Sunday, August 14, 2011

08/14 (A&M) Quickie

I just can't get agitated ("aggie-tated?") about the idea of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, even if it triggers all sorts of other things that impacts conferences all over the place.

I'm not sure why the fixation on college football as some sort of runaway train mis-managed by conference commissioners suddenly happened now.

Why not last summer, when Nebraska, Utah and Colorado all moved? Why not when the ACC poached BC and Miami from the Big East? Why not when the Big 12 was formed? Why not when Penn State joined the Big Ten? Why not when the SEC created a playoff game?

The folks who seem aghast at the latest like to fall back on decrying the end of college football "tradition." But nothing has been more core to college football's tradition than the loose confederation of conferences basically doing what is in their best interests, whether that means poaching teams or creating playoff games or creating their own TV networks or schmoozing with corrupt bowl committees or creating a championship cabal. That IS college football tradition.

When you look back on all the "us-first" moves over the past 20 years, almost all of them have actually been pretty good for fans and pretty good for the game (at worst, value-neutral).

Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC doesn't erode the fabric of college football. The Longhorn Network doesn't erode the fabric of college football. The SEC poaching a 14th (or even 15th and 16th) member doesn't erode the fabric of college football. Anymore than Ohio State or USC's scandals eroded college football.

The game is so much stronger than that, and it is surprising to see so many really smart college football pundits so bearish about the game, when historical precedent -- not to mention last season's TV ratings -- prove otherwise so conclusively.

Is it a shame if Texas and A&M stop playing each other? Sure. But that result appears to be from Texas pouting, more than anything else; its alums should DEMAND the annual game against A&M continue. Is it kind of ironic if A&M gets walloped in the SEC? No one will cry for the Aggies.

I just can't stress this enough: In reality, college football is better than it has ever been. The elite teams are awesome. The mid-tier teams are competitive. The best players are thrilling. The coaching is phenomenal. The TV numbers are huge. The games are fun. And the system -- for all its flaws -- still means that every week matters in a way that is unique in sports.

Conference realignment -- Texas A&M to the SEC, specifically -- is a distraction, maybe, at a moment when we should be entirely focused on the upcoming season. But it is hardly the signal of some larger infrastructural problem with the sport. Not when it is more popular than ever.

(UPDATE: SEC folks met and decided against extending an offer to Texas A&M... for now, at least. All the more reason for people to just chill out that the sky is falling.)

-- D.S.

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