Monday, August 15, 2011

don't panic

Conferenceexpansionpalooza is apparently upon us again, or was this weekend anyway when Texas A&M decided it was going to the SEC and everyone called this a done deal and by September the ACC was going to be totally decimated and have to cobble together with the burning remains of the Big 12.  People forget to see if the SEC was cool with this.  Turns out, they're not, at least, not yet.**  So put all the oh-no-oh-no stuff on hold yet again.  Just like when the Big Ten was all rumored to be exploding to 16, then added Nebraska and said "we good."

Fact is, I'm irritated by the sensationalizing people do, and the media feeds it because in this case they have no incentive to do anything but sensationalizing.  The usual thought process involves looking at an event that seems imminent, extrapolating a straight-line series of events out of the resulting possibilities, and then assuming that there can be only one series of events.  Most of these result in four conferences with 16 teams each.  Period.  Thus, a great many fans have put it in their head that this is the only possible result of conference shifting.  OK, well, yes, that's one possibility, but the problem now is that four conferences of 16 is 64 teams; currently there are 66 schools in BCS conferences, not including Notre Dame and TCU.  Math majors will step up to inform us that 66, as well as 68, is greater than 64, and thus, someone is getting left out in the cold.

But, here are some facts - not assumptions, facts - to go on, and give people like me (because I'm a huge get-off-my-lawner and really don't want to see major upheaval) a little breathe-easy room:

- Nothing is inevitable.

- This has all happened before.  It's not a new phenomenon.

- The people who make the ultimate decisions are the college presidents, and you won't find a bigger group of get-off-my-lawners anywhere.

And then there are the assumptions always being made by the panicmongers and sensationalizers; here are the unarguable counterpoints:

- Growing a conference might grow revenue, yes, but it's also another mouth to feed and no conference will grow if the amount of new revenue is outweighed by the loss of money in further dividing the spoils.

- Especially if, say, South Carolina were forced to share that extra moolah with hated rival Clemson.

- The primary source of revenue is TV contract money, but it's not the only source, and these contracts are very-long-term things: the TV companies will be loath to renegotiate three years into a fifteen-year deal.

Despite what Pat Forde and message boarders seem to think, this isn't an unstoppable train barreling down the tracks.  Too many variables in play.

But wait, you say.  ACC commish John Swofford really can't be trusted with holding this conference together.  And of the schools occasionally associated with making the leap elsewhere (Maryland, maybe BC to the Big Ten, FSU, Clemson, VT to the SEC, etc.) UVA is never mentioned.  We will get left behind in a decimated and worthless ACC.

I shouldn't have to rebut this stuff, but I feel like I do anyway.  Granted, the ACC is no SEC or Big Ten in terms of revenue generation.  Even so, if there are four superconferences in football's future, the ACC is in better shape than either the Big 12 or Big East - unstable conferences with unsure revenue streams in the future.  The remaining Big 12 teams aren't too chuffed about Texas throwing its weight around and the Big East has too many different political dynamics going on to make it work for very long, especially if their new TV deal isn't what they hoped for.  The ACC is both more resistant to raiding, and if raided, is an attractive enough destination for replacement teams that in no realistic case is total collapse of the ACC a reasonable scenario.

And even in unrealistic scenarios where the ACC gets WAC-ed and like four or five teams jump ship to other conferences, UVA will still be in OK shape.  Remember who makes the decisions, yes?  College presidents.  And what does UVA do best?  No, not lacrosse or baseball or soccer, though we do do those things rather well.  What we do best is to be an academic powerhouse.  Worst-case scenario, we use that academic reputation plus an alumni base in two major East Coast cities to get in to one of these fancy clubs somewhere.  So don't panic.  Things may not end up how you or I want them to, but they won't end up poorly either.

**I'm at least willing to entertain the possibility that the reason the SEC gave A&M the Heisman stiff-arm might involve legal issues and the inability to agree on a 14th member.

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