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The World Cup of Expansions

This Dead Zone appears to be anything but.

There seems to be a sporting event held once every four years that is a fairly big deal to all parts of the world except for this one. The World Cup competition again attempts to convince a skeptical North American sporting public that soccer is indeed a real sport, worthy of being placed alongside the Super Bowl, MNC game, Final Four, World Series, etc., in our sporting consciousness. It never quite works out.

It likely won’t this time either, despite now being affiliated with the ESPN hype machine. There has been a surge of interest coupled with what is called the 1-1 defeat of England by the US team. The American side occasionally pops up and surprises one of the sport’s real powers before getting hammered by the rest and retreating back into the Rutgers football world of promises of ‘one of these days’ and ‘you just wait’ that have been heard around here for the last 30 years or so. A sport where every rule is seemingly-designed to make it harder to score, resulting in 2-1 being a wild offensive display and 3-0 constituting RUTS never quite catches on. It likely won’t this time, either.

Of greater interest around here is this year’s Conference Expansion season. Like the World Cup, there is always a lot of talk, but, unlike American interest in soccer, there has been actual movement this time around. It also looks like there will be a lot more unless there is not.

After all of the talk about the Big Ten becoming the Big Teen, it was actually the Pac-11 [as of this writing] that jumped first by adding Colorado. I bet few saw the Buffs as kicking off this latest realignment. Demonstrating that they weren’t going to let a few mountains stand between them and their view of the ocean, Colorado leaped the Rockies in a single bound, landing somewhere around the bottom of the Pac- 11 standings. In football, anyway, the only sport that seems to matter anymore, this likely won’t have the impact of, say, Tech to the ACC. But, it was a start.

The next and so far only domino to fall was Nebraska. The now and for the time being Real Big 12’s Jim Delaney took time out from assuring sports reporters that it would be 12-to-18 months before a decision was made and begging Notre Dame to join to extend an invitation to Nebraska. Tech took longer mulling the ACC invitation than did the Huskers in accepting.

Nebraska joining the Big Teen came as quite a surprise to Missouri. The entire state from the Governor on down had been openly campaigning for an invitation and were out the Big XII door before discovering that the darn thing wouldn’t open. The invite may eventually come, but for the moment they are cast in the role of Syracuse in this year’s drama, out-maneuvered by the guys with the better football program.

The part of Mikey this time around is being played by Dan Beebe, the hapless commissioner of the Big XII. He seems determined to out-mikey even Mikey, who, despite his best efforts, could not pull off having his entire conference collapse around him. As Beebe reacted to the first departures and the prospects of the Big XII turning into the Big V by claiming that ‘it’s only a flesh wound,’ he seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Steve Hatchell, who arrived at the 1996 SWC meetings and exclaimed, ‘where is everybody?’

These sorts of things happen every 15 years or so when one is dealing with Texas. Once again the Longhorns are in the middle of things as they plan a grand westward move to what will now be the Pac-16. And you thought the ACC map became convoluted with the addition of Fredo. Save for the Big One that would cause California to fall into ocean, along with a few more states, leaving west Texas  prime beach front property, this Conference Expansion season is now venturing into the absurd.

Up until now, I had always assumed that when teams arranged themselves into the inevitable grouping of 4 16-team conferences, it would be done with more than a passing nod to geography. That would have involved the SEC taking Texas, Texas A&M and the two Oklahoma schools, the ACC going back to finish the job on the Li’l E and the Big Teen taking Notre Dame and then dividing up the rest of the Big XII with the Pac-16, with somebody shutting up Orrin Hatch by grabbing the Utah schools. That still seems to make the most sense, at least athletically.

However, the high-minded scholars at Texas took one look at SEC academics and recoiled in horror, all the way, it would seem, to the Pacific coast. Up until now, the early realignment moves have been somewhat as expected. Nebraska has been talked about for the Big Teen ever since Penn State was added 20 years ago. Colorado, despite the geography, has long been rumored for the Pac-16. Creating a massive league that spans 3 time zones and millions of acres of empty space makes little geographic or any other kind of sense. Drawing conference boundary maps like the colonial powers did Africa looks a lot like the creation of a Fox-driven expansion bubble that rivals the housing one for goofiness. The latter did not end well and neither, likely will the Pac-16 as proposed. It seems that even before this realignment is complete, the seeds are being sewn for another in a couple of decades, or around the time that travel become so prohibitively-expensive that it will occur to somebody that sending volleyball teams from Austin, Texas to Pullman, Washington is a pretty stupid thing to do.

In the meantime, there is little to do but watch the carnage and enjoy the reaction in the various social media. That includes the Tech-to-the-SEC frenzy that has gripped mostly younger Hokies who seem determined to prove what the Cousins say about us is correct. Also amusing is the chatter inside Carolina about the rumor of the SEC targeting the Tar Heels and Duke. If Coach K bitched about being stuck in Blacksburg late at night after the Roanoke airport had closed, wait until he contemplates travel logistics from Durham to Starkville, MS.

Manwhile, back  at the always-thrilling World Cup, Japan just beat Cameroon 1-0. The excitement is vast.


  1. Jay — June 14, 2010 #

    I couldn’t agree more about the geographic absurdity of a Pac(whatever) including teams in Texas. Travel expenses are going up and this trend will likely accelerate.  I suppose we’ll see a Pac(whatever) north and south to mitigate the expense but that’s too much geography.
    My other comment is that alignment essentially prevents 4 16 team conferences which make geographic sense – how can the SEC expand to 16 w/o looking west? If all the top schools in that direction have gone to the PAC 10 or the Big 10/teen/whatever, where does the SEC then go to expand? Could the SEC manage to persuade any or all of the best 4 ACC candidates (FSU, Miami, Clemson, and VT) to join? That seems unlikely to me.


  2. BobLee — June 14, 2010 #

    As is soooo often the case HJ ….. when you and I “wade in” on an issue …. “Clear The Pool” the party’s over.  All that needed sayings been said. …..
    Don Beebe is the designated “funny looking guy” in this one.  There’s always one of those.
    I hear Terry Holland is talking to Cameroon about cobbling together a mega-conference of “sleeping giants” with ECU.


  3. JDanWuff — June 14, 2010 #

    LOL!  ECTC will be forever left out of every conference expansion, simply because they are ECTC.  Jr Walker and the All-Stars, Booker T and the MG’s, and the Doobie Brothers could form a BCS conference and the pie-rats would get bumped from that one, too.


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