-athlete welfare or even fans, to some degree.
But the NCAA Tournament, as an entity, is a different story. It holds a lot of sway sentimentally, practically and financially (listed in order of importance), which makes it a very messy thing to contend with going forward. From the nostalgic point of view, no one wants to be the ogre who kills the NCAA Tournament. People in and around my neck of the woods have still not forgiven Rollie Massimino for "killing the Big Five," and this would be slightly worse. Slightly. If the so-called power conferences were to go full NCAA secession, they would leave Cinderella barefoot on the staircase, creating in her place a world where we are left with just sucky teams in lieu of plucky ones.